47 Charming Facts About Children’s Books – mental_floss on YouTube (Ep.206)


Hi, I’m John Green. Welcome to my salon.
This is Mental Floss on YouTube and did you know that among all of the drawings in Norton
Juster’s original The Phantom Tollbooth, there is not a single drawing of Milo in a
tollbooth. Anyway, that’s the first of many facts about
your favorite children’s books I’m going to share with you about today. When E.B. White was once asked why he wrote
Charlotte’s Web, he responded with a two-and-a-half page letter about spiders in his barn and
pigs. Wait, did someone say pigs? Time to put a quarter in the staff porkchop
party fund! Man, that’s some pig. Anyway, at the end of the letter, he wrote,
“I haven’t told why I wrote the book, but I haven’t told why I sneeze, either.
A book is a sneeze.” Katherine Paterson, on the other hand, can
tell you exactly where she found the inspiration for Bridge to Terabithia: one of her son’s
best friends, Lisa, was struck by lightning and killed when they she was just eight years
old. As for the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E.
Frankweiler, it was based in part on a 1965 story from the New York Times in which the
Metropolitan Museum purchased a genuine Italian Renaissance statue for just $225. So it was
that combined with, you know, our universal human desire to hide in bathrooms until museums
close. Maurice Sendak based the Where the Wild Things
Are monsters on his Polish relatives who came to live with his parents in New York after
surviving the Holocaust. Sendak described them as cheek-pinchers with crazy faces and
wild eyes. Before he became a famous author, by the way,
Sendak illustrated Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s Farm, which I bring up entirely because somebody
just said “pig.” Two quarters in one video, what is it, my birthday? Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is one of the many now-famous
children’s stories that started out as an attempt to lull the author’s small children
to sleep. Others include Babar, Winnie-the-Pooh, and The Hobbit. “Sick,” “neurotic,” and “masochistic”
are just a few of the words that critics have used to refer to Shel Silverstein’s The
Giving Tree. Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham is a little
less controversial. It was written after Seuss’ editor bet him that he couldn’t write a
book using 50 words or less. The 50 words are: a, am, and, anywhere, are,
be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house,
I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that,
the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, and you. I did it. Speaking of Seuss, he wrote The Cat in the
Hat because he thought that kids needed a more interesting way to learn basic words
than the boring Dick and Jane series. Also, to make sure that his publisher was
paying attention, Dr. Seuss inserted this line into a first draft of Hop on Pop: “When
I read I am smart / I always cut whole words apart. / Con Stan Tin O Ple, Tim Buk Too / Con
Tra Cep Tive, Kan Ga Roo.” His publisher of course WAS paying attention, and the line
was later changed to: “My father / can read / big words, too. / Like… / Constantinople
/ and / Timbuktu.” Margaret Wise Brown had no children. She left
all future proceeds of Goodnight Moon to a neighbor, who was nine-years-old at the time.
He has since made – and mostly spent – more than $5 million off of it. Mo Willems, best known for Don’t Let the
Pigeon Drive the Bus and Knuffle Bunny, started his career as a writer and animator for Sesame
Street, where he won six Emmys. Not easy working for Sesame Street, for starters,
you gotta know how to count. Since it was first published in 1969, Eric
Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold a copy every minute. Beatrix Potter, who wrote The Tale of Peter
Rabbit, was notorious for disliking children, this is actually pretty common among children’s
book writers. Not me. Others. According to fellow kid’s author Roald Dahl, he convinced
his mother take him to see Beatrix Potter at her farm when he was just six. And Beatrix
happened to be working outside when they arrived and she asked Roald what he wanted. He told
her that he wanted to meet Beatrix Potter, to which she responded, “Well you’ve met her.
