Helen Fern Daringer wrote stand-alone girls' books. Adopted Jane, illustrated by Kate Seredy, is considered her best. It has been recently reprinted, but hardback ex-library copies are still sought by those who read it as children. Another stand-alone orphan book is The Bound Girl (1957) by Nan Denker. Set in Massachusetts during Colonial times, it features a French orphan who lands in a strict Puritan household. This hard-to-find book could net you $50-$100 on eBay. A third stand-alone is Mary Chase's Loretta Mason Potts (1959). Double flashpoints apply here - orphans and magic. Loretta Potts finds a door to another world where life is wonderful and her every wish is granted. Mary Chase is best known as the author of the play Harvey; you may have seen the very funny Jimmy Stewart movie about a giant, invisible white rabbit.
Margaret Anderson's Searching for Shona is back in print again (I really do wish publishers would stop this annoying habit!), but the nostalgic still crave old ex-library copies. The setting is Scotland during World War II. While being evacuated, Margaret changes places with Shona, a poor orphan. Anderson's other books are out of print. Many use the device of time travel - yet another flashpoint - and To Nowhere and Back could net you $100 on Amazon or eBay!
Another series of books with double flashpoints, featured recently in an issue of 50/50, are photographer Dare Wright's Edith the Lonely Doll series. With their gingham trimmed covers these are readily spotted books, oversized and illustrated with black and white photos of Edith and her stuffed bear friends. The first few books in the series were recently reprinted but later ones are still out of print and highly sought after. You'll often find these in the picture book section at library sales. Oh - the double flashpoints? Orphans and dolls.
Elizabeth Enright, best known for Thimble Summer, a 1938 Newbery Book, also wrote a charming series about the Melendy Family featuring four active, artistic and imaginative children, a deceased mother, a traveling father, and a faithful housekeeper named Cuffy.
The Saturdays, the first book in the series, is set in New York City during the early days of World War II; the others - The Four-Story Mistake, Then There Were Five, and Spiderweb for Two - are set in a small town in upstate New York. Both this series and her Gone-Away Lake series are in print, but only in paperback, leaving a good market for hardcovers.
In 1942 Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote The Boxcar Children, the story of four orphans who fear their grandfather and go to live in a railway boxcar.
Of course, at the end of the story they discover that their grandfather is really a kind, rich gentleman who has been searching for them all along. The gender roles are very stereotypical of the times, but it's still a fun read. In recent years, the story spun off an extensive series of mysteries that are worth listing in - guess what? - LOTS! The hardbacks, especially the older ones, can be sold individually; homeschoolers snap them up.
Helen Doss's autobiography, The Family Nobody Wanted, is a true life orphan tale about how her family adopted twelve mixed race children in the early 1950s - a time when that sort of thing just wasn't done. Read to death by baby boomers, it's back in print, but old copies still sell.
Lemony Snicket's Baudelaire siblings are a modern orphan phenomenon.
There are now twelve books in his Series of Unfortunate Events, and a thirteenth (final) volume is scheduled to come out in October 2006. These tongue-in-cheek tales recount the adventures of the Baudelaire siblings and their almost Dickensian lives of misery and woe. The first book in the series, The Bad Beginning, was published in 1999, and hypermodern collectors are driving up the prices. Good news for booksellers: Firsts can still be found on thrift shop shelves. Unusual for collectible first editions, these books were issued without dust jackets. Another good seller in lots, especially if you find multiple copies on bag day. Lemony Snicket is a pseudonym for Daniel Handler; he published his first novel, The Basic Eight (1999), under this name. Watch for first editions of this one. The usual rule that early books by authors who later became blockbusters are valuable certainly holds true here.
When grouping books into lots that aren't worth listing individually, consider using "orphans" as organizing theme and include it in your auction title.
Here are some additional titles to look for: Runway Alice and The Ready Made Family, both by Frances Salomon Murphy; Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher; They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth; Calico Bush by Rachel Field: and The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. You'll often find old Scholastic paperback editions of these titles.
Whatever resonance it is that "orphan" strikes in the heart of the reader, for the bookseller it is a flashpoint well worth memorizing - right up there with twins, cats, witches, and mice!
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