Georgie the Ghost and other children's picture books by Robert Bright

I love children’s picture books — especially the classic, old-fashioned ones with their big, grand illustrations. (Maybe it’s what we think of when we think of a book, in some ways, because it reminds us of the first books we ever read as a child.) So I was really excited when the Kindle actually rescued four of my favorite children’s books from their out-of-print status. And then this week, the granddaughter of their original author/illustrator even agreed to do an interview!

“You reviewed a few of my grandfather, Robert Bright’s books in the past,” read her mysterious e-mail. “It was so wonderful to know that the books are still loved…” Now Sara Ruffin is reviving her grandfather’s books, both in print and in digital editions, and to do it she’s launched her own publishing company, which is selling a lovely print edition of her grandfather’s very first children’s book, The Travels of Ching, originally published in 1943. But because of the low cost of publishing on the Kindle, she was also even able to release digital Kindle editions for four more of her grandfather’s books — including two about Georgie the Ghost!

“Kindle is indeed helping to keep Georgie in circulation!” she told me this morning, adding “I love that about this technology. It seems this must be true for so many writers and illustrators. I have this belief that electronic books will complement the physical book.

“I hope, anyway…”

It seems to be true, because I’d first discovered Robert Bright through a hardcover edition at my local public library of a delightful book he wrote and illustrated about Georgie the Ghost. Sara remembers that originally, her grandfather’s idea for the Georgie books “started when my mother and my uncle [then small children] were caught peering under the bed one evening in Laguna Beach in 1941. They were looking for the little ghost that lived in the house – they weren’t scared at all, only extremely curious!” And nearly 70 years later, that book (and a sequel, Georgie’s Halloween) are now available again on the Kindle!

For a shortcut, just point your web browser to…

tinyurl.com/BrightBooks

Georgie was the first in a 13-book series about the ghost – and I liked Sara’s answer about what made her grandfather’s books so popular. “I think my grandfather wrote and illustrated his books for children,” she wrote. “Sometimes children’s book authors write for adults as well as children but from what I have been told, Bobby had only children in mind when he created his books.” Bright ultimately shared this imaginative approach in more than 20 children’s picture books over the next 40 years. “The drawings are simple and direct and humorous,” Sara explains. “I don’t think he felt he needed to ‘scream’ at children with lots of color nor did he patronize them with simple forms.”

“The drawings are full of detail and each time you read his books you discover a wonderful new element, like a little mouse in the corner or a funny poster on the wall, so the illustrations always feels fresh.”

Georgie the Ghost

Georgie’s Halloween was always one of my favorites, because the illustrations are colored with orange and black, giving them a special holiday feeling. (“Bright really outdoes himself with this book’s illustrations,” I wrote in my review, praising the way that light and shadows were suggested in the scenes with moonlight or a night-time party.) All the white space on the page seemed to become the gleam of moonlight on Halloween. And the dark lines turn into stark and shadowy highlights — complemented by the orange in the children’s costumes – so I’m really looking forward to reading its Kindle edition in color on my Kindle Fire!

Of course, there’s also a Kindle edition of the first book in the series, Georgie the Ghost, where we first meet the shy, magical character who hides in Mr. and Mrs Whittaker’s attic. But you can also buy Kindle editions now for two fun picture books that Bright wrote about children and animals — My Hopping Bunny and Me and the Bears. Amazon’s created a web page listing all the picture books written by Robert Bright — but unfortunately, they’ve all since gone out of print.

That’s why it’s inspiring to see that his granddaughter is keeping the books alive – with a little help from the Kindle!

Browse Amazon’s selection of Robert Bright’s ebooks at…

tinyurl.com/BrightBooks

A Thought for Connecticut

December 16th, 2012

Friday a friend of mine in California posted her thoughts on Facebook. She has two young children, and wanted to shelter them from hearing the bad news that was coming out of Connecticut. I have no idea how to respond, but my girlfriend made a good suggestion. Take an extra moment today to appreciate the ones that you love.

And then I’d stumbled across my own answer on Sunday morning – a Kindle ebook for children with a much more comforting story. I discovered the true story of five little kittens who were trapped in a burning warehouse in Brooklyn – until their mother rushed in and saved them all, one by one. One reviewer on Amazon described it as “a powerful story that a young child can comprehend and enjoy.” She’d read the book to a four-year-old “whose eyes grew wider as the text progressed, yet she never showed fear, only that rapt attention of wanting to know how the story would end…”

New York Hero Cat Scarlett

The book received 16 five-star reviews on its web page at Amazon. (For a shortcut, point your web browser to tinyurl.com/HeroCatEbook .) But best of all, the ebook is on sale for only $1.00 if you live in one of the regions in 29 states where Amazon is offering their “Amazon Local” discounts. I discovered today that they’re using that service to offer a free “voucher” which lets you purchase 50 different ebooks for just one dollar apiece — including Hero Cat. And some of the other discounted ebooks are pretty interesting too. For another dollar, you can buy a collection of six Jane Austen novels — or a complete collection of every Sherlock Holmes story!

If you want a shortcut to all of the “Voucher” ebooks, just point your web browser to tinyurl.com/VoucherEbooks. But even without the discount, Hero Cat costs only $3.99 as a Kindle ebook. And I was touched just by reading some of the reviews. “There was one thing that was not covered…that was so touching,” wrote a woman in Alaska. The brave little cat “had many scars from her fiery rescue, but her new owner was reported to have sung the song ‘You Are So Beautiful’ to her, every day that she lived.”

I discovered that the “Hero Cat” — whose name was Scarlett — even has her own page on Wikipedia, which shares some even more touching details. “After saving the kittens she was seen to touch each of her kittens with her nose to ensure they were all there and alive…and then she collapsed unconscious.” But when news then spread of this stray cat’s motherly bravery, over 7,000 people offered to adopt her and her kittens.

Ultimately Scarlett the cat found a home with a woman who had her own story to tell. “As a result of losing her cat shortly after being injured in a traffic accident herself, she had become more compassionate and would take in only animals with special needs,” Wikipedia reports. The Kindle ebook turns the cat’s real-life adventure into “a wonderful story of Mother love and devotion,” according to the reviewer in Alaska — and she also enjoyed the book’s illustrations.

I thought it was a good way to remember a story where an entire family confronts an unexpected danger — and then safely passes through it all, thanks to the love and devotion of their mother. The best children’s books can teach us something about ourselves, like the fact that we all have more power than we think.

And it’s as good a way as any to take an extra moment to appreciate the ones that you love.

Twas The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore illustration

This is a sweet deal — in more ways than one. I was browsing the children’s picture books at Amazon, and discovered an unexpected announcement. “This holiday season, when you purchase any Amazon Children’s Publishing book for yourself, your friends or family, you’ll also be helping to make digital books available to children and young adults in Africa. Buy any Amazon Children’s Publishing book in print or ebook format between Saturday, December 1, 2012 and Monday, December 24, 2012 and we’ll donate an Amazon Children’s Publishing ebook to the Worldreader program.”

Browse the selection at tinyurl.com/KidsBookDonations

This was a surprise — and it gave me a warm feeling inside. Imagine reading The Night Before Christmas, and knowing that you’ve also introduced that same book to a far-away corner of the world. “I looked at a number of illustrated versions of this book and this particular one had the best pictures,” noted one reviewer on Amazon. “They are large and realistic, with beautiful with candy colors.”

Of course, then I worried that children in Africa might not be celebrating Christmas, and wondered if it’d be better to buy Little Lost Tiger or Hippo Goes Bananas. (Or even a humorous children’s book that’s titled The Hiccupotamus.) But the important thing is whatever book you buy, it’s ultimately helping children learn how to read. Worldreader is a non-profit that’s trying to make ebooks and Kindles available to both children and young adults in the “developing” world (primarily Africa).

I’ve always loved the story of this charity. In 2008, a man took his family on a tour of the world. While visiting an orphanage in South America, he asked what was behind the padlocked doors of a tin building. The answer was disturbing: it was books. In fact, it was the local library. The materials had become outdated, and the library fell into disuse.

And then he had an idea. Throughout the trip his own daughters had been reading ebooks on their digital reader. He got the idea of starting a charity with one simple goal: to use ebook technology to “put a library of books within reach of every family on the planet”. He named it World Reader.org, and four years later, Amazon’s helping them out. I love the idea that they’ll send these children a copy of the same ebooks that I’m reading.

There’s one important caveat. At first I thought Amazon would donate any children’s picture book to the WorldReader program, but they’re actually only donating the ones that are published by Amazon Children’s Publishing. (And the books have to be purcahsed through Amazon.com.) But there’s a lot of titles to choose from.

And it’s an easy way to feel like you’ve done something nice this holiday season!

The Velveteen Rabbit cover illustration

Over 45 different children’s picture books are now each available for less than a dollar in Amazon’s Kindle Store! “From Aladdin to The Velveteen Rabbit,” Amazon posted on one of their Facebook pages, “these 45 Kindle-exclusive Rabbit Ears picture books are just 99¢ each for a limited time.” Amazon posted the announcement on the Facebook page for their Kindle Fire tablets, presumably because of the lavish cover images for each of the books. But these are “Kindle Edition” books, so you can enjoy them on any kind of Kindle!

There’s three Beatrix Potter stories in the mix, along with some adaptations of a few folk tales, and classic children’s stories by Rudyard Kipling (and two by Washington Irving). There’s even a few characters from history, whose lives are being re-told in special biographies for younger readers. To see the selection, just point your browser to tinyurl.com/DollarKidBooks. It looks like some of these books are brand new, and they normally sell for $7.77 — so it’s a pretty big savings.

Here’s a list of the 45 children’s books that have been reduced in price to just 99 cents!

The Velveteen Rabbit
Beatrix Potter’s A Tale of Two Bad Mice
The Three Little Pigs
How the Leopard Got his Spots by Rudyard Kipling
The Three Bill Goats Gruff
Johnny Appleseed
The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen
How the Camel Get His Hump by Rudyard Kipling
Jack and the Beanstalk
Goldilocks
Pecos Bill
Rip Van Winkle
Rumpelstiltskin
The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling
John Henry
How the Rhinocerous Got His Skin
Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby
The Night Before Christmas
Anansi
Red Riding Hood
Tom Thumb
Noah and the Ark
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Paul Bunyan
Pinocchio
Annie Oakley
Davy Crocket
Parables That Jesus Told
Aladdin
Beatrix Potter’s Tales of Mr. Jeremy Fisher
Mose the Fireman
The Bremen Town Musicians
Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester
The Emperor and the Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen
Princess Scargo and the Birthday Pumpkin
The Boy Who Drew Cats
The Firebird
Follow the Drinking Gord
The Tiger and the Brahmin
Peachboy
The Monkey People
Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit
The Steadfast Tin Soldier
Squanto and the First Thanksgiving
The Fisherman and his Wife
Stormalong


She’s the author of Peter Rabbit, and a delightful collection of other classic children’s book about animals. Beatrix Potter illustrated nearly all of the books herself, and I was delighted to discover they’re available for the Kindle, including all of her wonderful pictures. (Just point your computer’s web browser to tinyurl.com/BeatrixPotterKindle .) You can even find free editions of her stories in Amazon’s Kindle Store – though many of them don’t seem to include the illustrations. (I’d remembered staring in fascination at the tiny print editions when I was young — with their soft grey covers and those fancy, colorful illustrations.) But it turns out that Beatrix Potter that during her lifetime, Beatrix Potter was really a publishing pioneer!

Since March is “Women’s History Month,” I thought I’d re-visit one of my favorite stories about the famous children’s book author. In 1906 she’d actually tried a new format for delivering her famous fairy tales – and according to Wikipedia, it didn’t even involve a book!

Intended for babies and tots, the story was originally published on a strip of paper that was folded into a wallet, closed with a flap, and tied with a ribbon.

The format was unpopular with booksellers and within a few years of the book’s release it was reprinted in the standard small book format of the Peter Rabbit library.

Click here to see a picture of the book’s original format!

Only two of Potter’s shorter stories were published in the “panorama” format – The Story of Miss Moppet and The Story of a Fierce, Bad Rabbit. (Yes, that really was its title.) It just seems especially appropriate that they’ve escaped the book format once again, and 100 years later – you can buy them on your Kindle.

When I originally published my discovery online, over 20,000 people eventually read my article. “But I think my problems started in 1902,” I’d joked at the time. That was when Beatrix Potter first published The Tale of Peter Rabbit, but I’d added as an afterthought that I thought Beatrix Potter would’ve liked the Kindle. (In 1906, she was already experimenting with that new non-book format for her books, though with the absence of digital technology, her best idea was still just a long, folded piece of paper that could be carried in a wallet.) The big geek web site, Slashdot had linked to my article – where not everyone agreed with my premise! But it ultimately led to a very interesting discussion.

There were nearly 100 lively comments on their site about everything from color screens, copyrights, and the iPad to the reading habits of infants. But in the middle of all the debate, someone argued that ebooks themselves were just a trendy fad. They’d panned the “buzz” around the Kindle vs. “a content delivery system which has been proven over the course of centuries.”

Their harshest line? “I may be a luddite but at least my books will still function after the collapse of civilization.”

And then someone posted this response, titled: “Sorry you are a luddite.”

The new digital world is pervasive and more permanent than you could ever imagine. In a world of 6 plus billion people, the only way for everyone to have access to books, literature, everything written down by the humans for the past 10,000 years is through digital form. This is the future. A single paperback book costs on average, $20 today. A near future netbook/ereader will cost around $100 and will have access to millions of works via a cheap connection to the internet. You can’t compete with that with your lump of soggy paper.

And sorry to say, the first thing the mobs do when civilization ends is burn the libraries to the ground, along with all the book hoarders. For any printed book, there may be thousands, or even tens of thousands of copies, but for a digital book, there can be an infinite number of perfect copies.

Beatrix Potter was a populist who wanted to make her books accessible to all segments of society. She would surely see the advent of digitalization as a GOOD THING.

And then, just to leave things on a lighter note, he ended his post with a joke.

“You may now go back to admiring and dusting your book collection.”

Funny free Kindle ebook about our dog

My girlfriend actually cried when I showed her her birthday present this year. I’d written her a Kindle ebook about her dog!

I’d told her I’d hidden her present somewhere in the apartment — not in the kitchen or in the living room, but somewhere close to the bed. “Is it on your nightstand? Nope, there’s nothing here but your Kindle… But let’s turn it on anyways and take a look. Well, there’s nothing here on your home page. But maybe we need to look in the Kindle Store…”

I’d told her it was a scavenger hunt, and the first clue would come up when she typed in her dog’s name. So she did — and there he was! She saw a picture of her own dog staring back at her — as the cover of a Kindle ebook.

She sat there, stunned. Smiling, but stunned. Her eyes moistened. She didn’t move for a few seconds. I think she thought that I’d hacked into Amazon’s Kindle store somehow, and pasted her dog’s picture onto one of their ebooks. But then she pressed the button that brings up the ebook’s description on Amazon.com.


Lucca is a cuddly Cocker Spaniel dog who belongs to a woman named TC. “I love TC very much,” reads the caption on one photo. “And she loves Lucca….”

Since I’d wanted to give her a special gift, I watched her face nervously to see her reaction. She’d started to read the rest of its page on Amazon, but then got too excited, and just downloaded the ebook straight to her Kindle. And when she opened it, every page seemed to dazzle her.

Dedicated to TC

with love

on a very special birthday



“TC says Lucca is the best dog in the world.
He cuddles with you on the couch while you’re watching TV…”

Last year TC had given me a smartphone for Christmas with a built-in camera, and I’d used it all year long to snap photos of her dog. (There’s 32 of them in the book.) Whenever Lucca did something cute, there was that camera in my pocket on the Christmas-gift smartphone. And that spring when our dog became friends with the cat downstairs, I was able to get some great pictures.

Dog Lucca and cat Finch become friends

You can see those pictures in color if you download the book to your smartphone (or to your Kindle Fire tablet). But the dog’s charm always jumps out from his shaggy face, even on a regular black and white Kindle. If you want to see a preview, just point your computer’s web browser to tinyurl.com/GoodReadsDog – but the whole ebook is only 99 cents, so you could just download the whole ebook to your Kindle (or to one of the free Kindle apps), and then give our dog a look, from this special URL.

http://www.tinyURL.com/OurFunny Dog

TC never did read the rest of the book’s description at Amazon, but I think she would’ve liked it. (“This ebook collects pictures with clever captions into a quick look at the life of a very happy pet dog…Our Dog Lucca takes you on a visit to that happy house where Lucca lives – and introduces you to a very charming dog.”) It’d feel a little weird to be making our pet dog into something famous, so if it became popular we’d probably donate most of the proceeds to an animal rescue shelter. Lucca is a “rescue” dog, and sometimes we wonder if that’s made him extra sweet.

But as I walked past our Christmas tree, at least I knew that Lucca had helped make my girlfriend’s birthday feel magical.

Download the ebook to your Kindle and see the dog ebook that made TC smile

http://www.tinyURL.com/OurFunny Dog

Funny free Kindle ebook about our dog

I Wrote My First eBook!

November 21st, 2011

Yes, it’s true. After years of blogging about new authors writing exciting new ebooks for the Kindle, I decided I had to write one too. The whole thing is written in rhyme, offering a “Thanksgiving mystery” that’s fun for young readers and grown-ups too.

Point your computer’s web browser to
http://www.TinyURL.com/TurkeyBook

There’s four talking turkeys that are awaiting the farmer’s axe on Thanksgiving Day — but one of them has a plan for escaping! (“For Thanksgiving, try this game. Find the guilty turkey’s name!”) I worked hard, cranking out more than 16 pages of rhymes and including 12 different illustrations. And the next day I discovered that my turkeys had snuck onto Amazon’s list of the best-selling children’s ebooks about animals — and they’d stolen the #73 spot from a book about Curious George!

Curious George ebook


And within an hour, they were in the top six on Amazon’s list of children’s ebooks about birds — appearing right next to one of the very first books that I’d ever read in my life!


Amazon Children's ebook best-seller list

Amazon had surprised me by publishing my book within 12 hours after I’d submitted it to the Kindle Store. (I’d heard estimates of “24 to 48 hours.”) Since it’s a Thanksgiving story, I’d wanted it released this week, but…well, I’ll just quote the e-mail I sent to my friend.


I was almost paralyzed with excitement when I finally saw it for the first time on Amazon! The night before I’d been marveling that there’s sort of a paper-thin wall now between “published” and “unpublished”, and we can walk through it whenever we want to. Now the only barriers are in our own minds…

This summer a guy named John Locke became the first self-published author to sell one million ebooks. (And then he wrote a book about that (called “How I sold one million ebooks.) It was such an inspiring read, but I think he’s really just another excited self-published author, recognizing the thrill of how easy it is to create your own ebook. “The rules have changed. Whee! Look at me! I’m on the other side of the ‘published’ line!”

I should publish my grocery list, just to prove how easy it is. (“Unpublished… Published!”)

Maybe there’s real opportunity here, but whatever’s happening, I felt like I needed to have this experience. I needed to walk away from whatever psychological dings hold us all back from crossing that paper-thin line between “unpublished” and “published.” I even have some things that I’ve always wanted to see in a book, so it really is just a matter of *deciding* that I want them to be ebooks — and then publishing them. I told my girlfriend there’s a big yellow button on Amazon’s Kindle publishing page that just says “Upload Book.”

And you can create that book in Microsoft Word. (Or, heck, any text editor.) You can cross through that paper-thin line just by cutting and pasting!

I love books. And when I read books, I go to a special place. And now I’m *in* that special place — I’m on the other side of the page, so to speak. And that makes me feel somehow like I’ve inherited some of the importance of the other books I usually read. (Now instead of looking at other people’s books at Amazon.com and their thumbnail images, it’s my book, and my thumbnail image…) My excitement really kicked up a notch when I saw how good the illustrations looked. (I’ve really been struck and blind-sided by how easy it was — how it all came together, and how everything I needed was already there.)

I’ve tried to savor this day because it will always be my only first ebook

Anyways, tinyurl.com/TurkeyBook – and tell any friends you have who own Kindles!




Or click the funny turkey to see the ebook on Amazon…

Regis Philbin vs. the eBook

January 18th, 2011

It's a Book by Lane Smith

There was one more great “ebook moment” in 2010. In September, even 79-year-old Regis Philbin began discussing the end of the printed book on his morning daytime television talk show!

Today Regis Philbin announced his retirement, which makes this memory even more poignant. It all began when co-host Kelly Ripa brought out a new children’s picture book titled “It’s a Book.” She’d read its dialogue between a technology-loving jackass, and a monkey who still loves books. The confused jackass watches him reading for a minute, and then asks “How do you scroll down?”

“I don’t. I turn the page. It’s a book.”

“Do you blog with it?”
“No. It’s a book…”
“Can you make the characters fight?”
“Nope. Book.”
“Can it text.”
“No.”
“Tweet?”
“No.”
“Wi-Fi?
“No.”
“Can it do this? ‘Doot’…”
“No. It’s a book.”

