Remembering My Favorite Children's Book Author
A box of old books dug out from my parents’ garage reminded me of my favorite author as a child, Ruth Chew. Chew wrote and illustrated children’s books, primarily about witches and magic. When I was in grade school, I found a used copy of one of her books, “What the Witch Left,” in my neighborhood bookstore, took it home and didn’t put it down until I finished it a few hours later. I then went on a mission to scour bookstores in search of other titles written by Chew, and amassed a collection of at least a dozen titles that have been residing in that box in my parents’ garage for many years.
Reminded of Chew, I did a Google search in hopes of finding out more about her. I didn’t know if she would still be alive after all these years, but if she was, I was hoping I would find some way to contact her. I’m not typically one for “fan letters,” but I truly feel that her books not only fed my love for reading, but helped inspire me to want to become a writer. The stories she weaved, and her sheer imagination, amazed me as a child.
My Google search brought me to www.ruthchew.com, where sadly I learned that Chew had passed away just months prior in May of this year. She was 90 years old. I also read on the site that in August, Scholastic—the publisher of most of Chew’s books—relinquished the rights to the last of her books it still controlled. Her family now owns the rights to all 29 of her books.
In a “How You Can Help” section on the website, her family writes: “We are seeking means of republishing Ruth Chew’s books so that they can be easily purchased in any quantity in mainstream retail bookstores. The copyrights for all 29 books written by Ruth Chew have reverted to Ruth Chew and her family. If you are a literary agent interested in assisting us pitch Ruth Chew’s books to a publisher, or if you are an editor seeking classic stories in the tradition of Edith Nesbit that will appeal to fans of Harry Potter, please contact us.”
These were stories that I read over and over again as a child, and that now as an adult, I plan to go back and read again. If I had grown up in today’s world of online book-selling, where it’s easy to find and purchase nearly any book you can think of in a matter of minutes, I’m sure I would have bought and read all 29 of Chew’s books.
I’m sad to learn not only of Chew’s passing, but also that her books are no longer in print and not easily accessible to children who may be as impacted by them as I was. It also made me think about just how difficult this business of ours can be as far as successfully publishing and selling books, if even the family of an author who published so many books with one of the world’s largest publishers is now struggling with those very things. I hope that someday these books find their way back into print and bookstores.