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Monday round-up: Utah book treasure; Lennon’s letters; cereal box kiddie lit

April 11, 2011

Daniel Radcliffe --er, I mean: John Lennon.

Here’s a novel way to foster your child’s natural curiosity about reading: Buy a box of cereal. That might work, at least in Britain, where leading children’s book publisher Puffin has struck a deal to place excerpts of Roald Dahl stories on the backs of cereal boxes.

According to the Telegraph, children scan cereal boxes at the breakfast table, searching for games and other information, even before they can read. Puffin got the bright idea of replacing the games and advertisements with excerpts from books, hoping to “spark an interest in literature.”

Striking a deal with Dahl’s estate (the author died in 1990 at age 74), Puffin will print excerpts from The Witches; The Twits, The BFG; Danny, the Champion of the World and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on millions of cereal boxes over the next few weeks.

“The great thing about a cereal box, is that it potentially is reaching millions of households that just don’t read any literature outside of school,” says Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin’s childen’s books. “There could be an enormous number of children discovering Roald Dahl for the first time, bleary eyed over the breakfast table.”

Hey, here’s an idea! Maybe cereal companies can take up the slack in Britain, where more than 400 libraries are scheduled to be closed as part of a broad austerity policies aimed at saving £6.5 billion! Who needs a library when kids can get their literature fix in the comfort and convenience of their own kitchens? Not an ideal solution, I know, but better than raising taxes on the wealthy.

Other slightly-out-of-the-ordinary book news opening the week: A rare and ancient book has been discovered in Utah, and no: It was not written by the angel Moroni.

According to, rare book deal Ken Anderson was participating in an antiques fair to raise money for the Sandy, Utah, museum, when a guy walked up, forked over two bucks for an appraisal and announced he had “a really important book.”

Anderson rolled his eyes, thinking, “Sure you do” — until the anonymous owner plunked the book down on the table and opened it up. That’s when Anderson saw it was a 600-year-old Nuremberg Chronicles, published in 1494, only 40 years after the Gutenberg Bible.

Composed as a companion to the Bible, the Nuremberg Chronicles features some 1,800 woodcut illustrations. Anderson’s initial appraisal placed the value of the volume at more than $100,000. The owner reportedly will not seek “top dollar,” but wants only for the book to available for public viewing.

Yeah, that’s what he says now…

Finally, more than 30 years after John Lennon was assassinated by a deranged fan, Yoko Ono has agreed to allow some of his letters to be printed for the first time.

The L.A. Times somewhat lazily quotes from a Little, Brown press release — except that, as sometimes happens, the press release actually makes some trenchant observations. Chief among them: Lennon died before the advent of personal computers and email, cell phones and texting. So when he wanted to write to friends, enemies, critics, “his medium was pen and ink.”

As a result, the endlessly creative singer-songwriter, best known as a member of a popular musical act, wrote and sent letters and postcards — soemtimes adorned with his clever, Thuberesque cartoons and doodles — all his life.

Many of the letters will be reproduced as he wrote them, in long hand or typescript. Apparently even people on the short end of his disapproval stick had the foresight to save Lennon’s letters. Here’s an image of a peevish one he sent an art critic at the Syracuse Post Standard in 1971.

If you click on the link, an image pops up that allows you to read the letter, which begins: “Dear Whoever Wrote That Hokum About Art: I’d forgotten about people like you! Well well, you still exist, of course, in other small towns across the world.”

The letter, valued by Christie’s at $3,000-5,000 when it went to auction in 2003, actually sold for $38, 240.

The Lennon Letters is scheduled for publication in October.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Candice Simmons permalink
    April 11, 2011 3:34 pm

    Long live John Lennon–in our hearts and in our heads….

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