But here’s where it gets interesting. It was a brand-new book, and the author had just delivered a very special version to Regis and Kelly. On the book’s inside cover, he’d suggested the book’s characters could be people on their talk show. The book-loving monkey was Regis, while the cute little mouse was Kelly, and the technology-loving donkey was Regis’s producer, a man named Gelman.

It was a special edition of the show — later, Gelman would try to teach 79-year-old Regis how to use a computer. (Regis is a notorious technophobe, possibly because he was born in 1931, back when Herbert Hoover was still President.) And yet in their conversation, Regis seemed to sense that his world had finally reached a turning point.

                        *                        *                        *
REGIS: It’s too bad about books, because just recently Barnes and Noble…

KELLY: Oh, I — they’re going to sell Barnes and Noble.

REGIS: — you know, just can’t do it any more. Isn’t that a shame, those bookstores slowly going out of business?

KELLY: I mean it’s like, to me there’s nothing better, also, than going in a library and smelling all the books and hearing the — the crinkling of the plastic covering on the b- –

REGIS: Yeah, exactly.

KELLY: I mean it’s just, I hope that we haven’t taken it too far.

REGIS: Our kids missed the big internet age when they were small, you know, and it was still books. And boy, I’ll never forget when we brought the girls here to New York, how Joanna loved these bookstores. And it was a thrill for her. I was taking — “Wanna go see a movie or something?”

“No, I wanna go to this book store.” Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue, and all those stores.

KELLY: Now she’s an author. Now she writes.

REGIS: And now she’s an author. Yeah.

KELLY: It’s funny. My son just got his, well, not just, but over the summer, his seventh grade reading list. And it’s still books! So I’m happy to say that they’re still using books.

REGIS: Yeah. I guess there’s room for both internet and books, you know. But unfortunately…

                        *                        *                        *

Ironically, Regis Philbin has written two autobiographies — neither of which is available on the Kindle!

But click here to buy “It’s a Book!”

The Best Thanksgiving eBooks

November 24th, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Curious George book and Kindle ebook cover

Thanksgiving’s almost here!

If you’re traveling for the holiday – or just have some extra time to relax — I’ve picked out a few Thanksgiving-related ebooks. With all the excitement around Amazon’s big Black Friday deal — $89 for the Kindle 2 — I’m already feeling grateful… that I own a Kindle already!

Here’s some of the best ebooks — in different categories — that I found for Thanksgiving in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

The Best Romance
“Thanksgiving” by Janet Evanovich

Best-selling author Janet Evanovich wrote several funny mystery novels — but she actually began her career writing romance novels at the age of 45. One of her first books was “Thanksgiving,” written in 1988, describing how overworked Megan Murphy meets a good-looking doctor at historic Williamsburg, Virginia. (Megan’s enjoying a cup of hot cider and two sugar cookies from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop when she discovers the doctor’s giant pet rabbit is eating a hole through her skirt!)

According to the book’s description on Amazon, “she meant to give its careless owner a piece of her mind, but Dr. Patrick Hunter was too attractive to stay mad at for long,” and soon “the two are making Thanksgiving dinner for their families.” And 12 different Amazon’s reviewers gave it five-star reviews, including one who wrote that “If you’ve enjoyed Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, you’re going to get a kick out of her stories for the Loveswept Romance imprint…”

The Best Cookbook
Thanksgiving 101 by Rick Rodgers

Perdue Farms sells over $4.6 billion worth of poultry every year, and for eight years, Rick Rodgers was their media spokesman. He traveled the country giving classes, according to Amazon’s description of the book, and delivers “everything, absolutely everything, you would want to know about buying, thawing, prepping, and roasting a turkey.

“You needn’t look any further. There’s a long question-and-answer-style section that anticipates any questions you might have. Then it’s right on to everything from Perfect Roast Turkey with Best-Ever Gravy to Holiday Meatball Lasagna.” And in addition, there’s lots of recipes for stuffings, side dishes, appetizers, and even leftovers. 29 of the book’s 34 reviewers on Amazon gave it five stars, while the other five
awarded it four. It’s a classic — Amazon’s first review of the book was written in 1998 — but even today, it’s become one of Amazon’s best-selling holiday cooking books.

The Best History Book
On Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford

Who better to tell the story of Thanksgiving than the pilgrims who lived through it? (My favorite chapter was the one about the very non-Puritan antics of Thomas Morton…) William Bradford began writing his history of America’s most famous pilgrims back in 1630 (according to my anthology of American literature), and he continued chronicling their life up to 1647. But the invaluable manuscript was never published in his lifetime, and after Bradford’s death, his family passed it down through the generations.

The precious unpublished memoir traveled its own complicated journey, down through Boston’s Old South Church, and eventually even back to England. Finally it was published in 1856 — a full 200 years after it was written. And now today, thanks to the Kindle, we can take peek into the lives of the very pilgrims who first started celebrating Thanksgiving.

The Best Children’s Book
Happy Thanksgiving, Curious George

Just 12 weeks ago, a new Curious George book appeared, and this one has a special surprise. Yes, you may have read other children’s books about the playful and accident-prone monkey… But this one rhymes!


George wakes up in the morning.
Something smells quite nice.
He knows for sure he wants some –
A piece, a smidge, a slice.

