Alison Morris - March 17, 2007

Yesterday was a snowy day here in Boston and, as on all snowy days, I found my mind repeating the short refrain that begins the picture book Snowsong Whistling by Karen E. Lotz, illustrated by Elisa Kleven. It goes like this:  "There's a crisp in the air/ From I-don't-know-where/But it might be/A snowsong whistling."

There are, of course, any number of books in rhyming verse that grace (and sometimes disgrace) the shelves of our bookstore in a given year, but for some reason the rhymes on this book's pages have never left me, though the book sadly has. My original copy was lost in a moving fiasco seven years ago that left me forever parted from the box of my then favorite picture books. 

I'm not the only one who loves this title. Just One More Book, a blog by two charming Canadians, has even recorded its own podcast, in which they banter about what makes it one of their favorites. But here's the bad news: like so many other gems, Snowsong Whistling is out of print. And I feel is owed some small fanfare.

Typically there is no official announcement made when a book goes out of print or goes "out of stock indefinitely." As a bookseller I typically learn this has happened when I repeatedly attempt to reorder a title and it repeatedly fails to reappear. I get no memo, no warning, no "thank you for supporting this book for as long as you have, but I'm afraid you can no longer sell it to your customers." The book slips silently from the shelves.

Wouldn't it be nice to see some formal sort of recognition go to books at the time of their passing? I personally would love it if someone in the world would create a repository for obituaries of out of print books, or "bibliobituaries," as I'm calling them. In order to make that happen, I'd suggest we start writing them.

I'll get the ball rolling here and then hope that some of you wittier folks will outdo me by writing better bibliobituaries for your own favorite out of print books. You can post them via the comments field, or if you'd prefer to be more anonymous, send them directly to me. Can't think of a book to write about? You might find inspiration at The Report, where the folks from post an annual list of the most sought-after out of print books in various categories.

Born in 1993 to Karen E. Lotz and Elisa Kleven, Snowsong Whistling, beloved picturebook, went out of print sometime in the past five years. The circumstances of her death are unknown. A joyful romp that celebrated the turning of the seasons, Snowsong was beloved for her clever rhymes, her vibrant collage illustrations, and her lively introductions to the best aspects of Fall and Winter. A founding member of Alison Morris's personal library and favorite of at least one Canadian family, she is survived by her author and her illustrator. Services will be held in Alison's living room whenever the flakes start falling.

9 thoughts on “Bibliobituaries

  1. Andrea - Children's

    Oh Alison! This made me even *more* sad about the departure of this lovely book. The opening words of this beautiful book also jump into my mind on beautiful, crisp autumn days so I prefer to hope for resurrection! Thanks so much for visiting us at JOMB and for spreading the word. Andrea “A podcast about the children’s books we love and why we love them — recorded in our favourite coffee shop”

  2. Anna Alter

    I couldn’t agree with you more about books needing a farewell of some kind when then go OP. Us author/illustrators are given just as little notice or fanfare when our books go OP, and it is a sad thing to discover on your own! Very sad. It feels like there should be some kind symbolic gesture to say good-bye, like setting a copy of the book sail down a river in a little boat with a note to the finder…

  3. grace lin

    Hi Alison, so good to see you here! I’m sad that Snowsong Whistling is out of print, there should be a graveyard were we can pay respects to OP prints.

  4. Nancy Cote

    Hi Alison, My name is Nancy Cote. I am an author/illustrator of Children’s Books. I silently lament the passing of my books but I keep on going. I can only be grateful for the time we had together and the joy I had in creating them. (Sounds a bit like my kids growing and leaving the nest!!) I’m seriously thinking about adding bibliobituaries to my website. Thanks!

  5. libby Koponen

    What a great idea and great word –bibliobituaries. I’ll definitely blog about some of my favorites, but must mention one here: THE TALL BOOK OF MAKE BELIEVE, with magical illustrations by Garth Williams and stories and poems by authors as famous as Robert Louis Stevenson and as obscure as — well, people I’d never heard of. Copies sell for over $100, everyone who has seen the book has wanted a copy! Is there nothing that can be done to bring some of these books back to life? Maybe if we all blog about them some of them enough the publishers will get on the stick and reissue them. HarperCollins (this one was yours) are you listening?

  6. sue c

    I, too, bemoan the fact that sometimes wonderful books, easy to handsell, altogether disappear into some biblio-unknown place never to be heard from again. Such a book for me was Loretta Krupinski’s New England Sampler. It had wonderful illustrations from a melange of NE artists depicting every facet of life in our wonderful region. It was a big sell to area tourists, especially. People also bought it to send to friends and relatives from away so they could see what it is like here. From old barns to cranberry bogs and stone walls it make a friend of all perusers. Once visiting a small shop in Round Pond, Maine, I was showing the book to friends who live there, and the copies were all grabbed up by tourists standing nearby! Later, it was a shock when we offered to order the book for someone, thinking our stock was simply depleted temporarily, to find that it was “out of stock indefinitely”. That was a sad day for many of us. It was the best souvenir of New England for the younger set and someone in marketing didn’t work to fill the void!

  7. Rose Scherer

    Kudos to Libby for wanting to bring back The Tall Book of Make-Believe! The illustrations are by Garth Williams and the editing is by Jane Werner Watson (also known as Eloise Wilkin). This was a favorite of my childhood and included stories and fairy tales by Sandburg, Frost, Bright etc. The cover was as exciting as the book as it was illustrated on both sides and heavily bound. Hope they bring it back for my grandchildren to enjoy!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *