Monday, May 5, 2014

This time sans guns and smokes

In the early 2000s, upon learning that I was a cartoonist as well as writer, my Scholastic editor Virginia Dooley proposed an update to a 1960s book that used cartoons to teach vocabulary. She (postal) mailed me samples from the book. The cartoons included pistols, cigarettes, and other elements you would not see in a children’s book today.

The book may not have been aimed at young people.

In any case, the idea was to create 180 cartoons, one for every day of the school year—new words, new gags. It seemed like a fun challenge.

Vocabulary Cartoon of the Day (grades 4-6) came out in 2005.

A keynoter at a SCBWI conference I’d attended sometime before then said that in 1945, the average schoolchild’s vocabulary consisted of 10,000 words…and now, only 2,500. 

At professional development seminars where I spoke, I would tell the audience that, if nothing else, this book would help increase that number to 2,680.

After repeated requests at those professional development seminars, we did a second one for a younger age range (illustrated by the total pro Mike Moran). It came out in 2010.

In late 2013, I went looking for those cartoons Virginia sent me more than a decade ago. I didn’t remember that they were not sent digitally. But when I didn’t find them either on my computer or in my file, I asked Virginia. She also could not find or remember the source but did not think it was Scholastic.

So I took to Google. But it turns out my searches for books with “vocabulary” and “cartoon” in the title were for naught.

The title of the book, I believe, was Word-a-Day, by Mickey Bach. It came out in 1964, and it does appear that it was indeed published by Scholastic (or at least one edition was).

Apparently, Mickey Bach (1909-1994) churned out these illustrated vocab builders (they were not called vocabulary cartoons) from the 1940s to the mid-1980s.

Here are a few demonstrating why the plan was redo rather than reissue:





Heaps of thanks to the kind and resourceful Rebecca Knab of Loganberry Books for solving this mystery, especially with so little to go on.


marty said...

Marc ,I understand you and everyone wanted to have a batman/bill finger Google doodle so i made one for you and everyone who respects batman and bill finger hope you like it:

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thank you, Marty. I suggest you repost this comment under a more relevant post: