Bravest of All at 451 Degrees

When I was learning to read, my favorite book was Bravest of All, by Kate Emery Pogue. This was a Little Golden Book about an old firefighter who, when all the young firefighters and shiny new equipment were out putting out a big fire, sprang into action with his old fire truck to save a family’s house. It’s a wonderful little book, and when our first child was born I used the magic of the internet to track down a copy, and bought it.

Books are a crucial part of many smart people’s childhoods. Kids who are different than their peers, and whose teachers don’t know what to do with them, can find the world (or escape to different worlds) in books.

Books endure in a way that other stuff does not; they provide a link to our childhood that can be restored. I still have a stuffed animal — a white (now gray) dog with black ears and tail — from the same era of my life as Bravest of All; there is no way, if I had lost Woof-Woof, that I would be able to find a replacement as I found a copy of Bravest of All.

Books convey truth in a way that toys, clothing, and other media cannot. There is truth in Woof-Woof, but it’s truth understood only by who already know my story. Bravest of All, by contrast, carries truths that can be deciphered by most anyone who can read.

As a former smart kid, I am horrified by Walter Olson’s CPSIA chronicles, February 10, in which Walter explains that the Consumer Product Safety Commission, our servant, advises resellers to discard most children’s books published before 1985.

If the CPSC gets its way, when my children look for copies of Bravest of All thirty-some years from now there will be none to be found. By effectively shutting down the market for children’s books from before 1985, our government erases a large chunk of the childhood culture of most everyone born before that year.

Thanks to books, every well-read American knows the temperature at which paper bursts into flame. How did we ever let it get this hot?

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0 responses to “Bravest of All at 451 Degrees”

  1. Do what I did Put the old books in a box and keep the box. I’ve got everything from that very book to old G.I. Joe comics. Not to mention the Hardy Boys and whatnot.

  2. And not all oop books are public domain. Some people still own copyrights, and may not wish to share, and in some cases, it’s not clear who owns the copyrights.

    Another problem- there aren’t enough buyers interested in each and every old treasure to justify the costs of reprinting every single one of them, especially with the new requirements that all components of each new title be subjected to expensive, redundant, third party testing. Testing can run into the thousands of dollars.

    Republish Bravest of All, and how many people are going to buy it? Five hundred? Okay, so then use the same inks, papers, and presses to republish, say, The Provensen’s A Peaceable Kingdom (a sweet picture book last published in 1981), and you have to do the testing of those same materials all over again- and for how many copies? How many thousands of copies have to be sold just to recoup testing costs?

    My family has safely and frugally stocked a family library of over 8,000 volumes, half of which were published before 1985. We filled our shelves with oop books discovered at library booksales and thrift shops, seldom paying over a dollar a book; most of them we paid .25 a book. We sometimes more than paid for our own books by buying and selling others- an activity no longer available to me. If we had to rely only on currently in print volumes purchased new, we could not afford to own more than a few of these treasures (we have a large family, my husband supported us through his salary as an enlisted man in the AF).

    All this, without any evidence that a child was ever harmed by lead in a book. It is a wholly untenable law, and it’s an outrage that ought to be accepted.

  3. […] Some reactions to my coverage of the threat to pre-1985 kids’ books, both at this site and in my new opinion piece at City Journal: famed sci-fi writer Jerry Pournelle (scroll to Feb. 12), Justin Taylor/Between Two Worlds, Series Books for Girls, Liberty Maven/DownsizeDC, Melissa Wiley, The Catholic Bubble, Carter Wood/ShopFloor, and Ella’s Deli. I also got a very nice note from Michael S. Hart, founder of old-text-preservation volunteer group Project Gutenberg, one of my favorite things about the Internet. And if you haven’t read Mark Bennett’s post at Defending People, linked earlier, go do so. […]

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