Sunday, January 1, 2012

Possum Child Goes Shopping by Mercer Mayer and an Introduction to His Panorama Books.

Well, it is a brand new year.  I am going to start it out by featuring Mercer Mayer’s Panoramic Board Book series featuring Little Critter and the Critter Kids.  This series of books came out from Scholastic in 1983 for $2.95 a pop.  Two of the books weren’t re-released and two were re-named (just to confuse us kiddos) for paperback and hardcover releases.  Note for collectors: If you are looking for the Panorama versions of these books they all start with ISBN “0-590-328.” 

The books in the Panorama version of this series are:

Possum Child Goes Shopping (never re-released)

Malcom’s Race (never re-released)

Each book is thick cardboard (like a Board Book, but maybe a touch thinner) and has a folded accordion/Panoramic style.  When fully opened, the book is over four feet long (for a little over eight feet of fun art and story). Each book is 8 double sided panels long (16 panels total).  This ends up being about 13 pages of story (6 pages on one side, 7 on the other), a cover page, a back page featuring all of the Critter Kids, and a removable page featuring four of the Critter Kids (“collect all 16!”…one card features two of the 17 characters: Maurice & Molly).  

The seventeen Critter Kids are:

Little Critter: a critter

Too (name eventually changed to Little Sister…naming a character an adverb is just confusing): a critter, Little Critter’s little sister

Sweetmeat (name eventually changed to Bun Bun…look up “sweetmeat” and you’ll see why): a rabbit

Frud (name eventually changed to Frog…what was wrong with "Frud"?): a frog

Weenie (name eventually changed to Mouse… we wouldn’t want a character named “Weenie” in a book, would we?): a mouse

Muso (name eventually changed to Mooso…possibly so people would pronounce it correctly…it probably didn’t help…also “muso” means mouse in some languages): a panda

Skat Owl (no name changes for this guy, even though his name sounds like “scat”…look it up): an owl

Malcom: a tiger (or a tiger-striped cat)

Max: a koala

Huggums: a raccoon

Gator: an alligator

Bat Child: a bat

Oscar: an otter

Seaweed: a skunk

Maurice: a mole

Molly: a mole, Maurice’s sister

Possum Child: a possum

The versions of these books that were re-released by Random House / B. Dalton Booksellers, Inc. / Green Frog Publishers Inc. (in association with John R. Sansevere) had some changes made and most came with a disclaimer on the copyright page, “Originally published in a different format by Scholastic Inc., in 1983.”  Some of the re-releases have what looks like extra pages in them… some of which were borrowed from other books in the series.

Today’s book is one of the ones that wasn’t re-released (as far as I know).  Possum Child Goes Shopping. It seems to be very rare and it took me a few years to find a decent ex-library copy.   It comes with four Critter cards: Possum Child, Oscar, Little Critter, and Huggums.

The story:  Possum Child goes shopping for a new red bow for her head.  Before she’s able to leave she gets bombarded with requests from her friends to pick up some things for them.  As she shops she rhymes her grocery list, “For Huggums, lots of nuts and fruit. Gator needs a bathing suit.”  She isn't mad that her friends asked for these things, and she even seems happy to do it.  BUT, she does end up forgetting to buy her red bow.

Sadly, this particular book doesn’t take advantage of the Panorama publication style.  Some of the pictures are two-panels long, but most are single panel.  The shopping motif could have easily leant itself to showing a whole one-stop-shopping center with Possum Child in the different sections with a touch of bleed-over from picture to picture.  As to why this book didn't get re-released... I have no idea.  Kids love to play "shopping," and the book is fun, short, and sweet.  Maybe there is a low demographic for "possom"-related children's fiction?

Being picky: In the story, Possum Child buys some cheese for Weenie the mouse (per Weenie’s order), but she never delivers it to Weenie in the story (everyone else is shown getting what they wanted).  The jacks don't get delivered either, but Max got a bunny on top of that gift (Possum Child got him two things).  Also, Malcom, Too/Little Sister, Sweetmeat/Bun Bun, Skat Owl, Bat Child, and Frud are not in this book at all.
That’s all for this one.  Goodnight, sleep tight, and don’t let the Zipperump-a-zoos bite!


reese said...

Hi, can i ask you something? I know it's a bit off-topic but here it goes: I'm looking for children books with "scary" illustrations in fairytales. You know, like Wolf (or fox) eating pigs (or seven kids or Red Riding Hood or birds in Chicken Little...) or being pictured with a fat stomach. Have you seen any book of this sort? Any sort of help is appreciated. Thanks in advance. Great blog, by the way ;)

Antmusic said...

Most of the older Chicken Little books have Foxy Loxy eating all the main characters (but don't always show it). There are also plenty of Red Riding Hood books that show the wolf with open innards...and him all stiched up again. One book that sticks out from my Junior High days was "The Golden Shadow" illustrated by Charles Keeping... re-telling of Greek myths with almost Adult illustrations (and scary too if I remember correctly). Bony-legs illustrated by Dirk Zimmer and "In a Dark Dark Room" by Alvin Schwartz both freaked me out at a younger age. "Zeralda's Ogre" scares my kids (Tomi Ungerer, feels like a fairy tale). Off the top of my head, I don't have any actual Fairy Tale titles I can tell you, sorry.

Elizabeth Falconer said...

Wow I had no idea these books were so rare! I still have 3 copies from when I was a kid: Possum Child Goes Shopping, Too's Bracelet, and Bat Child's Haunted House. My kids love them so I got online to hunt down more in the series and I can't seem to find them anywhere! Do you have any idea if anyone still sells them in the panorama style? I would love to get ahold of the others!

cruelshoes1 said...

I kept my eye on lots on eBay and scoured thrift shops. It is hard to find ones with the cards in tact at the end, and you have to be careful of sellers who aren't really listing under the correct ISBN (ask or look at their pics).

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