He rushes to the kitchen
and there he sees the man –
with yellow hat an apron,
A turkey in the pan.

The turkey’s in the oven.
It takes some time to cook.
But every now and then
George can’t help but take a look….

Uh-oh, I bet there’s going to be trouble.

Hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

United States President Barack Obama and George Washington

There’s a new children’s book author in town, and his name is Barack Obama.

Today the President of the United States announced he’ll be publishing “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.” The book won’t be released until November 16, but Amazon is already selling pre-orders of the book at a 45% discount. The book won’t be available on the Kindle, so Amazon urges shoppers to “Tell the Publisher! I’d like to read this book on Kindle…” But poking around Amazon, I discovered another Barack Obama text that’s already available, for free, and another one written by his predecessor, George Bush.

For Barack Obama, it’s the presidential inaugural address, and whether you love or hate the President, it’s interesting to look back on the day that his presidency started, and remember just how different the world was in January of 2009. You can also download a free version of George Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, or Ronald Reagan’s from 1982, so your Kindle is giving equal time to both political parties. But by exploring Amazon a little further, I discovered an even more fascinating historical document. It’s actually possible to download every inaugural address given by every previous U.S. President, all collected together into a single ebook!

There’s President Nixon, President Ford, President Clinton, and President Reagan, of course. But you can also point your time machine back towards the 1700s, reading the inaugural addresses of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, in 1789 and 1801, respectively. President Harrison, the 9th President of the United States, insisted on reading his entire two-hour inauguration speech — the longest in U.S. history — during a cold and rainy day in Washington D.C. He refused to wear a hat or coat, possibly trying to remind the audience that he was still the tough military general that had served in the War of 1812, but ironically, he died three weeks later after catching pneumonia.

Wikipedia insists that long speech was unrelated to Harrison’s death, but it’s still fun to sneak a peek at the hopes he held for the four years he never got to see. Every famous president from American history has their own inauguration speech — President Kennedy, President Truman, and one especially poetic address by Abraham Lincoln. And it was during his inaugural speech that Franklin Roosevelt made one of his most famous statements.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

It was just 28 years later that President Kennedy was inaugurated, and that speech is also in the collection, featuring an optimistic call to duty. (“My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”) I’m looking forward to reading all the speeches, and it’ll be fun to flit around from century to century.

I just wonder if we’ll ever have a President who actually enjoys reading on the Kindle…

It's a Book by Lane Smith

I think this is a milestone. Friday, 79-year-old Regis Philbin discussed the end of the printed book on his morning daytime television talk show.

It began when co-host Kelly Ripa brought out a new children’s picture book titled “It’s a Book.” She read its dialogue between a technology-loving jackass, and a monkey who still loves books. The confused jackass watches him reading for a minute, and then asks “How do you scroll down?”

“I don’t. I turn the page. It’s a book.”

“Do you blog with it?”
“No. It’s a book…”
“Can you make the characters fight?”
“Nope. Book.”
“Can it text.”
“No.”
“Tweet?”
“No.”
“Wi-Fi?
“No.”
“Can it do this? ‘Doot’…”
“No. It’s a book.”

But here’s where it gets interesting. It’s a brand-new book — released just two weeks ago — and the author had delivered a special version to Regis and Kelly. On the book’s inside cover, he’d suggested the book’s characters could be people on their talk show. The book-loving monkey was Regis, while the cute little mouse was Kelly, and the technology-loving donkey was Regis’s producer, a man named Gelman.

It was a special edition of the show — later, Gelman would try to teach 79-year-old Regis how to use a computer. (Regis is a notorious technophobe, possibly because he was born in 1931, back when Herbert Hoover was still President.) And yet in their conversation, Regis seemed to sense that his world had finally reached a turning point.

*                        *                        *
REGIS: It’s too bad about books, because just recently Barnes and Noble…

KELLY: Oh, I — they’re going to sell Barnes and Noble.

REGIS: — you know, just can’t do it any more. Isn’t that a shame, those bookstores slowly going out of business?

KELLY: I mean it’s like, to me there’s nothing better, also, than going in a library and smelling all the books and hearing the — the crinkling of the plastic covering on the b- –

REGIS: Yeah, exactly.

KELLY: I mean it’s just, I hope that we haven’t taken it too far.

REGIS: Our kids missed the big internet age when they were small, you know, and it was still books. And boy, I’ll never forget when we brought the girls here to New York, how Joanna loved these bookstores. And it was a thrill for her. I was taking — “Wanna go see a movie or something?”

“No, I wanna go to this book store.” Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue, and all those stores.

KELLY: Now she’s an author. Now she writes.

REGIS: And now she’s an author. Yeah.

KELLY: It’s funny. My son just got his, well, not just, but over the summer, his seventh grade reading list. And it’s still books! So I’m happy to say that they’re still using books.

REGIS: Yeah. I guess there’s room for both internet and books, you know. But unfortunately…

*                        *                        *

Ironically, Regis Philbin has written two autobiographies — neither of which is available on the Kindle!

But click here to buy “It’s a Book!”

Amazingly, yesterday there was a long discussion about the Kindle and the future of the book on the daytime television talk show, The View.

Whoopi Goldberg is a big fan of the Kindle, and it sounded like co-host Barbara Walters was trying to understand it. But the show’s other hosts — both mothers with young children — worried about whether a digital reader might impinge on the time they spend reading to their children. Here’s a complete transcript of the discussion between the four women.

