Thursday, July 28, 2011

William Campbell Gault - writer for teens?



William Campbell Gault (1910-1995) was a prolific pulp author whose work I would like to read more of. As of now, I've only read a few of his books, all of which I've enjoyed, including his debut novel Don't Cry For Me from 1952. Gault had a long and varied writing career that included over 70 novels and hundreds of stories for pulp magazines dating back to the 1930's. He is most well known for his Brock Callahan mysteries.

One of the many short stories Gault wrote was "See No Evil" which first appeared in the September 1950 issue of New Detective. It is a strong character study of two Mexican-American brothers trying to deal with hard times, racial prejudice and hot rod hoodlums in Southern California. Pete, the older brother in a poor family narrates the story. He works in a warehouse where he often encounters prejudiced remarks from fellow employees. He does not like his job. He is worried that his younger brother Manny is part of a hot-rod gang, and doesn't have a job. When a cop comes to their home accusing the younger brother of robbing a house, Pete reluctantly defends him. What he finds out is that Manny is innocent and has been earning money by racing cars. He feels terrible to have doubted his brother. This is a sensitive story with social relevance significant to the time in which it was written. It presents these minorities not as a group but as a specific family whose concerns aren't that much different than others. It is their love and faith towards each other that enables them to get through hard times and stay away from a the dangerous criminal world.

Like Frank Bonham, Gault turned his writing talents towards writing for Young Adults, almost exclusively throughout the 1970's. This included stacks of hardcovers and most of these titles appeared in paperback form as well. Sadly, it is difficult to find these books in public libraries today as they have been discarded by the truckload. I do remember checking out several as a teenager though. As I recall, the appeal of these books was that they were character driven and more often than not dealt with social issues. In this sense, comparisons could be drawn to the novels of John Tunis. Gault's books for teens were often based around sports and featured many car racing stories. Gault's interest in writing realistic stories about youth dates back to the 1930's. Several of his early stories including "See No Evil" featured such characters. Again, like Bonham, what makes Gault's focus interesting is that he was one of the first writers to include minorities as main characters in his stories. According to Marvin S. Lachman in American Hard-Boiled Crime Writers, "In Mr. Quarterback (1955) the protagonist is a boy of Polish American origins going to an Ivy League school. His hero in Drag Strip (1959) is Juan Arragon, a Hispanic from the slums."


Gault's juvenile books almost always revolve around a sports theme as do his novels fro adults. Gault was an avid sports fan who played football in college and was a hot-rodder in his youth. His most well known detective novels feature his detective Brock Callahan, an ex-professional football player for the Rams.

When Gault returned to writing mysteries, he merged this concern with youth and racial tensions into a Brock Callahan story entitled the Chicano War (1986).
Here is some info. about the three William Campbell Gault books I have read:

His first mystery novel Don't Cry For Me (1952) won an Edgar award in 1952. One of the main characters in the story is a poor pulp writer named Tommy Lister who has sold over 10 million words. He is murdered because, desperate for money, he attempts to blackmail a killer. The narrator, Pete Worden, sympathizes with Lister and favors his yarns over the literature discussed by intellectuals. Pete Worden is both tough and sensitive. He fought in the war, played football and loves fast cars, yet his family members often make him cry. Also, he tries to act a role model for characters such as the 19 year old Chris. These characteristics are to be repeated throughout Gault's career.

In The Karters (1965) Tom is an established winner at the drag strip but when he sees his eleven year old brother is attempting to build a go-kart, he tries to help him become a success. What happens is that Tom becomes so concerned in helping his brother that he too becomes interested in karting and abandons the drag-strip. He becomes a sort of fatherly figure in organizing the racing.

The theme of family was carried out throughout Gault's mystery writing career. In his last novel, Cat and Mouse (1988), Brock Callahan hires a young neighbor in his early twenties to help him solve his last mystery. The elderly Callahan treats Corey like a son and Corey jokes with Callahan by calling him "Pop". In addition, Callahan is friendly with the local Mexican-Americans and works with several of their youth groups. Their lawless activities help save Callahan's life. Callahan is also respected by the police but they aren't able to help him in the same way. He is doubtful of the law. The police, when fighting crime, do it because they have a job to do. The Mexican-Americans fight crime because it's a personal threat to them or they are seeking vengeance. When their hearts are involved, the law is of no use to them. Gault portrays many of the officers as bigots and shows that the Mexican's activities are more often justified. As Callahan remarks in the last line of the novel, "...it isn't hard to be a good citizen if you have vigilante friends". The Mexicans are like family to Callahan.

Gault's message is a positive one. He seems to be saying: don't rat on your brothers and sisters but instead have faith in them. Gault not only believed in this through fiction but also in real life. When asked in an interview what religion he practiced, Gault responded "Faith in man".

I was happy to find out that pulp historian and author of the Nameless Detective mystery series, Bill Pronzini, is a fan of both Bonham and Gault. It makes sense to me though, as I adore Pronzini's work as well. Here is a link to an essay Pronzini wrote about William Campbell Gault.
Like Pronzini, Gault often references pulp fiction and its authors in his books.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tiltawhirl John by Gary Paulsen - 1977


I have always been an admirer of the work of Gary Paulsen, the author of over 200 books. Paulsen specializes in survival tales, outdoors stories and most often writes realistic books for a young adult audience. His book Hatchet is required reading in most American public schools. He has written books for a variety of ages, both fiction and non-fiction.

I enjoy Paulsen's earliest books the best. My favorite is Tiltawhirl John from 1977. It is about a 16 year old farm boy who runs away to find out about "life and sex and what it means to be a man". The story, like many of Paulsen's books, takes place in his home state of Minnesota. The young protagonist ends up working on a beet farm, where he essentially gets himself into a horrible situation. The patron of the farm refuses to pay him and beats him. When he finally escapes, he manages to hook up with a bunch of carnies that includes a geek and a stripper. He learns to be independent, with the carnies acting as his family. He learns about people, has experiences with women, and learns to be independent. According to Wikipedia, Paulsen ran away from home at 14 to join the carnival, so it's very much possible that some of this is based on his own experiences. This is quick, enjoyable reading and can be consumed in one sitting, in probably less time than it takes to watch a movie. For me, Paulsen's writing lies somewhere between Ernest Hemingway and Sid Fleischman.

1977 was an interesting year for Paulsen, who by then was a well-established writer of fiction. Three of his young adult books were published that year, in addition to several picture books. It was also the year that his prolific output was interrupted by a libel lawsuit against his book Winterkill. Paulsen won the case, but became disillusioned with the publishing business, just as he had previously been disillusioned by Hollywood after working there as a magazine editor. Instead, Paulsen took up trapping and dogsled racing. This effected his later writing in the 1980's that usually revolved around teenage characters who arrived at an understanding of themselves and their world through pivotal experiences with nature. Then, later in the 90's, Paulsen would write more humorous stories such as Harris and Me.

Several of Paulsen's books from the late 1970's and early 1980's were reprinted in paperback format by Puffin Books (Penguin) in 1990.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

70's YA books to film

Even though YA books were being adapted from time-to-time on television as afterschool specials, it took a while for Hollywood to catch on to adapting YA novels into films. In 1982, two films were released that were based on popular young adult novels from the 1970's. I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier was originally published in 1977. Tex was published in 1977. Other films based on these author's works would follow. For example, Cormier's books The Chocolate War, The Bumblebee Flies Anyway and Tenderness have all been adapted into films. Additionally, another film was made of I Am The Cheese in Canada in 1992 and titled Lapse of Memory. Films made from SE Hinton's books are more well known. They include, The Outsiders, Rumble Fish and That was Then, This is Now.

Tex and I Am The Cheese are both low-key films that for me best represent the afterschool special aesthetic of the 70's. Both are incredibly well made productions considering the small budget. I also think that these adaptations more accurately represent the author's books than the other movies that would follow.

