I grew up with a lot of books thanks to my mother and father. One of those books was The Secret of Henry and Sam from 1978 written and illustrated by Neil W. Rabens. The book was a lot like the "Goofus and Gallant" comic strip that was in Highlights For Children Magazine except it was Christian. Henry was like Gallant in that he always did the right thing. Sam was like Goofus in that he always did the wrong thing or messed up in some way.
The main thing I remember about the book is the drawings/illustrations. They were crisp and clear with enough over-exaggeratedness to really capture my imagination. Every turn of the page you were presented with one character on each opposing page, Henry on one side and Sam on the other. The book was physically overly long, but a fairly normal height and paperback. I also remember the juxtaposed characters' actions. Henry was nice to everyone, and Sam picked on kids younger than him. Henry fed his pets, and Sam ignored or forgot them. I remember being horrified at the way Sam acted.
Of course, the big twist happens near the end. The Secret of Henry and Sam is… BIG SPOILER, sort of... that they are the same person! *Gasp* The horror! How could a kid be both! Ha ha ha. But it is true, we all have multiple sides to us. The book goes beyond this though and the boy talks about how he is working on getting rid of his Sam side with God's help.
Loving the illustrations in this book so much as a child, I am actively seeking out other Neil W. Rabens books to share with my children. During this process I ran across some information about a person named Neil W. Rabens co-inventing TWISTER… yes Twister, the Game that Ties You Up in Knots (tm). Is this the same person? YES! It is! I also ran across a Neil W. Rabens of Burnsville, MN who co-invented a game/puzzle style called Pan Puzzles which has something to do with circular puzzles that don't interlock (like a puzzle in a pan!). I'll guess that he is the same Neil W. Rabens too. In case you are wondering, he is still alive, and 80 years old! He seems like he is a pretty cool guy too (I've emailed with him a couple of times since writing this blog). Sadly, I don't think that he has written anything since the early 80s though.
Through these emails I discovered that Mr. Rabens did the text and drawings but Standard Publishing did the coloring for all of the books except for One Happy Little Songbird, which was his last book. The rights to all of his books have reverted back to him by contract. He did re-sell The Secret of Henry and Sam to Bogard Press!
So, for the last few years I have been trying to figure out and find what else Mr. Rabens wrote and illustrated.
Well, here are the results of my YEARS of agonizing research… not much to show for it (I believe that all of these are from The Standard Publishing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio):
The Secret of Henry and Sam, 1978 ISBN 0872391795
God Made All the Animals, 1978 ISBN 0872391817 (I haven't seen this anywhere, but I read about it in the 1980 book "Paperbound Books for Young People: Preschool Through Grade 12 By R.R. Bowker Company"). One awesome reader sent me a JPG of the cover of this book! Woo Hoo! Here it is for all to see:
Jesus Loves You, 1978 ISBN 0872391809 (I haven't seen this anywhere, but I read about it in the 1980 book "Paperbound Books for Young People: Preschool Through Grade 12 By R.R. Bowker Company")
No One but God, 1978 ISBN 0872391787
One Happy Little Songbird, (A Happy Day Book) 1979 ISBN 0872393615
Bunker Bear, 1978 ISBN 0872391825
Scooter Bug and the Bookworm, 1978 ISBN 0872391833
Witnessing for Christ: Illustrated Guide for Witnessing
And some Spanish speaking seminar books for University of Montemorelos (Universidad de Montemorelos))in Mexico. I don't know the names or when they came out.
What do I have to show for this research? Nothing, nada, zip. I haven't been able to find a single one of these books via my normal thrift store means! One Happy Little Songbird is available for a pretty cheap price on Amazon though. I have Scooter Bug and the Bookworm on order from a swapping site, and I hope it will be here soon! IF YOU KNOW OF ANY BOOKS THAT I HAVE MISSED by Neil W. Rabens, PLEASE TELL ME!
By the way, a recent phone call to my mom has revealed that she STILL HAS The Secret of Henry and Sam at her house! BUT, she doesn't want to hand it over to me just yet. She wants to read it to all her grandchildren when they come over for awhile. Oh well, I will hopefully get this one eventually. In the meantime my kids will get to hear it every time they go to Grandma's house.