(The other two hosts are sitcom star Sherri Shepherd and reality TV star Bethenny Frankel…)

*                        *                        *

WHOOPI: According to Amazon.com, sales of ebooks are outpacing the sales of actual hardcover books. So is the book on the way out?

BARBARA: I guess so.

BETHENNY: I don’t want to read The Runaway Bunny to Brin on a Kindle.

BARBARA: Why not?

BETHENNY: I just, you know, I…

SHERRI: It’s not the same.

BETHENNY: I like the turning of page and the colors and all that.

SHERRI: When Jeffrey and I — we do — it’s a bonding moment. At night, he knows, “turn off the TV, mommy.” He goes to get a book. We sit in the rocking chair. He likes to turn the pages. He likes to point. It’s the pictures. I think you lose that as a child. We’re so viral with the Twitter. We don’t pick up the phone any more. We’re texting. And you kind of lose that personal touch, when you don’t have the musty books and the yellow pages…

WHOOPI: Very few people –

SHERRI: Yeah.

WHOOPI: — read the Kindle to their children. Most people still read –

BETHENNY: But that’s where we’ll go.

WHOOPI: No we won’t.

SHERRI: It just seems like –

WHOOPI: And here’s the thing. Giant books — think about it. Well, maybe this isn’t your experience. I love to read, as you know.

SHERRI: Yeah.

WHOOPI: I used to carry 30 books when I travelled. And so I’d have — and I bought bags — leather bags. 30 books, yeah, ’cause I read. I go on these long trips…

BARBARA: Well, she was on a long trip on a bus.

WHOOPI: I go on these long trips, ’cause I — you know, I don’t generally fly.

BETHENNY: Well, it takes me a month to read a book, so –

WHOOPI: So I — I eat books. I love them.

SHERRI: And you know, I think another reason why it’s outselling — the Kindle — is because a book — if you go on Amazon now, a book is sixteen bucks. And if you get it on Kindle, it’s eight. So you know, I think the price, as well…

WHOOPI: And also, I think you can carry your library with you if you go somewhere. And so I think people want to be able to do that. Books will never go out of — out of –

BARBARA: No, because there is a place for them in your home.

WHOOPI: Absolutely.

BARBARA: Books look beautiful. They feel good. That’s the great thing.

WHOOPI: Unless you decide to do it — unless you decide to buy it for children.

SHERRI: We were talking about young babies and toddlers. What about for kids who are maybe preteens and teenagers — that experience of having a book. You remember going to the library? The Dewey decimal system? That whole –

WHOOPI: Let me explain to you about books. You see these kids, how many books they’re carrying?

SHERRI: Yeah. They got a big –

WHOOPI: Do you see what they’re carrying on their backs?

BETHENNY: It’s going to be expensive to buy the devices.

WHOOPI: Actually it’s not, if the schools can get behind it. Because, what you can do is you can download your textbooks. And you can have all the books that you need. It would be great for young people. And real books — I mean, as long as kids are reading Twilight, they’re not going to want to read it on the Kindle. They want –

BETHENNY: Is the bookmark over? Is that’s what’s going to happen now? The whole bookmark industry?

WHOOPI: No. You have a different bookmark for the Kindle or the iBook or whatever you’re reading. But the greatest thing is people are still reading! That’s the most wonderful…

[APPLAUSE]

SHERRI: I remember our — my dad, the salesman came, and we had an entire shelf of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And that was the thing. We loved it when we got a new Britannica.

BETHENNY: You can look smart, too. You can have all these books at your house, and people think you’re really literary when you’re not.

WHOOPI: That’s why this guy — I wonder if this — that’s why this guy got into trouble. What do you think, Bill? I mean — did you hear about this Amish teenager who, uh — who crashed his horse and buggy during a police chase?

BETHENNY: Is this The Flintstones? What are we talking about?

WHOOPI: No! He’s facing charges of alcohol possession, and second degree reckless endangerment, and overdriving an animal after leading the police on a chase that ended when the teen crashed his horse and buggy! Come on…

SHERRI: He was Amish?

WHOOPI: He was Amish. And we’re worried about where the book is going?! Pooh! “Come on, now. Come on! Come on! He’s gaining on us! Come on, Christa, come on!”

*                        *                        *

And of course, Barbara Walters put it all into perspective. Not only is she okay with the Kindle — she’s not even worried about the police pulling over the Amish horse and buggy for drunk driving.

“Unless the horse was drunk, I don’t see what’s the big deal…”

I was surprised when Google sent a visitor to my blog who was looking for “fairy tales for Kindle”. It turns out Google was sending them to my old blog post, “Why Beatrix Potter would Love the Kindle.” (It’s now possible to buy a Kindle edition of Beatrix Potter’s fairy tales, including The Tale of Peter Rabbit and its sequel, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny.) But if you’re looking for fairy tales, don’t overlook this forgotten treasure chest: the dark and quirky original stories by the Brothers Grimm.

The Brothers Grimm

Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm is a free ebook that collects over 200 gnarly pieces of authentic folklore that the two brothers had carefully collected over their lifetime. The table of contents even supplies the original German titles for the stories (though the collection is written in English), so the tale “Little Snow-White” is also identified as “Sneewittchen.” (And “The Bremen Town Musicians” was originally called “Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten”.)

