For anyone younger than 55, Sid Fleischman is an icon, his books part of the canon of the finest in American children’s storytelling. His marvelous stories are notable for their immense child appeal and signature combination of high adventure, mischievous tall-tale-telling, and loads of humor — all written without a single unnecessary word. What’s not to love?!
Sid Fleischman’s very name conjures up magicians, pirates, ghosts, mysteries, journeys, bandits, kidnappings, treasures, horses, mistaken identity, long-lost relatives, sudden fortunes. I remember reading Mr. Mysterious & Company when I was around eight years old. I was immediately charmed; my father, like Mr. Fleischman and his traveling show maestro, was a magician by hobby, so I felt a special connection to the young apprentice. From then on, I eagerly read every new chapter book he wrote. I loved the vivid characters and towns and countrysides and rivers and situations he created. Kids were always on the move in his books, independent and resourceful even when they were lost or outnumbered. Rascals and scalawags abounded, but they were often more ridiculous than villainous, or at least got very satisfying just deserts. There was a lightness of spirit, a joi d’esprit, about his writing that is sometimes missing from adventure stories written today.
He was also a master of that most important of genres: the young chapter book, for ages 7-10 (including and especially boys). His books are ones that make me wish for a new approach to backlist promotion; they are a hit with all the kids who can find them, but, like many older series, without a new-book promotion budget, they can be overlooked or forgotten and drift out of print. That’s already happened to a couple of my very favorites (the last three book covers pictured below), and I’m hoping that there’s some magic in the power of an entire children’s book community all thinking about his amazing literary legacy that will breathe new life into all of his titles. There are so many in print, with a few more to come; I’d like to invite all booksellers, teachers, and librarians to make a special effort to hand Sid Fleischman titles to kids and ignite a whole new generation of fans. Let’s make April Sid Fleischman month!
His was a literature of pluck and sass and resilience; he made living itself seem like a grand adventure. What a fine gift to leave to children! Mr. Sid Fleischman, we salute you.
Two links of interest:
Lisa Yee posted this on her blog: A fond farewell to a lovely friend . . . As many of you have probably already heard, Sid Fleischman has died. He was a great influence on my career. Here’s a tribute I wrote in his honor. The link also includes his obituary from the SCBWI website. http://lisayee.livejournal.com/130654.html
Finally, Garrison Keillor celebrated Sid Fleischman in his birthday portion of The Writer’s Almanac (scroll down; SF is the third birthday).
Those of you with memories to share, please feel free to share comments about this wonderful author who, by all accounts, was also a most magical friend.