Back from the dead

Not me you understand. I know I’ve had a long blogging break but this was due to my website undergoing a redesign; the blog feature is now incorporated.

Yesterday I was at Penguin Children’s media presentation. Held at the publisher’s offices on the Strand, it’s where the year’s book titles are highlighted. It was a slick – if shorter than usual – well organised, informative event, however, I couldn’t help but leave feeling a little uninspired.

Emphasis was placed on ‘reinventing the classics’ which means that two previously published classic titles have been rewritten for the modern audience – The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit (pub Sept 2012) by actor and screenwriter Emma Thompson and Leopard Adventure (July 2012) by young adult author Anthony McGowan. Both books are pegged to rather tenuous anniversaries – 2012 marks the 110th anniversary of Peter Rabbit (I was unaware that 110 was such a milestone) and McGowan’s book, a re-imagined Willard Price adventure tale, is tied to the 125th anniversary of Price’s birthday in July. Both original books can be firmly described as classic children’s texts but instead of looking to commission a potential fresh modern classic, Penguin have chosen the simpler, more marketable solution: use popular big name/writers to reinvent well loved tales. It didn’t stop there. Jacqueline Wilson came to tell us that her first Puffin title, Four Children and It (August, 2012) will be echoing E Nesbit’s novel, Five Children and It. No anniversary.

Clearly the death of their creator is no longer the end for certain literary characters or stories. Last year there were several authorised novels or sequels, commissioned by the estates and/or trusts of dead authors. Reinventing the classic.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, the first of three sanctioned sequels by Frank Cottrell-Boyce; Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk, the first authorised modern novel version of Sherlock Holmes. This was in addition to Jeffrey Deaver’s James Bond novel. Admittedly written for adults but the idea is the same. We’ve also had Winnie the Pooh’s Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (2009) and in 2006 Geraldine McCaughrean won a competition organised by GOSH (JM Barrie gave all the rights to Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital) culminating in Peter Pan in Scarlet (OUP, 2006).

Is it a nod to vintage quality writing or it is just taking a successful brand and relaunching it for commercial gain?

Perhaps for contemporary writers there’s a certain kudos attached?

Have Penguin just joined the bandwagon?

3 thoughts on “Back from the dead

  1. Often I suspect people (companies/publishers) don’t think at all. Other than that I believe we are seeing the shepherd’s pie of publishing; using leftovers or other old stuff in times of hardship.

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