Here at the Horn Book we’ve gotten used to publishers sending us off-the-wall books. But this week even we were taken aback when we lifted the flap of a box and found this volume sitting on top of the stack:
As Bertha Mahony Miller might have said: WTF?
Was this a sequel to our newly-crowned Newbery? If so, how come we’d never heard any advance word about it? The confusion continued when we lifted out the next book:
Fortunately, we then found the paperwork that accompanied these books, sent by a new publisher, Hexwood Books. According to their press release:
Critics, librarians, and teachers love them.
Kids? Not so much.
As demonstrated by the popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series, kids today want to read stories about sexy vampires…stories about fangs poised above the neck of a young innocent…stories about blood slowly seeping into the bodice of a white ruffled nightgown. Our new series, “Vamped-up Newberys” will satisfy both young people and their teachers — featuring the plots and characters of your favorite award-winning novels, slightly altered to include today’s most popular subject matter among young people: vampires!
The first five volumes in the series are based on the 2012 winner DEAD END IN NORVELT, last year’s winner MOON OVER MANIFEST, 2007’s THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, JACOB HAVE I LOVED (1981) and that classic from 1945, JOHNNY TREMAIN.
Take a look at this series. Share the novels with a kid you love. Then tell us what you think. We’d love to hear from you!
Passing the volumes around the office, we began to compare the “Vamped-up” editions with the original books. Although a good 80% of the content — prose, characters, dialogue — is virtually identical between original and “altered” versions, each of the Hexwood Books has been modified to somehow include vampires.
Remember the sibling rivalry between Sara Louise and Caroline in Jacob Have I Loved? It’s still there, but now the sisters are feuding vampires:
Johnny Tremain is now a Revolutionary War lad with iron-enriched blood being fought over by two covens of beautiful and sexy vampires:
And “Lucky” is now “Sucky,” a young vampire who wants to change her ways:
As an example of how the texts have been “vamped-up,” here are the opening paragraphs of the original Higher Power of Lucky:
Lucky Trimble crouched in a wedge of shade behind the Dumpster. Her ear near a hole in the paint-chipped wall of Hard Pan’s Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, she listened as Short Sammy told the story of how he hit rock bottom. How he quit drinking and found his Higher Power. Short Sammy’s story, of all the rock-bottom stories Lucky had heard at twelve-step anonymous meetings — alcoholics, gamblers, smokers, and overeaters — was still her favorite.
Sammy told of the day when he drunk a half gallon of rum listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his parked ’62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car when he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.
Here are the same paragraphs in the Hexwood edition:
Young vampire Sucky Trimble crouched in a wedge of shade behind the Dumpster. Her pointy ear near a hole in the paint-chipped wall of Hard Pan’s Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, she listened as Short Sammy told the story of how he hit rock bottom. How he quit drinking blood and found his Higher Power. Short Sammy’s story, of all the rock-bottom stories Sucky had heard at twelve-step anonymous meetings — alcoholics, gamblers, smokers, and reformed vampires — was still her favorite.
Sammy told of the night when he drunk a half gallon of plasma listening to Johnny Gash in his parked ’62 hearse, then fallen out of the car when he saw a fellow vampire on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.
Finding the entire “Vamped-up” enterprise a little…bizarre, I made a call to Peyton Millman, publisher of Hexwood Books. Here is part of our interview:
PM (chuckling): You’re not the first editor from a review magazine to call today, Roger.
RS: I’m almost at a loss for words. Many, many Newbery winners are popular and very much loved by children. Did you really think this kind of gimmick was necessary?
PM: Well, it appeared to us that there was quite a gap between the books kids are SUPPOSED to read and what they WANT to read. Why not make the books more appealing — you know, add some chocolate frosting to the Brussels sprout to make it go down a little better. And what better way to do it than with vampires?
RS: I don’t know how you were allowed to alter the texts of copyrighted works.
PM: We’re marketing these books as parodies…satires. And the right to parody is protected by law in this country. If not, what would happen to shows like Saturday Night Live and publications such as Mad Magazine?
RS: Does that include the right to use the original dust jacket illustrations with only slight variations?
PM: Let me ask you a question: when Saturday Night Live spoofs a movie, don’t the performers dress up just like the characters in that movie? Well, we’re dressing up our books the same way. And we make it very clear that these books are satires.
RS: Where is that made clear?
PM (chuckling): On the inside back panel of the dust jacket in a very readable six-point font.
RS: Aren’t you worried that some people will buy your editions thinking they are getting the original Newbery winner?
PM (chuckling): It happens, it happens. In fact, based on recent sales, it seems to happen a lot.
RS: So this has been a successful venture?
PM: We’re already preparing several more volumes in the Vamped-up series for publication: Bitty, Her First Hundred Thousand Years; When You Leech Me; It’s Like This, Bat; and we’re doing a Christopher Paul Curtis double volume containing Blood, Not Bloody and The Watsons Go to Transylvania, 1363.
RS: Any plans to branch out?
PM: Absolutely. We’re ready to reach out to a younger audience with The Bat in the Hat and Good Bite Moon. Instead of “an old lady whispering hush,” she’ll be “an old lady who makes your blood gush.”
RS: That’s disgusting.
PM: And of course my dream is to vamp-up the Laura Ingalls Wilder books with Ma and Pa as nomadic vampires. Now we know why Pa always called Laura “half-pint.”
The “Vamped-up Newbery” series will NOT be reviewed in the pages of The Horn Book Magazine, but the books will be available at most retailers beginning April 1.