Now buzz off.” Ugh, such a Mr. McGregor move. The grown-up Dahl used to tell his daughters
stories about one of his most famous characters, The BFG, long before the book existed. And
after he told his kids the BFG stories at bedtime, he would climb a ladder outside of
their bedroom window and use a bamboo cane to blow dreams into their room, just like
his big, friendly giant. One more Roald Dahl tidbit: an early draft
of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory featured a sixth child in addition to Augustus, Mike,
Violet, Veruca, and Charlie. Her name was Miranda Piker, and she met her untimely demise
when she was ground into powder by one of Willy Wonka’s candy machines after refusing
to listen to him. So the next time you read The Polar Express
– or anything else illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg – keep an eye out for a white bull
terrier. He sticks one into most of his works in homage to his brother-in-law’s dog, Winston,
who served as a model for his first book. In The Polar Express, you can find a Winston
puppet on the bedpost. Margaret and H.A. Rey fled from France on
bicycles during WWII, they escaped the Nazis by mere hours. And included among the few
possessions they took with them was a manuscript for a book that would eventually become the
Curious George. Which would then go on to become an epically bad movie. Pippi Longstocking’s full name is Pippilotta
Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking. Ramona Quimby came about when Beverly Cleary
noticed that every kid in her book Henry Huggins was an only child. So to remedy this, she
tossed in a little sister for Beezus. Speaking of which, people often ask me why most of
the kids in my book are only children. It’s a joke that I have with my brother. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., has said that he was
inspired to become a falconer by Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain. In all of R.L. Stine’s Goosbumps series, nobody
dies. How was it still so scary?? The author of Frog and Toad, Arnold Lobel
was the father-in-law to Mark Linn-Baker, AKA Cousin Larry on Perfect Strangers, which
may help explain why Linn-Baker later played Toad on Broadway. So look for Hank Green playing
Augustus Waters in The Fault in our Stars on Broadway later this year. That is a joke,
just in case, like, EW wants to take that out of context or something. Audrey Penn was inspired to write The Kissing
Hand when she saw a mother raccoon rubbing her nose in her baby raccoon’s paw. Then
the baby would rub its paw against its own cheek, and the two would repeat the process
over and over. A park ranger explained that the mother was marking her baby with her scent
so they could find each other if they got separated. Penn wrote the story and I’ve been
“aww-ing” ever since. Other names considered for Nancy Drew: Diana
Dare, Stella Strong, Helen Hale and Nan Nelson. The names for the houses at Hogwarts came
to J.K. Rowling while she was on a plane, so she jotted them down on an airsickness
bag, which she still has, by the way. Presumably, it is otherwise unused. The look for Anne of Green Gables was based
on Evelyn Nesbit, one of the It Girls of the early 1900s. It’s kind of like if Kim Kardashian
had inspired the look of Katniss Everdeen. Which maybe she did. Probably not. Stan and Jan Berenstain didn’t just write
about their namesake bears. Among their other credits: How to Teach Your Children About
Sex. The first incarnation of Corduroy the bear
appeared in a story by author Don Freeman called “Corduroy, the Inferior Decorator,”
about a little boy who insisted on painting all over the walls of his parents’ house.
That book never saw the light of day, but Freeman liked the name so he kept it when
he created the popular teddy bear character. Corduroy is a good name for a bear, but not
as good as Mark’s Cellophane. In 1956, author Michael Bond saw a toy bear
sitting alone on a shelf on Christmas Eve. And he felt bad for the bear so he bought
it. He named it Paddington because he and his wife lived near Paddington Station in
London at the time, and it was only later that he started writing stories about the
marmalade sandwich-loving bear. Talking animals like Paddington once had no
place in China. In fact, for a time, even classics like Alice in Wonderland were banned
