Back In Print: A Newbery Honor Winner Returns From the Dead
Let me do a little math here. If I got my library degree in 2003 and was in school in 2002 then I must have first laid eyes on The Winged Girl of Knossos by Erick Berry fifteen years ago. I was in a transitional point of my career. Having taken a year of library school classes already, I encountered my first children’s librarianship class and was immediately smitten. My grad school was The College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, MN and while there I managed to finagle a job at the college library in the Technical Services department. It was a lucky break for me and I remember using my lunch breaks to pore over the college’s academic children’s literature journals. Soon the books enticed me as well and I started looking through the St. Kate shelves. Then, one day, this strange little book caught my eye. It was old. 1929 apparently. And it also appeared to be a Newbery Honor winner. I liked the title, even if the cover seemed a bit outdated. So I sat down and read it through.
Folks, there are books you sometimes feel like you encounter for a reason. And for whatever that reason might have been, at that moment in time I needed to discover this book. Maybe it was a little old-fashioned, but there was something curiously contemporary about it as well. The book was a gender-swapped retelling of the Icarus myth and its heroine was curiously contemporary. Which is to say, a badass. That cover? That’s her trying out her dad’s glider for fun after he just invented it.
When I started my blog in 2006 or so I labeled the book an “Out-of-Print Crime Against Humanity” which was laying it on a bit thick, but I was young and passionate. I truly felt that this was a classic that folks were overlooking for some unknown reason. And a Newbery Honor title as well! Surely it was just a matter of time before The New York Review of Books picked it up, and I’d be sure to be the first one in line to buy a copy. And it’s not as if my cries went unheard. In 2008 Peter Sieruta of the Collecting Children’s Books blog wrote a great piece about the book after he’d seen my recommendation. To my infinite relief he liked it as much as I did, and even had some background information on the book’s possible publication history. As he wrote on his site:
I’m frankly shocked that Harcourt rejected this book. It’s an unforgettable novel with a fascinating setting (Crete, thirty-five hundred years ago), a headstrong and independent protagonist, and a plot filled with forbidden romance, poisoned pots of honey, and daring escapes — not to mention the heroine’s penchant for bull-vaulting and coasting through the air on handmade gliders — all coming to a thrilling conclusion that melds the fictional characters’ fates with the few known facts about the sudden collapse of Crete’s civilization.
But soon after Peter’s post things died down. No one ever came calling about republishing the title. A decade went by and even I’d almost forgotten about poor Inas . . . until Paul Dry shot me an email. It seemed his company Paul Dry Books was interested in republishing the title and would I be interested in writing an Appreciation that would go in the back? Naturally I leapt at the chance and now, at long last, I can tell you that here it is today. A classic back in print:
That’s my girl. Go get ’em, tiger!
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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