The new book.
It's like a baby being born; you are surprised, but not totally, when you look at it for the first time. I had nothing to do with the cover (designers do that) but I knew, based on its DNA, what it might look like.
It was a pleasant surprise. Scholastic is smart that way. Good covers mean good sales and good sales mean readers will actually open it up & read it. Kind of obvious, but not to everybody. Some brilliant and excellent writing goes unnoticed when a publisher doesn't spend valuable time and money on the cover or marketing. A writer I know cried when her book came out a few years ago. The cover looked like a kindergarten kid tore some paper and pasted it up. Terrible.
Anyway, here it is.
The new stories are the best, of course. The Franklin Expedition showed what a shameful waste of human lives became the end game for the best equipped British naval expedition of the mid 1800's. The Titanic was a story kids always knew something about and asked me about at schools. They all insisted I should write about it. "It was a British ship." I defended myself. "Mostly Americans and British died in it, and it sank in International waters." As a proud Canadian I felt we had enough of our own stories to tell, but in the end I did. There are hundreds of Canadian connections.
More interesting to me was the story about Polio. It is a dim memory of my youth to see Canadian kids in metal braces, victims of polio, crutching around. Perhaps I only saw newsreels. All were afflicted with it prior to 1954, the year the Salk vaccine was developed and made available, and also the year I was born. Hard to believe the widespread fears and terror this disease spread in Canada and the western world. And shameful to find also that the polio vaccines available today are still not used in some third world countries. There are lots of other stories (seventeen) in the new edition.
Old ones too.
I was led to shorten the older stories which remained in the book from previous editions. They needed re-writing and freshening up, but many of them have not lost their strength for me. We had guests over and one asked about the "Pont du Quebec" (the bridge that fell twice) and of course I had to answer, and of course, the answers were probably longer than she needed (wanted) to hear... But the stories are so interesting and in each one I had to leave out some of the very best parts, just because they couldn't be adequately described or explained without the story becoming too long.
Have you seen a kid telling a story and they're so excited to tell it they forget to breathe? They talk a solid stream and then begin to hiccup. That's what I feel like when I get going sometimes... because the stories, after you research, research some more, write, edit, rewrite, rephrase, edit some more, they become like a child of yours.
You know them very well.