Thrift Store Finds: Georgie (book and LP)

This week, we’ll be looking at Georgie by Robert Bright, originally published in 1944 by Doubleday and Co, republished in 1968 by Scholastic Book Services.

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I paid 50 cents for my copy, which included both a small version of the original book and a vinyl recording of the story.

Growing up, I loved the Georgie books. Georgie is a little ghost who haunts a little house in New England owned by The Whittakers. Georgie’s adventures spanned 13 books all written and drawn by Bright. These are wonderful picture books which serve the purpose of de-horrifying the concept of ghosts in the attic, in the same way that Casper the Friendly Ghost did. Georgie and Casper have a lot in common, in fact.

Bright has this incredibly scratchy pen style; most of his drawings look more scribbled than drafted, but that style benefits the book. It adds style and texture to the Whittaker house, giving the reader the feeling of it being a bit of a ramshackle.

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I also very much believe that children like to look at picture books that have a quality about the drawings which makes them think, “I could draw that!” It fires kids’ imaginations and sends them running to pens and paper.

Most of the plots of the Georgie books involve Georgie unobtrusively getting the Whittakers out of tricky situations with the help of his menagerie of animal friends including Herman the Cat and Miss Oliver the Owl. The first book in the series deals with Georgie being made obsolete in his haunting duties by Mr. Whittaker doing some simple chores around the house.

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This throws the delicate ecosystem of the Whittaker house out of whack.

One thing that’s interesting to me as a fan of these books is the amount of detail Bright gives this sleepy New England world, details the author would draw on in later books. For instance, a section of this book takes place in Mr. Gloams’ mansion. Gloams would later become the Scrooge-like figure in Georgie’s Christmas Carol, to be published a few decades after this first book.

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Further, Bright introduces “the harmless cow” in this first book. The harmless cow features large in later books, especially 1963’s Georgie and the Robbers.

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As a kid, I loved these books for their repetition of phrase. Georgie faithfully creaks the loose stair and squeaks the parlor door in every book. At some point in the narrative, when Georgie is frustrated, the narrator communicates the annoyance by saying “That was a fine how-do-you-do!” Every book ends with the situation resolved and narrator exclaiming “Thank goodness!” at the trouble being in the past. My two sons in turn have become very fond of the Georgie books. No only are they are frequently requested at bedtimes but a lot of Bright’s vernacular has made its’ way into their everyday language. Now isn’t THAT a fine how-do-you-do?

Now, not to be a bummer here, but I can’t help but to look at the Georgie books with a critical, revisionist lens when I revisit them with my sons today. The Whittakers are an elderly childless couple who live alone in a big house. Georgie is a very small ghost who haunts their attic and is very faithful to them. It’s established fairly early in the series that Georgie is the ghost of a small boy. As I read these books to my sons today, I can’t help but project my own narrative on Bright’s picture book. Is Georgie the ghost of the Whittaker’s child? Perhaps they had a son in their youth and he died. He now haunts their lives daily, squeaking and creaking the old house, unwilling to leave his parents behind. That’s surely what Robert Bright wanted us to think right? That’s the subtext, yes?

Anyhow, we already own a copy of Georgie but I picked this one up because it came with a small LP record of the story! The LP was created in 1968 by Scholastic, presumably for sale with the book in book fairs.

The LP is notable for a few reasons. Firstly, the narrator of the story is Bob McFadden. McFadden was a singer and voice actor who seems to have had a million jobs over his career, but is most known to most people of my generation as the voice of Snarf on the 1980’s cartoon series Thundercats.

Secondly, the incidental music used throughout this was composed and conducted by Joe Raposo! Raposo was a brilliant writer of music for children and one of the cornerstones of Sesame Street. In addition to writing the iconic theme song for Sesame Street, Raposo also penned such classics as “Bein’ Green,” “C is for Cookie,” and my personal favorite, the mixed-up “ABC-DEF-GHI” wherein Big Bird tries to read the 26 letter alphabet as though it were one, long word. I recognized both of these gentlemen’s names so I thought I’d give the record a spin on my turntable.

Of course, the Internet being what it is, I was unsurprised to find some kind soul had uploaded the entire album up to YouTube for our enjoyment.

Thank goodness!

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