Newly polished editions of eight gems from the HarperCollins Children’s Books backlist have just arrived on bookstore shelves, courtesy of the company’s Harper Classics reissue initiative. Encompassing four Newbery winners and two Newbery Honor Books, the illustrious list of reissued vintage and contemporary middle-grade novels includes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, Thanhhà Lai’s Inside Out and Back Again, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan.
The decision to issue the new $16.99 jacketed hardcover editions was “editorially driven,” said Rosemary Brosnan, v-p and editorial director of HarperCollins Children’s Books and HarperTeen. “We’re always looking at our very amazing backlist for new publishing opportunities, and we decided to release beautiful new editions of some classics—old and new—to create a library of collectible editions of beloved novels.”
To give the reissues a uniform appearance, Harper redesigned the covers, which feature each novel’s original art surrounded by a gold foil frame. Other design details include a gold panel at the bottom of each cover, featuring the author’s name, and a gold foil spine. “We certainly had no interest in messing with Garth Williams’s cover art for Charlotte’s Web–or with any of the art,” said Brosnan. “We came up with the framing device to give the books a consistent look.” And, to ensure that the Newbery accolades pop from the cover, the publisher opted to place actual foil award stickers on the dust jackets rather than use printed versions of them.
The books’ interiors also feature embellishments, in the form of such additional content as discussion guides, interviews, and notes from authors. The new material differs from book to book, Brosnan explained, “depending on what we were able to find in our archives.” As examples, the editor cited the inclusion of Katherine Paterson and Neil Gaiman’s respective Newbery Medal acceptance speeches in the new editions of Bridge to Terabithia and The Graveyard Book; handwritten pages of Gaiman’s manuscript and early sketches by Graveyard’s illustrator, Dave McKean; letters that the late E.B. White wrote to his editor, Ursula Nordstrom, in Charlotte’s Web; and an autograph by the title character of The One and Only Ivan.
According to Brosnan the company may add more titles to the Harper Classics roster, though none is scheduled at this point. “It’s still early, since these initial reissues have just been released, so we’re going to keep an eye on them,” she said. “We are hoping that the books will find new readers for these classic novels. The wonderful thing about children’s books, of course, is that we’re always getting a new crop of readers—and parents will be familiar with most of these novels.”
Asked whether the reissue program was timed to coincide with HarperCollins’s 200th anniversary this year, Brosnan replied, “That wasn’t really a factor in the timing of launching these books—but I think the anniversary makes this a particularly good year to celebrate our backlist!”