in parts of the country, because, according to a 1931 statement by General Ho Chien, “Bears,
lions and other beasts cannot use a human language. To attribute to them such a power
is an insult to the human race.” That’s a little overly sensitive. It’s almost like
he knew animals could talk. Like sometimes I hear this donkey whisper,
“Why are you making me wear a party hat and a tutu?” Despite the fact that the cover of Strega
Nona declares that it’s “an old tale retold and illustrated by Tomie De Paola,” the
author actually invented the character. It was his publisher’s idea to brand it as
an old folktale. Norman Bridwell almost called his famous big
red dog “Tiny” until his wife suggested Clifford — the name of her childhood imaginary
friend. Louis Sachar’s Holes was originally supposed
to be called Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Wrong Kid. Strangely enough, that’s kind of how
I feel about Shia LaBeouf, who played Stanley “Caveman” Yelnats in the film adaptation. The author and illustrator of Madeline, Ludwig
Bemelmans painted a mural of Central Park at a bar in the the Carlyle Hotel. And he
decided to include a Madeline cameo in the mural. That’s right – Madeline is chilling
at a bar in NYC – “something is not right” INDEED. Between 1986 and 2000, Scholastic published
213 novels in the Baby-sitters Club series. Each of them classics! In total there are
more than 176 million copies of Baby-sitters Club books in print. A Wrinkle in Time was rejected by at least
26 publishers. Among their arguments were that it was “too different”, “because it deals
overtly with the problem of evil,” and “was it a children’s or an adults’ book, anyhow?” There are persistent rumors that the title
character from Kay Thompson’s Eloise was inspired by her goddaughter, who grew up in
hotels. But the goddaughter, who just happens to be LIZA MINNELLI, says that that’s not
true. The Olivia book series came about when author
Ian Falconer decided to make a present for his niece, Olivia. After two decades of writing children’s
books, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day’s author Judith Viorst
turned to Freudian psychology. When The Boxcar Children was first published,
there were some upset adults who felt that children shouldn’t be enjoying themselves
so much without any adult supervision. To which I say, is being a kid hobo living in
a BOXCAR really that fun? A quarter of a million copies of Pat the Bunny
are produced every year, enough to cover six football fields in those tiny little squares
of peekaboo cloth. And lastly, I return to my salon to tell you
that S.E. Hinton was just 17 when her novel The Outsiders was published in 1967. And yes
– she is a she. “S.E.” stands for Susan Eloise. And even though The Outsiders came
out almost 50 years ago, S.E. Hinton is still writing books. And they’re still very good. Thanks for watching Mental Floss here on YouTube,
which is made with the help of all these nice people. Every week we endeavor to answer one
of your mind-blowing questions. This week’s question comes from Lucy who asks, “How
many organs do people have?” Well Lucy, it depends on your definition of
organ. I mean, most people don’t have any organs at all, other people have bought, you
know, one or two from a church or something. Right, but we have to define what an organ
is. The most widely accepted definition is that an organ is a collection of tissues that
work together to do something. But by this definition, it means that, like, each individual
bone and muscle counts as an organ and we quickly reach, like, 1,000. So really, it
depends. Maybe as few as 60, maybe as many as 1,700. Anyway, if you have a mind-blowing question
you’d like answered, please leave it below in comments and we’ll try to answer it.
Thanks again for watching and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome. P.S. Me From the Future here to tell you that
today’s episode of Mental Floss was brought to you by audible.com, a leading provider
of audiobooks and other forms of audio entertainment. Audible allows you to download audiobooks
from a massive library of 150,000 titles you can download The Fault in Our Stars for free
by signing up now at audible.com/mentalfloss or any other book you want, but mostly, The
Fault in Our Stars.

