Clever New Love: Better World Books!

Ever since Ms. Jeannie published her blog post about the Runaway Bunny, she can’t get the stories of Margaret Wise Brown and Albert Clarke off her mind.

They’ve got all the lovely elements of a captivating story…romance, suspense, intrigue. Would it make a great screenplay? A book? A documentary? A play? Ms. Jeannie’s not quite sure yet…but she’s on a mission to find out…

While doing a bit more research on Margaret, Ms. Jeannie came across a biography of her called Awakened by the Moon, by Leonard Marcus.

Biography of Margaret Wise Brown by Leonard Marcus

She went online to check to see if her local library had a copy of it, but they didn’t. However, while searching their site she noticed a new link was added for Better World Books, the international library donation program. So she clicked that link to see if perhaps they had Awakened there.

betterworldbooks.com

As luck would have it – they did!

And they offered free shipping! So for $3.98, Ms. Jeannie found what she needed. Not only did she save money (as it turns out this book was a bit more expensive on both Amazon and Ebay) but by buying from BWB she’s also helping contribute to their Book for Book program, which donates one book to a needy person for every book purchased!

This all seems very in keeping with the spirit of Margaret Wise Brown – so a big yay on three levels! Yay for savings, yay for donation campaign, yay for spirit!

After ordering her book two days ago, Ms. Jeannie received an email today from Better World Books with notification that her book had shipped. Now if any of you have ever done any shopping online, you are familiar with these standard sorts of notices. Usually they are just quick little acknowledgements with a thank you and a description of your order and perhaps a tracking or invoice number.

But this one from Better World Books was different. It was funny and clever and captivating, and most of all it told an engaging little story. It was so fun and original that Ms. Jeannie just had to share the whole thing with you here…

Hello,

(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note – it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)

Holy canasta! It’s me… it’s me! I can’t believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I’ve got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can’t believe I’m leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already – the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge – so many memories. I don’t have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it’s time to see the world!

I can’t wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol’ brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?

I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I’ve had, I’m ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn’t take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I’ve found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.

But hey, enough about me, I’ve been asked to brief you on a few things:

We sent your order to the following address:

name
address
address
country

Order #: 

We provide quick shipping service to all our customers. You chose shipping, your book should arrive within 4 – 14 business days. The Postal Service may occasionally take slightly longer to deliver your book. At this time, we are not able to offer tracking on these shipments.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact my friends at Customer Care by submitting a ticket.. If you could please include your order number that would be very helpful.

Eagerly awaiting our meeting,

So fun!

If you are in need of a book or a new donation cause, check out Better World Books by clicking here.  Don’t forget to pass the link along to all your book lover friends… help spread good energy throughout the land:)

Happy weekend!

The Runaway Bunny – The Curious Life & Legacy of Margaret Wise Brown

Behind every great childen’s story book is an equally fascinating adult narrative. Ms. Jeannie is sure of this. Take these examples of just a few of Ms. Jeannie’s favorite children’s books…

J.M Barrie,  the enigmatic writer that brought us Peter Pan, wound up adopting the five little boys who inspired the story of Peter Pan after both their parents died. He also donated all the rights to Peter Pan to the Great Ormand Street Hospital.

J.M. Barrie (186-1937). Peter Pan was his best known work.

Roald Dahl who made us all believe in Willy Wonka, was also a pilot and intelligence officer in the British Air Force, married an American  actress,  and suffered through the deaths of two of his five children as well as his wife’s debilitating illness.

Roald Dahl (1916-1990) is credited with being one of the 50 greatest British writers sine 1945.

Kay Thompson delighted all with her Eloise series, who was partly based on her goddaughter Liza Minelli. She was also a successful singer, musician, composer and actress.

Kay Thompson (1909-1998) was best known for Eloise.

And in keeping, Margaret Wise Brown gave us the classic  story of the Runaway Bunny.

