onsdag 31 augusti 2016

From left-over puppy to all-time bestseller

Janette Sebring Lowry: "The Poky Little Puppy" Simon and Schuster, 1942.

In the spring of 1940, Artists and Writers Guild, a subsidiary to Western Printing, and publishing company Simon and Schuster had agreed to launch a series of low-cost children’s books. They would combine quality stories with attractive illustrations and offer affordable literature for every child all over the continent through vast print runs. The Little Golden Book was born.
The first batch contained twelve books, including the five-tale compilation “Bedtime Stories” that was commissioned to Gustaf Tenggren. The other scripts had already all been handed out, except for one: “The Poky Little Puppy” by Janette Sebring Lowry. Tenggren was asked if he knew anyone that would be suitable for the job, and said that he might try it on himself. Thus, he became the only one receiving two of the books in this historic start-up.
Daniel K. Smith, whose parents worked with the Tenggren’s, has the facts about the creation of the iconic canine. Mollie Tenggren has retold to him how Gustaf initially, as with many other commissions, was hesitant to start on the painting process. He would usually wait until the final deadline and then lock himself up in the studio and produce the book. Mollie was always relieved when he finally started the project. She'd tell people “Shhhhh, he’s working on the book” and keep them away. This time, he had no dog models. The first attempts were, according to Mollie, “…terrible! A whole lot of dogs of various breeds!” Instead, she suggested that he “use that little dog he created before”, referring to “Scally” in the “Good Dog Book” from 1923. Gustaf went back to the drawing table and started over. The remodelled appearance of this left-over pup would eventually become a popular classic next to none.
"The Good Dog Book" anthology. Houghton and Mifflin, 1924.
One of the shorts stories included Scally, allegedly the model for The Poky Little Puppy.

The twelve books were published in 50,000 copies each, and the total print-run of 600,000 copies arrived at the bookstores in October 1942. The success was instant: the complete print run sold out immediately, and after five months all twelve titles had been printed three times each, encompassing 1,500,000 copies, or 125,000 per title. Of these, “The Poky Little Puppy” would by far be the most popular. By the turn of the Millennium 2000, the book had been printed in over 15,000,000 copies, making it the most selling illustrated children’s book in America ever.
Janette Sebring Lowry: "Where is the Poky Little Puppy?"
Simon and Schuster, 1962.
In 1962, the sequel” Where is the Poky Little Puppy?” was presented, possibly to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the predecessor. It would be Gustaf Tenggren’s last Little Golden Book of totally 17 produced. Needless to say, it never reached even the fraction of its forerunner’s sales. But then again, not many books did.