Wednesday, January 24, 2007


According to the January 29, 2007 edition of Newsweek, the acclaimed Little House on the Prairie series is getting a makeover. For the 75th anniversary of the books, illustrations are being replaced with "photos of models as Laura" instead of the illustrations by Garth Williams.

Interesting, and makes me wonder the publishers will do (already did?) with the illustrations of American Indians? There are many. Are they keeping those? Or will they simply replicate them, in photo format? Will they use American Indian models? Will they make changes to the ways the Indians are shown so that they are accurate--more accurate than the illustrations done by William?

Diane Roback of Publisher's Weekly is quoted as saying these changes are occurring to appeal to readers of today who are more likely to pick up and read a book with Dakota Fanning on the cover of Charlotte's Web (she's in the new movie version of Charlotte's Web). This makes me wonder, again, about what the Little House publisher will do with the illustrations of American Indians? Retain the savage imagery that Americans love? I'd guess so, if they are making changes according to what the public will buy.

We will see.


Anonymous said...

You'll forgive me if I say I'm scandalized? The original illustrations are as much a part of the stories as the text, and I'm disappointed to hear this. I'm sorry, books are better than any film versions, and illustrating them with photos is a disservice.(Frankly, I wouldn't buy the "Charlotte's Web" with Dakota Fanning on it either.)

k8 said...

Regardless of what the book is, I always feel ambivalent about this type of thing. I'm not as fond of photographs of famous people as characters, I have to admit. However, as attached as I am to my memories of how some books 'look,' I think that new illustrators should be able to take a turn interpreting the story through their work.

Now, I'm not fond of the Little House books at all - they are repulsive. It would be interesting to see what new representations are created and how the complement or stand in opposition to the content of the text. I can't get away from the offensiveness of the textual content, so I think it would be interesting to see if new versions of the illustrations could disrupt the narrative in some way.

Anonymous said...

About the use of photos instead of drawings etc. -- my children's lit class is reading Erdrich's Birchbark House. All but one of them bought the paperback which features the original drawing of Omakayas on the cover. The other edition of the paperback is sort of a maroon color, glossy, with a photograph of a contemporary child (head & shoulders) in what looks like modern powwow regalia. I asked the students what they thought about the contrast between the two versions. One student said she suspected that some children might get the impression that the girl in the cover photo IS Omakayas, and that the events in the book are occurring now. Others said they preferred the drawing because it provides context (e.g., an actual birchbark house is depicted). Most of them didn't like the photo & preferred the drawing; i felt the same way. If the publisher had managed to find an old photo of an Ojibwa child (from the 1800s) instead of the one they used, MAYBE that would have "felt" more comfortable, they said. I have some other questions about the photograph, partly because I'm not familiar enough with traditional face-painting of Omakayas' people to know whether the lines by the model's eyes are authentic.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you didn't take the time to read the article closely before you wasted time worrying about it. They are replacing the Williams illustrations with nothing. The only illustrations in these new paperbacks will be the covers which, judging from the Little House in the Big Woods cover which was shown, will be fairly bland still life photos of a girl too old to be Laura in bad "period" clothing. I doubt any Native American figures will be included at all. The full set of Williams illustrations will still be offered in the hardbacks. A second set of paperbacks with some of the Williams illustrations in a colorized version will still be offered. This is the third time since they were introduced that HarperCollins has attempted a set without the Williams illustrations. What's different this time is that they are totally doing away with the boxed set format that has been the series staple since 1971.

Anonymous said...

First of all, this is terrible! I ADORE Williams drawings. I wouldn't pay for photo-covered books.
However, Williams drawings aren't the original illustrations. They were originally illustrated by Helen Sewell. A link to some examples:

I still prefer the Williams pictures because they were what I grew up with.