• R.I.P. Marianne Carus, "Cricket" founder, 92

    From Lenona@21:1/5 to All on Wed Mar 17 13:05:31 2021
    Both parents were “horrified,” Carus told Jessica Csoma of the German Historical Institute, by the simplistic learn-to-read books their oldest son André brought home from school.

    That reminds me of what Beverly Cleary's Otis Spofford thought of basal readers, in 1953. Quote (he has to read one aloud in school, in chapter five):

    ...Another couple of dopes, thought Otis. Boys and girls in readers were always dopes. They were always polite and they never used slang and they hardly ever did anything they shouldn't. Except for wearing old-fashioned clothes, and saying "Yes Pa,"
    instead of "Yes, Father," Luke and Letty were just like all the rest. Dopes!...

    (Assuming those readers were like Dick and Jane books, that WOULD be intolerable. I'm just glad Dick and Jane books were never in my house or school, or I'd feel nostalgic about them.)

    Oddly, someone goofed when the 2008 hardcover edition of Cleary's book was printed - it says the book was published in 1963.

    Btw, it's worth mentioning that, starting in the 19th century, despite a few dozen novels from that century that have stayed in print to this day, it took decades for children's literature to overcome its reputation for mediocrity. Therefore, in Frances
    Hodgson Burnett’s 1905 classic A Little Princess, when Sara's father sends her a good many books on her birthday, they were very likely books for ADULTS (including, maybe, Thomas Carlyle's works). That would certainly explain the following scene. The
    dimwitted, 11-year-old Ermengarde looks aghast and says: “Does your papa send you books for a birthday present?…Why, he’s as bad as mine. Don’t open them, Sara.” The other girls also look disappointed. Until Sara, after saying "I like them"
    obligingly turns away from the books and opens the box with the outrageously extravagant doll, with a wardrobe made at a Parisian modiste's. (As an adult reader, you just know something terrible is about to happen, after that scene.)


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  • From Lenona@21:1/5 to All on Wed Mar 17 13:02:21 2021
    I'm amazed I never heard her name before. Especially since I own almost all the 1970s issues of Cricket! (I didn't hear of the magazine until its fifth year, though - the first issue was published in Sept. 1973.)

    She died in Peru, Illinois.


    (It's pretty long.)


    ...In the 1950s as Blouke helped expand the Carus Chemical Company, Marianne raised the couple’s three children while also studying art history and German literature at the University of Chicago. Both parents were “horrified,” Carus told Jessica
    Csoma of the German Historical Institute, by the simplistic learn-to-read books their oldest son André brought home from school. This concern spurred the pair to change course professionally and they began to develop their own reading and language arts
    program, which combined phonics with quality stories and poems that would interest readers. The result was the Open Court Basic Readers for grades 1–3, released in 1963, which was a hit with educators.

    The Caruses began to field requests from teachers for additional high-caliber literature, but in an even shorter format. Marianne’s research for such content sparked the idea for launching a children’s literary magazine to publish the work of
    contemporary writers, poets, and artists. She modeled her new project after the famous children’s magazine St. Nicholas, which was started in 1873 and edited by author Mary Mapes Dodge (Hans Brinker; or the Silver Skates). With her contacts in the
    educational and publishing worlds, Carus soon assembled an editorial board of experts that included Clifton Fadiman, book critic for the New Yorker, as senior editor; advisors Lloyd Alexander, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Eleanor Cameron, Virginia Haviland of
    the Library of Congress; and art director Trina Schart Hyman. In 1972 a prototype issue containing original work by Sid Fleischman, Nonny Hogrogian, and Singer, as well as a special illustrated greeting from beagle Snoopy by cartoonist Charles Schulz (a
    friend of Fadiman’s), was mailed to librarians, educators, media, and writers and illustrators for their feedback. The publication also featured an editorial letter called “Old Cricket Says,” and Hyman’s drawings of various creatures—including
    George the worm and Fat Ladybug—scattered throughout.

    In January 1973, Carus celebrated the release of Cricket’s first official issue by hosting a lavish launch party at New York City’s St. Moritz Hotel for all the major players in the children’s book industry. Carus has said that the name Cricket was
    inspired by a passage from Singer’s memoir A Day of Pleasure in which he recalled a cricket that lived behind a friend’s stove. “It chirped the nights through all winter long. I imagined that the cricket was telling a story that would never end.”

    After its debut, Cricket achieved great success, and was widely praised for publishing top quality children’s literature including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, as well as imaginative illustration, without advertisements. In the 1990s, the family of
    magazines published by Carus Publishing’s Cricket Magazine Group expanded to include such titles as Ladybug, Spider, Click, and Muse. Carus served as editor-in-chief of the publications for more than 35 years. Throughout her career she held positions
    in various educational organizations including serving as director on the Association for Library Service to Children board, and as a member of the executive board of the International Board on Books for Young People, as well as being inducted into the
    Association of American Publishers’ Hall of Fame in 2006....


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  • From Lenona@21:1/5 to All on Wed Mar 24 09:15:56 2021

    By Clay Risen
    Published March 19, 2021

    Most of it (there's also a charming photo of Carus and her two granddaughters, wearing white campesina dresses):

    Marianne Carus, the German-born, Sorbonne-educated founder of Cricket, the lively and erudite monthly magazine often called “The New Yorker for kids,” died on March 3 at her home in Peru, Ill. She was 92.

