Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hilda van Stockum at 105 - A Long Publishing Life

It is the 105th birthday today of my mother, Hilda van Stockum. She would be 105 years old tomorrow, but she died in 2006 at 98. My siblings have written some appreciations of her life that I will post on the birthday calendar.

Meanwhile, I have been going the publishing agreements she left behind, and I made a table for them below. The first book contract that I find is for "A Day on Skates" with Harper & Brothers, in 1933. The last one was with Bethlehem Books in 1999 - a span of 66 years. That is an amazing career. 

A couple of stories about the table that follows. Hilda van Stockum married my father E. R. Marlin in 1932. It was the Depression so they needed money! My father was in New York City looking for work and he visited publishers on his wife's behalf. Viking's May Massee was out the day he called on them (she had just started with Viking, starting their juvenile division, after ten years at Doubleday), so it wasn't an oversight on her part that she didn't jump at the first book. Harper & Bros. had published a book of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, so Dad tried them and they bought the book. Millay wrote a nice preface.  The book succeeded in getting rave reviews in many publications, including the New Yorker, the NY Times and the Herald Tribune. May Massee wooed Hilda and took 13 of Hilda's books between 1937 and 1965.

Massee retired from Viking around 1960. Hilda's most popular book, "The Winged Watchman," was published next by Farrar Straus, which also published "The Borrowed House" - both about the Occupation of Holland in World War II.    

Memoranda of Agreements between Hilda van Stockum (or Estate) and Publishers
Year, Month
Publisher, Editor
1933 November
A Day on Skates in Holland
Harper & Bros., Raymond
1937 October
The O’Sullivans (Cottage at Bantry)
Viking, Beal
1939 February
Francie on the Run
Viking, Massee
1939 November
Viking, Massee
1940 April
Kersti and St. Nicholas
Viking, Massee
1942 June
Viking, Massee
1943 July
Gerrit and the Organ
Viking, Massee
1945 Feb 1947 March
The Mitchells - Canadian Summer
Viking, Massee
1948 June
The Angels’ Alphabet
Viking, Massee
1949 December
Patsy and the Pup
Viking, Massee
1956 June
King Oberon’s Forest
Viking, Massee
1959 July
Friendly Gables
Viking, Massee
1961 May - 1974
Holland Story (Winged Watchman)
Farrar Straus& Cudahy, Cudahy
1961 July
Little Old Bear, Jeremy Bear
Constable, Grover
1962 May
Little Old Bear
Viking, Duff
1965 October
Mogo’s Flute
Viking, Duff
1973 February
Jacko Round and Round (Rufus)
Longman Young Books
1997 March
Reprint of Winged Watchman
Bethlehem, Sharpe
1997 March
Reprint of 3 Irish books
Bethlehem, Sharpe
1997 March
Reprint of 3 Mitchells Books
Bethlehem, Sharpe
1997 March
Reprint of A Day on Skates
Bethlehem, Sharpe
1997 March
Reprint of The Angel’s Alphabet
Bethlehem, Sharpe
1997 October
New Edition of Mugo’s [sic] Flute
Focus Publications
1998 March
Bethlehem, Sharpe
1999 August
Pamela Walks the Dog
Bethlehem, Sharpe
2009 January
Translation of A Day on Skates
Fukuinkan Shoten

I can't get over the fact that my mom's book "The Winged Watchman" has sold 50,000 copies in 15 years being marketed only to a relatively small group - U.S. and Canadian Christian home schoolers. It gets a 4.1 rating on the graded-on-a-curve site, with 317 reviewers. It is ranked there in the top dozen books for children about World War II. (If you know the book, please add yourself to the rankers at!)