100 thoughts on “47 Charming Facts About Children’s Books – mental_floss on YouTube (Ep.206)

  1. Awww, I thought the Curious Gorge movie was awesome! It was fun, and the animation was pretty, plus good music. But ah well, to each their own. 

  2. What was the name of the book about the stuffed rabbit that gets tossed of a ship and passed on to various different owners, eventually having it returned to the original owner?

  3. I actually went into the National Gallery of Art in D.C. 7 minutes before it closed to go to the toilet… and stayed in there til a few minutes after it was closing… was the last person in there because I had the runs lol. They told me they couldn't close til everyone was out. Had to walk 1km from Capitol Hill to the museum while holding it in.

  4. You missed "Green Eggs And HAM" for putting a quarter in the piggy bank for the Staff Pork Chop Part Fund! Especially conspicuous since you made such a big deal moments before about getting to put a second quarter in in as many minutes.

  5. My father-in-law claims to be responsible for the color of the eggs and ham.  As part of a school assignment as a child, he wrote to Dr. Seuss and asked him why he never wrote about my f-i-l's favorite color, green.  He had written about other colors like brown, I guess, and it upset my f-i-l.  The next Dr. Seuss book out was Green Eggs and Ham.

  6. if you give a pig a pancake,harold and the purple crayon,the velveteen rabbit, click clack moo, are all children's books too. paddington, eloise, corduroy and madeleine are some of my favorites that you mentioned. thank you for mentioning them 

  7. as the author of 18 picture books to date, and receiver of about 1600 rejection letters (well, emails)…i'm still hoping at least one of my books will appear on such a list in the future. thanks john, for the inspiration…i'm keeping up the courage until i succeed. ~ bobby bird

  8. I thought I wouldn't recognize many of these books but I actually remember most of them. Sniff, this takes me back

  9. Whoa, It's so weird that I've watched this show for so long and I had no idea you wrote a fault in our stars. I'm going to read it now just because I know you

  10. JOHN GREEN I HATE YOU SO MUCH. I KNEW THERE WAS A REASON WHY ALL THE CHARACTERS IN YOUR BOOKS WERE ONLY CHILDREN.
    YES I PICKED UP ON IT, 
    YOU ARE MY FAVORITE.

  11. Please check out "The Adventures of Charlz From Marz", it is full of humor and adventure. Your kids will love this book. Also read "How I Spent My Summer at an Alien Zoo" at Amazon.

  12. Don freeman. Man has 3 letters
    letters has the word let
    The word let has 3 letters.
    6 – 3 = 3 
    9 + 10 = 21
    which means!!!!
    HALF LIFE 3 CONFIRMED!!! 
    AND ALSO LUMINARTY!!!
    But sadly only 7million people can see the game.

  13. I'm not sure I heard that correctly, but why would The Phantom Tollbooth have a picture of Milo IN a tollbooth? IIRC he just passes by the tollbooth in his mini car, he never gets in it and operates it. It's been a while since I've read it but I'm pretty sure there's no reason an illustration like that would be included.

  14. Pippi Lotta Provisiona Gaberdina Dandeliona Ephraims daughter Lockstocking
    What are you guys on about with your Windowshade, Mackrelmint?

  15. In that mini series from Goosebumps where you can make choices throughout the book you can die in multiple ways. So yeah. Not sure if that counts.

  16. Definitely disappointed not to see the Redwall series included in this list. To a certain generation, including myself those are gold.

  17. My cousin is Stella Olivia Strong! I wish that name had been used so I could give her little mysteries to solve.

  18. I teach a student in Cardiff (where Roald Dahl was born) who has the surname Dahl. Really good kid but I'm constantly tempted to ask if there's any relation, as Dahl was my favourite childhood author. I think I'd feel rude asking though… or possibly stupid if it was just a complete coincidence.

  19. is it just me or does Curious George sound like a metaphor for slavery? he's taken put from his native land and brought to America, where he's almost immediately put in jail?

  20. Anyone else wondering why John didn't talk about Judy Blume?
    COME ON JOHN, WE KNOW SHE'S ON YOUR GUILT FREE 3 LIST, I WAS EXPECTING SOMETHING!

  21. The Berenstain's also wrote a book entitled "How to Teach your Children About God without Actually Scaring Them Out of their Wits" and "Be Good Or I'll Belt Ya!" (not lying!), among other titles. Some of it is kinda messed up….

  22. If I remember right The Phantom Tollbooth is the longest book I've ever read in 1 sitting.
    I read it on a 7 hour drive from Maine to CT.

  23. Sad to see my childhood friends aren't included. I loved Enid Blyton books from Noddy and Big Ears to all the boarding school stories she wrote. I was the youngest of 4. My brothers were 7, 8, and 9 years older and I was the only girl. So it felt when I was growing up that I was an only child. The greatest gift my mum ever gave me was the gift of being able to get lost in a book. She also used to make up bedtime stories for me, but would fall asleep telling me a story, when I'd nudge her awake the story would change from a beautiful fairy to a huge bunny!. It was certainly different but interesting, it gifted me a wonderful imagination.

  24. and the bsc is just the min series bsc not the special edition books or the bsc little sister series staring Karen Brewern

  25. I can think of at least one Goosebumps story with dead people. it's a short story about a gang of kids who relive their deaths every night.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *