Card carrying nerds often find their excitement in places that might be strange to regular people. Frequently research is involved, as in the case of my recent jubilation.
It began as I put together pieces of the puzzle in the life of Ezra Jack Keats. In a 1994 book by Brian Alderson, Ezra Jack Keats: Artist and Picture Book Maker, he notes that the book jacket that produced a turning point in Keats’s life was “presumably The Easter Party.” A children’s editor saw it in a Doubleday Book Store and offered him his first commission for a similar children’s book cover. The rest as they say . . . I took the uncertainty as a thrown down gauntlet.
My first clue was Keats’s own account from his archives in the de Grummond Collection as he relates an inspiration for a new jacket cover commission that kept him up painting all night. (A fellow nerd?) He describes painting wash after wash until he made the sky a shade of violet pink surrounded by deep green trees. Unfortunately, the jacket was not in their collection.
The second clue came as I checked publishing dates for all the books concerned and found The Easter Partywith perfect timing to fit. Then I began a fruitless search for a copy of the book to verify the description, time, and attribution to Keats as the artist. I saw pictures of the book that appeared to match his description but struck out on finding one with an intact jacket or with a listing for the artist. However, I knew where to go.
Jerry Shepherd, in partnership with his wife Diane as our local independent book sellers, may be a nerd himself since he expertly sleuths for any new or rare book his customers may need. (As opposed to the local big box store that didn’t even know if they sold the popular children’s magazine that carried my story and would have to wait until their magazine person came in the afternoon to check it out – but that is another tale in itself.)
I emailed Jerry about the time they closed on a Tuesday with my dilemma, and on Wednesday morning by 8:30, he had found the book with a jacket in good shape that listed the artist as Jack Keats! He said he could get one for me for $50 or maybe less.
Words were said and jokes were made by an unnamed son and daughter-in-law about my $50 book jacket, but Jerry found a bargain and I got it for $25 plus tax – and it's a first edition! As you can see, Diane joined the excitement when I went in to pick up the book.
Even if you didn’t get enough of the nerd gene to find this sensational, I hope you will enjoy the beautiful art in this jacket next to the similar young adult jacket that followed.