word craft


Story Behind the Story #5:
Emily Upham’s Revenge

Emily Upham's RevengeEmi­ly Upham’s Revenge, or, How Dead­wood Dick saved the Banker’s nieceA Mass­a­chu­setts Adven­ture by Avi
Pic­tures by Paul O. Zelinsky
William Mor­row, 1979

If you have read one of the pre­vi­ous Sto­ries about my Sto­ries, in par­tic­u­lar, how The End of the Begin­ning came about, you’ll find ref­er­ence to me vis­it­ing my good friend, Avon.

Avon and his wife lived in North Brook­field, Mass­a­chu­setts. Artists, they pur­chased North Brook­field­’s old rail­way sta­tion, and con­vert­ed it into their work­ing stu­dio. In this stu­dio hung a large, old sign that sim­ply read “George P. Upham.”

Even as I knew about this charm­ing place, those were the years when I was an avid col­lec­tor and read­er of old chil­dren’s books. I would, in time, amass more than three thou­sands of them. [They are now part of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut’s research chil­dren’s book col­lec­tion.] I com­bined my knowl­edge of North Brook­field and those high­ly moral­ly charged and absurd Nine­teenth Cen­tu­ry tales to cre­ate this book, the title, plot and style of writ­ing imi­ta­tive of chil­dren’s books of the period.

There was anoth­er ele­ment. At the time my moth­er was quite ill. At some point she said to me, “I’d wish you would write some­thing that would make me laugh.” That request was part of my cre­ative process.

The book was also the first chil­dren’s book illus­trat­ed by Paul O. Zelin­sky. As for the orig­i­nal illus­tra­tions, I was told that they had been left on the pub­lish­er’s desk where, one evening they fell to the floor. That night they were scooped up by the clean­ing staff and all tossed away.

The book went on to become nom­i­nat­ed for “Best Chil­dren’s Mys­tery of the Year” by the Mys­tery Writ­ers of America.

1 thought on “Story Behind the Story #5:<br><em>Emily Upham’s Revenge</em>”

  1. Did you moth­er get to read it & laugh? Con­grats for being nominated!
    Felt sad for the books got throw away by the clean­ing staff… 🙁


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