100 Scope Notes
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Carrying the Torch: When a Character Continues with New Creators

It’s always fascinated me when a well-known book series continues without the original creators on board. It seem like there are a couple different versions of this:

The original creators passed away.

Whoa, Dog. Whoa! and You Are My Mother

P.D. Eastman is no longer with us, but characters from some of his most famous books continue on.

Same for Llama Llama:

Anna Dewdney passed away in 2016.

Both Madeline and Babar also continue – by family members of the original creators.

The original creators are feuding.

Pete the Cat

The original trio of picture books were created by Eric Litwin and James Dean. But along the way Litwin said goodbye. Now all the Pete books are written and illustrated by either James Dean solo, or James and Kimberly Dean.

And a third category . . .

The original creators are handing it off.

There are probably a number of reasons why this happens. Often it’s because the character is being expanded into new formats (board books, early readers, etc.)

Here are some recent examples of characters living on under the care of someone new.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site

This one isn’t a full-on handing off. Original author Sherri Duskey Rinker is still handling the writing, Tom Lichtenheld has handed off the illustration duties to A.G. Ford and Ethan Long.

Fancy Nancy

See that at the bottom? That “Based on the creation of”? The original author and illustrator are not at the helm here, folks, although they do reunite for the occasional Fancy Nancy picture book.

Splat the Cat

Original creator Rob Scotton was in charge of the first picture books, but not the books that have followed.

Diary of a Worm

You may not have known that there are new Diary of a Worm early readers, but here they are, based on the books by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss.

Any I missed? Let me know in the comments.

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About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.

Comments

  1. Eric Carpenter says:

    There’s a whole other category you left out. Characters who transitioned to television and then were placed back in books based on the television show. Rosemary Wells’ Max and Ruby are the example that comes to mind. There are a number of books not written by Wells that are “based on the television series”.
    I’m sure there are more.

  2. I have always wanted to know more about why Eric Litwin stepped away from Pete the Cat. Feuding? Do tell!

  3. Sophie Kenney says:

    The “Vampirina” Books by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by LeUyen Pham became a Disney Jr series and spawned its own set of books with an entirely new look.

  4. Are you counting classics, such as Little Women, which have been simplified, adapted, or “modernized” by different authors?
    Also, what about series that change illustrators? The Doll People began with Brian Selznick but was continued by Brett Helquist. This is different from a specific book, such as The Borrowers, which has been illustrated by different artists.
    Thanks for this post. I’m suspicious of those P.D. Eastman spin-offs. Did you remember that Eastman himself has a kind of prequel, or backstory, to Are You My Mother, called The Best Nest?

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