Get back to where you once belonged

A small conversation on Twitter sparked this question: what books are now out of print that you would sell the hell out of if they were still in print?

I’ll start with three of mine.  They’re all kids’ books, I’m guessing in part because I’m too young to have loved grown-up books that are now OP, and in part because it’s the books I grew up with that really imprinted themselves on me and follow me around all day.

1. The A. I. Gang trilogy by Bruce Coville (originally published by Minstrel Books, part of S&S).  Fantastic work of sci-fi for older middle grade that I was completely obsessed with.  I have no idea why this isn’t available anymore, especially because I thought it was a given that Coville rocks, but I’m really glad I still have my copies.  Great characters, includes fantastic female characters and characters of color without being tokenist, hilarious, and so, so smart. This is a series that made me seriously think about nuclear war and the stupidity of Mutually Assured Destruction when I was all of, like, 10. Still re-read them everytime I move and have to re-pack them.  This series has perhaps the highest badge of honor I can give it: as a kid, I regularly pretended I was one of the characters and/or had extensive daydreams in which I re-wrote myself into the story.  I can say that about maybe two other books (The Dark is Rising series and The Egypt Game).  I really wish it was still around, I think it would delight fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society and E. L. Konigsberg but would also be great for reluctant readers, male or female.

2. Nobodies and Somebodies by Doris Orgel (originally published by Viking). This book was YA before YA was cool and before I was old enough to know what YA was.  Actually, I guess nowadays it would be high MG as well.  No matter, it is still great.  Story of a girl who moves to a new area and new school and gets caught up in the craziness of the cool and the uncool, but that looks at several points of view rather than walking the well-trod “man, those popular girls sure are bitchy” route. Would love to be able to sell this book again.  One character lies about having swum with dolphins to be cool, and the popular girls paint their nails in a really weird way that’s actually impossible, and there’s lots of kicking heels against the heater to protest popular girls even though it disrupts the class pet. This should be re-released as a TPO as MG so I can sell it to tweens who want a more sophisticated read.

3. Ash by Lisa Rowe Fraustino (originally published by Orchard Books). Another book that would still be in print if it had been published after the onset of YA madness. A very real look at what life is like when your sibling is mentally ill and your family is just a normal family.  I love this book so much, I can’t count how many times I’ve re-read it.  (Full disclosure, I think my mom and she were once in the same writer’s group, but as it happened so long ago that I can’t remember for sure, I doubt it’s influencing my mentioning it here.)  In voice, it’s an early King Dork, but telling a totally different story.  You know what, I’m going to type out the prologue so you can hear the voice, see if you get drawn into it the way I get every time I read it:

“The Last Will and Testament of Wesley Willian Libby, age 15 (cause you never know when a truck’s gonna hit you)

“Being of sound mind and body, not counting pigeon toes and baby flab, I hereby declare this my 1st and last will and testament so far.

“To my beloved month Bonnie Lynn Tibbetts Libby I leave my Bible. But 1st my best friend Merle R. Daigle’s gotta go through and erase some stuff. Merle, you know what I’m talking about.

“To my beloved father Stefan Edward Libby, known to the rest of creation as Steve, I leave the violin you never wanted to buy me. Sell it and buy the CB you was always after us to pitch in and get you for Christmas. And if you dig deep in my closet you’re gonna find an old G.I. Joe wearing them army medals of yours you LOST a few years ago. Don’t get all mad that I didn’t confess this when I was alive.  You woulda killed me.

“To my once-in-a-great-while beloved sister Deena T. Libby, OFFICIALLY known on her birth certificate as Dayna Theresa, which I personally think is a better name, I don’t leave nothing.

“No, just kidding Deena–you get the dust balls under my bed and the snotty handkerchief in my pants pocket when I die.”

“No, no, DEENA, just kidding! You can have my breadbox. Guess I should cross that out and write “CD-radio,” but Mama told me it was a breadbox under the Christmas tree and now that’s what it is. Also, my entire CD collection, except for the Roy Boys Grammy Ethyl give me for my birthdays, and Grammy had better take them back cause Deena would overreact if she had to share her room with Acuff, Rogers, Orbison & Clark.

“To the aforementioned best friend Merle R. Daigle, who’d get embarrassed if I called him beloved so I won’t, I leave my entire comic book collection except for the 1961 Green Honet and the ’62 Wonder Woman and the ’65 Superman cause them’s worth money and Mama & Daddy can sell them to pay for my funeral. Better clean out my college account at the Fleet Bank of Maine and use that for the funeral too. Only about $142.67 in there, so don’t get no expensive casket. Cremate me. But that don’t mean to keep my ashes around the house in no sicko urn. Bury them out back next to Togo, or put them in the cemetery with Grampy Libby. Even better, use them to fertilize Millard Worcester’s blueberry field, which’s got sentimental value to me but I can’t say why cause it’s Merle’s secret too.