I’m not kidding about the stories being dark, quirky, and gnarly. One of them is titled “The Girl Without Hands,” and there’s some absolutely horrifying plot twists in “Our Lady’s Child” (“Marienkind”). A mute queen’s three children are kidnapped by the Virgin Mary, and the queen is then burned at the stake because the king’s councilors believe that the queen killed and ate them herself. (Surprisingly, there is a happy ending, but the twists along the way are pretty hair-raising…)

And early in the book is another tale called “The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was.” A man on the road points him to the tree “where seven men have married the ropemaker’s daughter, and are now learning how to fly.”

“Sit down below it, and wait till night comes, and you will soon learn how to shudder…”

But instead, the youth worries about whether they’re cold, as “the wind knocked the hanged men against each other.” So he sets them around his campfire, but “they sat there and did not stir, and the fire caught their clothes…” Soon has fearlessness has led him to take a king’s challenge of spending three nights in a haunted castle, where he’s assaulted by black cats and dogs “from every hole and corner,” all carrying red hot chains. He kills them with his cutting knife, crying “Away with ye, vermin,” and then lies down to sleep in the haunted bed…

The story-telling is very simple, but it’s still a wild and unpredictable experience that I’m sure I’ll never forget. Just remember that while these are authentic fairy tales, they’re not necessarily the cute and colorful legends you might be expecting! If you’re looking for a “cute and cuddly” free fairy tale book, there’s also The Tales of Beatrix Potter!

A Very Funny Typo?

June 28th, 2010

I love the poem at the beginning of “The Jungle Book.” But there appeared to be a dreadful (and funny) typo in the best-selling free Kindle edition. See if you can find it…


NIGHT-SONG OF THE JUNGLE

Now Rann the Kite brings home the night
That Mang the Bat sets free –
The herds are shut in byre and hut
For loosed till dawn are we.

This is the hour of pride and power,
Talon and tush and claw.
Oh, hear the call! — Good hunting all
That keep the Jungle Law!

See what looks like an out-of-place word? If not, let me help you out. Here’s how the site Urban Dictionary defines the word “tush”.

1. Rear-end, butt, behind
She had a nice tush.

2. what ZZ Top looks for downtown

I didn’t think the animals in Rudyard Kipling’s jungle were hunting with their tushes…

It seems obvious from the context that the word is “tusk.” (And that’s the word that appears in some online editions of the book.)

This is the hour of pride and power,
Talon and tusk and claw…

But what’s even more interesting is the “tush” version now appears 2,500 times in a Google search – while the “tusk” version appears just 266 times. (That is, almost 90% of the online editions are using the word “tush”.) Even the Encyclopedia Britannica site republished Kipling’s poem with the word “tush”, along with several universities. In fact, according to Google thousands of people are now fondly quoting that version of the poem, including Ask.com, San Diego State University, The Wild India Guide, and a site called The Poetry Lovers Page. My favorite was a medical facility that performs “world-class research in Alzheimer’s disease”. A misguided human resources document quoted the “tush” version of the poem – then added it “could very well be a guide in defining and understanding organizations.” (Tush-friendly organizations are described by the HR document as places that include “unwritten codes and culture,” and adhering to them “determines one’s chances of survival…”)

What’s going on? My friend Andy Baio pointed me to the Oxford English Dictionary, explaining that tush “is another name for the elephant’s early tusk.” And then I felt like kind of a jackass (no pun intended), because as Amazon points out, the free etext was created by “a community of volunteers”, and here I was trying to second-guess their work.

But I’d already noticed some valid complaints about some free Kindle editions of Kipling. And I was a little miffed when I downloaded a free collection of Kipling poetry, and discovered that every single poem appeared without any linebreaks (including classic Kipling poems like “Gunga Din” and “Mandolay”).

But I’d argue that what’s really going on is a quiet triumph for the Kindle – and for the community of volunteers preparing the free texts. Their free version of The Jungle Book is now one of the top 100 best-selling free books in the Kindle store. That’s how I found it, which added me to the pool of people watching for typos.

We can then notify the community of volunteers to make fixes, in a kind of “spontaneous collaboration” to preserve stories that were written more than 100 years ago. It ultimately shows that they’ve already succeeded tremendously in popularizing classic literature to a new world of digital readers — and that those readers, in turn, can help improve the quality of future digital editions.

Okay, this wins the award for what may be the single shortest “Sample” I’ve ever received on the Kindle.

Earlier this month I’d blogged about how you can finally download the original Winnie-the-Pooh onto your Kindle – including its classic black-and-white illustrations by Ernest Shepard. (And yes, those would make some excellent screensaver images!) It’s fun to see them on the Kindle, and even as an adult, it’s still a very fun read. But if you download the book’s sample, they send you exactly one sentence from the book’s first chapter.


“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”

And that’s it!

Although to be fair, there’s also several illustrations, plus several pages of the humorous introduction to the book that was written by A. A. Milne.


I had written as far as this when Piglet looked up and said in his squeaky voice, “What about Me?”

“My dear Piglet,” I said, “the whole book is about you…”

“So it is about Pooh,” he squeaked. You see what it is…

But imagine clicking through the sample, and discovering that most of it is devoted to things like the the title page, the table of contents, the publisher’s information, and even a disclaimer that Winnie-the-Pooh “is a work of fiction.”


“Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.”

Who knew that so many lawyers lived at the House at Pooh Corner?