    Her death was confirmed by her daughter Inga Carus.

    Ms. Carus (pronounced CARE-us) began Cricket in 1973 after years of dismay over what she considered the sorry state of children’s reading material, including the books that her own three children brought home from school.

    “Good literature is literature you cannot put down,” she explained in a 2018 interview for the library at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. “And children for some reason did not get the best literature in the schools or in their homes.”

    There were other magazines aimed at children in the 1970s, including Highlights and Ranger Rick, but Ms. Carus considered them insubstantial and condescending. She cut Cricket from finer cloth: It came bound like a paperback book, with enchanting hand-
    drawn covers labeled with the volume and issue number; inside, not a single ad interrupted the flow of fiction, biographies and science stories.

    “Only Cricket seems to fly out of the mailbox straight from neverland, trailing clouds of something special,” the children’s author Jane Langton wrote in The New York Times in 1974.

    The magazine blended serious literature with childhood frivolity: A story by John Updike could be followed by a comic strip, or a poem by Nikki Giovanni could come after knock-knock jokes.

    Lest it still be confused with the The New York Review of Books, Cricket’s art director, Trina Schart Hyman, filled its margins with characters like Fat Ladybug, Ugly Bird and a know-it-all cricket named Cricket, who commented on the stories and
    explained challenging words.

    The magazine was an overnight success, with more than 250,000 subscribers after the first year. Though that number subsided over time, Cricket maintained an intensely loyal following, as evidenced by the overflowing bags of fan mail and submissions to
    its art and writing contests.

    Like Ms. Carus, the typical Cricket reader was intelligent and urbane, often far beyond his or her preteen years, and felt constrained by a culture that in the 1970s still relegated children to the edges of adult life.

    “In the summer I write and edit a newspaper,” one 9-year-old correspondent wrote in a letter to the editor. “To my readers I say Cricket is the No. 1 magazine for children. I hope I give you some more readers. Good luck.”

    While there was a good deal of fun to be had in the pages of Cricket, there was never a doubt about Ms. Carus’s faith in the nurturing capacity of big words and richly told stories.

    “So many people talk down to children, but you have to respect their intelligence,” she said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun in 1982. “Parents give them the best clothes, the best food, the best toys, when what they should be giving them is
    food for their little brains.”...

    ...The Caruses spent long stretches in Germany, and André, their oldest child, started the first grade there. When they returned, they noticed the disparity between the challenging, rich texts used in German schools and what they considered the plodding,
    condescending materials used in America.

    In 1963 the Caruses created a series of elementary-school readers, full of advanced vocabulary and complex stories. But the books struggled to win over teachers who were more familiar with the slow-going “look-say” method of reading instruction.

    “They were aghast at what Dick and Jane had done to American reading,” John Grandits, Cricket’s first designer, said in a phone interview.

    The Caruses tried a different approach a decade later with Cricket, starting with their advisory board, which they stacked with literary heavyweights, among them the children’s author Lloyd Alexander; Virginia Haviland, the founder of the children’s
    book section at the Library of Congress; and the novelist Isaac Bashevis Singer. (A story by Mr. Singer, about a cricket who lived behind a stove, inspired the magazine’s name.) The board offered advice and helped the Caruses make inroads among the
    librarians and well-educated parents they would target as subscribers.

    The couple also drew on the East Coast literary world to build their staff. Marcia Leonard, an editorial assistant and their first hire, was a recent graduate of the publishing course at Radcliffe College. They hired Clifton Fadiman, a former books
    editor at The New Yorker, to be Cricket’s senior editor. Mr. Fadiman’s regular radio and television appearances made him one of the few midcentury New York intellectuals to become a household name, and he used his extensive network of friends to
    stock the magazine’s pages: He got his friend Charles M. Schulz, the creator of “Peanuts,” to contribute to the first issue.

    Alongside Mr. Schulz, the first few issues of Cricket featured new work by Mr. Singer and the author and illustrator Nonny Hogrogian, a two-time winner of the Caldecott Medal, as well as reprints of work by T.S. Eliot and Astrid Lindgren, who created
    Pippi Longstocking.

    Writers of both children’s and adult literature tried to get into the pages of Cricket; Ms. Carus once rejected a submission by the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Saroyan. (He took it gracefully and sent in another story, which she accepted.)

    Ms. Carus published several anthologies of Cricket stories, and in the early 1990s launched three more titles, aimed at different ages. She ran the magazine out of a book-filled warren of offices above a downtown bar, and later out of a repurposed clock
    factory. Around 2000 its headquarters, and its staff of about 100, moved to Chicago, though Ms. Carus, still the editor, decided to stay in LaSalle, with some of her top editors trekking back and forth every few days. The Caruses sold Cricket and its
    related titles in 2011; they are still being published.

    Despite its fan base, Cricket never made much of a profit, a fact that did not seem to bother Ms. Carus.

    “This is an idealistic undertaking,” she told The Baltimore Sun. “We’re not trying to make money. If we were, we’d be in comics and sex manuals.”

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