“Merle also gets the personal effects in my locker if I die during the school year, but DON’T let NOBODY else in the locker, Merle, or I’ll haunt you, I swear.

“To the Calvary Bible Church I leave all my clothes to put in a gar(b)age sale or to give to the homeless cause Mama wouldn’t have the heart to do it herself. Except my Knights of Sisyphus T-shirt—that goes back to Ash. The church can also have my baseball equipment, Scrabble, books and junk so the kids will finally have something to do when the parents are fellowshipping at covered dish suppers.

“To my beloved brother Ashton Allen Libby I leave a composition book with some stuff written in it ONLY for him. Merle, you gotta get it for Ash out of the Shibboleth, and nobody else nag Merle to find out what the Shibboleth is cause that’s just between him & me. Now Merle, don’t get all mad, but the book’s in a secret compartment that YOU don’t know about. Take a hammer and pull up that floorboard with the big knothole, the one you always call Mrs. Fish-Lips’ belly button. Then paw around in there till you find the book, but don’t you dare read it or I’ll haunt you WITH CHAINS, I swear. If it ain’t there, that means I changed my mind and already give Ash the composition book.

“If there’s anything I left out then it ain’t important and Deena can have it.

“Just kidding! I didn’t leave nothing out.”

So, there’s my tribute to some books I wish were still around so I could sell them all over the place. What about you? What books do you try to recommend or sell but they’re out of print? Include the publisher name if you have it, maybe one of these days someone will stumble across this post and try to bring the book back.

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4 comments so far

  1. Katherine on

    My favorite is Who’s a Pest? by Crosby Bonsall. It’s an I Can Read book that my brother and I could recite when we were little. A young boy, Homer, has various encounters with forest animals. He has an almost Who’s on First? exchange with each of them before they call him a pest. “‘Beans’ said Homer. ‘I’m no pest.'” Until naturally Homer saves the day and realizes it is all the others who are pests. It’s the crazy dialogue with the animals that make it a perfect read aloud. Whenever Harper decides to reprint, it’ll fly off my shelves.

  2. Rebecca on

    My first would be an adult historical fiction novel: Letters from an Age of Reason by Nora Hague. Published in 2001, paperback in 2002, I have absolutely no idea why this amazing book should be out of print. Set during the Civil War, this epistolary novel is told in alternating sections between the daughter of a rich family from NY, now living in Europe, and the escaping slave with whom she falls in love. Arabella Leeds is internally rebelling against the strict codes of “moral” society; committing an unintentional faux-pas in NY, her family exiles themselves to Europe until the commotion dies down. Aubrey (Bree) Paxton, is a “high-yellow” house slave escaping from New Orleans, and making his way onto a ship bound for Europe and freedom. Their paths cross unexpectedly again and again, their forbidden love growing stronger as the world crumbles around them. Southern society, Bree’s hidden past, Victorian rules of conduct, Arabella’s independent spirit, all clash together from New Orleans and New York to London and France. Institutionalized against her will, Arabella struggles to stay alive while her friends race to find an answer that will give her back her freedom. Gripping and romantic, it nonetheless stays firmly rooted in its historical time period, and provides a sensational, thought-provoking read about slavery of gender and race, and the cost of freedom and love.

    My second book would have to be The Best Little Monkeys in the World by Natalie Standiford, illustrated by Hilary Knight. It’s a Step Into Reading book, and not only could I recite it, but I spent hours looking at the illustrations. It’s not that they’re so ornately drawn, more that there are numerous clever little details about what these two naughty monkeys get into when their parents leave them with a babysitter. Hilarious antics!

  3. Caryn on

    The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, by Gorman Bechard. God decides he didn’t get it right the first time, so he sends His Daughter. Who happens to love the Replacements and David Letterman, and roots for the Mets.

    If you get the idea that it’s not a very religious book, you’d be on the right track.

  4. Amy on

    I wish they’d reprint the Olga da Polga books, which were published by Puffin. I wrote to Michael Bond in middle school and told him so, but he told me it was up to the publishing companies, which I didn’t understand at the time. I also told him about my guinea pig named Olga (name obvs inspiried by the character), and he sent me a photo of one of his Olgas.


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