Available in Ms. Jeannie’s Etsy shop

If you are unfamiliar with the story  – it is about a little bunny who dreams of running away and having his own independent adventures. Only  his mom assures him that he can never get so far away that she won’t be able to find him.  It is wonderfully illustrated by Clement Hurd.

“If you go flying on a flying trapeze,” said his mother, “I will be a tightrope walker, and I will walk across the air to you.”

Originally published in 1942, by Harper and Row, The Runaway Bunny has been continuously in-print,  making it one of the most popular children’s books of all time, both in the states and abroad.

Many refer to Margaret Wise Brown as a genius of children’s fiction.  Born in Greenpoint, Brooklyn  in 1910, Margaret grew up in an unhappy household with parents who argued frequently. To cope with her environment she often escaped to the stories in her head, of which she said were always quite prolific.

Margaret with her sister Roberta and furry friends. See the bunnies?! Photo courtesy of margaretwisebrown.com

After she graduated from college, Margaret spent many years studying children on a psychological level at the Bank Street Experimental School in New York City. There, she communicated with her young audience on a get to know you basis, where she thoughtfully observed their relationships with books, story patterns and issues that affected them in everyday life.

Trying to emulate that same level of sincerity in her writing, Margaret attempted to capture the real-life problems and concerns that children faced  instead of focusing on the then-popular fantasy and fairy tales peppering the children’s book market. Perhaps this is why Margaret’s books have remained so well loved for more more than 70 years.

Known to be quite charming and captivating, Margaret was a lover of animals and adventure, a world traveler and a practical joker. Linked in early relationships to William Gaston and novelist  Preston Schoyer , it was poet, actress and playwright Michael Strange also known as Blanche Oelrichs, who ultimately captured Margaret’s heart.

Michael Strange, aka Blanche Oelrichs (1890-1950), poet and actress

Margaret maintained residences in both New York City and Maine. Her seaside cottage house in Vinalhaven, Maine affectionately called Only House, was a source of inspiration and entertainment.  There, she wrote, spoiled guests and explored the wilds of the Maine coast.

View from Only House. Photo courtesy of margaretwisebrown.com

Read more about her house here…

In 1950, Michael Strange died from leukemia  and two years later Margaret was engaged to John S. Rockefeller Jr.  At the time of their engagement Margaret was 42 and John 26.

By this point in her writing career, Margaret had published over 100 books, writing under four different pen names.  She made out a will, which bequethed all royalities of Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny to a neighbor friend’s son,  Albert Clarke, whose mother Margaret had developed a friendly family type relationship with that stemmed from her early work at the Experimental School.

Tragically, in that same year, as her will was acknowledged and engagement celebrated, Margaret died unexpectedly at the age of  42, from an embolism, while on a book tour in Nice, France in 1952.  The year that Margaret died, Albert Clarke turned 9. And here is where The Runaway Bunny story takes a dark turn…

In 2000, a Wall Street Journal reporter interviewed Albert Clarke, to see what became of the boy who had inherited the fortune of the Runaway Bunny/Goodnight Moon legacy. Ms. Jeannie has included the article in full  here because it is such an unbelievable story.  Not at all what she had expected.

It fascinates Ms. Jeannie to think about how there is both light and dark caught up in the continuously growing snowball that is The Runaway Bunny, proving yet again that in life, nothing really is simple. Not even in the world of make-believe bunnies. Not even in the gesture of a gift.

The Runaway Bunny continues to sell internationally year after year and has been translated into several languages. For most it remains a source of comfort and inspiration. In 2006, it was interpreted as a violin concerto by composer, Glen Roven and performed by the American Symphony Orchestra. Here’s a sample as they warmed up before their Carnegie Hall debut.

For Albert, the books are a source of dis-contention and unease. Like the runaway bunny who can never out-run his mother, Albert will never be able to out-run Margaret.  Her presence will be felt his entire life.

Margaret Wise Brown with her beloved dogs. Photo courtesy of margaretwisebrown.com