Wednesday, May 25, 2016


     Waiting for us in Hilo (besides fresh food) were the galley proofs of my first book, JESSICA'S JOURNAL It was taken from volumes 1 and 2 of my diary, my account as an 11-year old of our trip from Hawaii to New Zealand, 1955-56.  At some point it had been typed up by Skipper and Mum and sent to their agent in New York. 
     Note Peter Spier's illustrations. He wasn't well known when he illustrated my book but he later wrote thirty books of his own and won the 1978 Caldecott Medal. He also received the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award (1977) for his book, Noah's Ark and a Christoper Award for his book People in 1981, which was nominated for a National Book Award in 1982.

     Also waiting for us was Mum's 5th book (4th children's book), Cabin Boy and Extra Ballast. I'm not quite sure how she got hers written and mine edited and typed out. Maybe it was while I was staying at the Mollers' pig farm outside Durban with Skip and Ted away at the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Or while she and I were luxuriating in the governors' home on St. Helena and I was making friends with their Galapagos tortoise. I remember her always at the typewriter then-- Anyway, there it was, published.
     "And," I recorded in my journal at the time, "Skip's book has been accepted.  Now all he has to do is write it." That would be All in the Same Boat, which he and Mum co-authored, the grown-ups' non-fiction version of our trip around the world.  
     The writing of that book was interrupted by our protest voyage into the Pacific Proving Grounds and its 2-year aftermath, about which he would also write a book.
     All in the Same Boat and The Forbidden Voyage both came out in 1962, not in that order.

     I was in junior high school in Honolulu by the time my book came out.  When a box of identical, colorful hardback books arrived from Henry Holt and Company publishers, books full of my own words, it was thrilling.  My father's first words were a teasing, "When are you going to publish the next one? You can't sit on your laurels, you know!"  (The next one, To Russia with Love, wouldn't be out until I was 18.)
     Although the book is out of print, Jerry has posted Jessica's Journal online at so you can read it--free! Thank you, Jerry my love, for your "skanning" skills!
     Just a few weeks ago my brother Ted was interviewed by Brian Cowden, who is gathering oral histories for one or more documentaries about the Phoenix. Sitting before a bookcase of memorabilia or sprawled against big throw pillows on the floor of his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ted answered  3 hours' worth of questions about our circumnavigation. With his soft beard and soft voice, he spoke most of the time with his eyes closed, opening them only to make a point or a joke, at which time they were alight with earnestness or humor.
     At one point Ted referred to me as his "darling little sister, three years younger than me" (I'm 5-6 years younger) and to my journals as "a masterpiece." He has me choosing my own job description before we started the trip, "'I'm going to take care of the cats'--so we had to get cats," added Ted, "'and I'm going to keep a journal.' (As you know, that was actually Mum's school assignment for me.) `I'm going to write all the interesting things that happen,' which she did--and all the interesting things from Jessica's point of view were at least 50% about what the cats were doing. But also she started a journal which she has now kept on for decades and I think it's a masterpiece. Certainly the parts of the trip around the world which I have read are one of the best travel narratives that I've ever read."
     Hearing Ted say this on the video I was floored (not in the same sense he was). Ted has read James Cook and Marco Polo! I had no idea he valued my diaries as "travel narratives."
     "Jessica's Journal?" asks Brian.
     "Well, I've read that," says Brian.
     "Well, that's just the first few months. But her whole journal itself is fantastic."
     Wow. Sometimes you don't know what a person close to you thinks of you until someone else asks them. And Ted usually has such good taste in books. 

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