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Posts Tagged ‘Serendipity Books’

Many of us will remember Serendipity Books. We may have read them as kids, or we may have read them to our own kids. This long series, written by Stephen Cosgrove, has a distinctive look thanks to the soft and charming illustration by Robin James. In these books, a variety of animals both natural and mythical have adventures that end with a clear moral or lesson.

The success of this series carries a really interesting lesson all its own. The author struggled to find books he believer were appropriate for his young daughter. Standard publishers offered hardback books that were fairly expensive, and (he felt) lacked a moral center. Dissatisfied, Cosgrove set out to write his own book. His goal was to offer inexpensive paperbacks with the wholesome tone he was looking for.

Cosgrove did write his book. He found his own illustrator and began to approach traditional publishers. However, editors still wanted to publish in hardback, and Cosgrove was determined to bring out modestly priced paperbacks. Ultimately he decided to publish on his own. The first four books appeared in 1974. They were Serendipity, Wheedle on the Needle, The Dream Tree, and The Muffin Muncher (since revised as The Muffin Dragon) with a series title of Serendipity Books.

Self-publishing was extremely rare in the 1970s. The stigma of vanity presses was strong. But Cosgrove did what every successful self-published author has to do. He identified his audience (Christian families with young children). He decided how to reach them (gentle fables with sweet illustration). He aimed at family budgets with his inexpensive paperbacks.

It all paid off. Serendipity Books were a great success. Cosgrove and James expanded the series with many more volumes. All were independent of each other, although a few characters like Morgan the unicorn and Lop the rabbit starred in more than one book. In fact, the series was such a success that Cosgrove merged his company with Price/Stern/Sloan in order to focus on his writing.

Among the many characters, my favorites are the dragons. Some that come to mind are Creole, who learned that true beauty is within, Trafalgar True, who stepped in to stop a senseless war, the Muffin Muncher, who learned not to be so greedy, and of course Serendipity, the pink sea serpent who searched the world to find out who or what she was.

In all honesty, the Serendipity books seem fairly dated to a 21st Century children’s writer. Telling a story with a moral is not how we approach our audience these days. I find, also, that Cosgrove’s vocabulary is much too difficult for a young reader to handle. So these texts seem more directed at the adult who is reading than the child who is listening.

Nevertheless, the messages still ring true. In classrooms where students struggle with social behavior, Serendipity Books can be a way to help learn about friendship, equality, and respect for the environment.


A few of my other books:

Aunt Ursula’s Atlas, Lucy D. Ford’s short story collection

Masters of Air & Fire, Lucy D. Ford’s middle-grade novel

The Grimhold Wolf, my Gothic werewolf fantasy, and my epic fantasy, The Seven Exalted Orders.

 

 

 

 

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