Below are some images from Scholastic Voice magazine dating from 1982. These "free" magazines were sent to schools and used in the classrooms by teachers and students. These particular issues featured condensed versions of screenplays in play format designed to be read aloud in class. They also featured interviews with the actors in the films. The issue which features TEX has a brief interview with SE Hinton and Matt Dillon. The I Am The Cheese issue features an interview with Robert MacNaughton. I like how this interview is proposing Robert to be a star, when in fact, I Am The Cheese is a movie that has rarely been seen. He had a short lived acting career and is probably most well remembered for his roles in Spielberg's E.T. and The Electric Grandmother (an adaptation of a Ray Bradbury story).






It still surprises me that a movie has never been made based on one of Paul Zindel's YA books besides the adaptation in 1972 of his pulitzer prize winning play The Effect of Gamma Rays in Man In The Moon Marigolds. Zindel, however, did work in Hollywood in the mid-1980's and wrote several screenplays such as Runaway Train (1985).


Probably my favorite feature film versions of YA novels are those adapted from the novels of Lois Duncan. The best one of these is the telefilm Summer of Fear, an early Wes Craven vehicle that starred Linda Blair. I also love the adaptation of I Know What You Did Last Summer that was scripted by Kevin Williamson of Scream fame. Because of the popularity of this movie, several more Duncan adaptations have been made but to a lesser effect.


Also of note (and mentioned previously in this blog) is the 1973 film Baxter, an adaptation of Kin Platt's book The Boy Who Could Make Himself Disappear which starred Scott Jacoby. Although the film does have some merits, too many changes were made to make it a strict resemblance of the book.

If you are interested in teen movies from the 1970's, I recommend you check out this list I created on Amazon HERE

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ellen Rabinowich and Triumph Books

Ellen Rabinowich is a children's book writer who wrote 3 young adult novels, a picture book and several non-fiction books. Her first two books also indirectly inspired a lot of my artwork over the years. They were part of the Triumph book series published by Franklin Watts (and later in paperback form by Bantam Books). The Triumph series were short novels illustrated with photographs aimed at teenagers with severe reading difficulties. With their easy-to-read text, reluctant readers could breeze through these short books in about a half an hour. Some other authors who contributed to the Triumph series of books included Kin Platt and Walter Dean Myers. I like how in all of these books serious subjects that pertain to teenagers such as peer pressure, drug use, divorced parents, etc. are presented in a picture book like format. The photographic illustrations make these books appear to be photo novellas of afterschool specials that never existed. In some of the books, the photography is worth the price of admission alone. I think this was a great idea for a concept book and wish more YA novels incorporated this cinematic approach to their design.
Toni's Crowd (1978) was photographed by Rabinowich's husband G. Richardson Cook. Both Rabinowich and Cook worked in the film industry. Cook, for example, was the assistant director of the 1979 film Angel's Brigade, an all women's action flick along the lines of Charlie's Angels.
His photos for Toni's crowd perfectly accompany the text in this story about a girl trying to find her place amongst peers in a new school. The story almost feels like an episode of Degrassi (which it predates) and includes shoplifting, smoking in the bathroom and dance parties. Mostly though, it's a fairly straight forward story about friendship as the character learns to find a place for herself and make the right decisions when entering a new school. The text is not necessarily groundbreaking, but the story is both realistic, relatable and charming. Additionally, the photos give this story more historical context with 1970's fashion and characters who talk to each other on telephones with chords (rather than cellphones). It's like a documentary teen time capsule in book form. And it's exciting for me to think that these photos were staged just for these books. It kind of reminds me of fumetti, or photographic comics.
Rock Fever (1979) was Rabinowich's second Triumph book. This time around the photos were by Mauro Marinelli. I prefer the photos in Toni's Crowd, but for me the text in Rock Fever is the more engaging of the two. Maybe it is because this book deals with more serious subject matter. Immediately we are thrown into the action as the story begins with a violent fight between mother and son. The main character, Doug, has a divorced mother who drinks too much and a father who doesn't understand him. To escape his parents he hangs out in a club and sings with his rock band where he is exposed to drugs. Not wanting to become like his mother, he refuses pills that are offered to him. But he needs $100 to raise money to cut a demo. He decides to steal drugs from his father and sell them at school. And in the process he begins taking Quaaludes to relax. Soon he meets Valerie and a romance begins to blossom. When he brings her back home, his mother embarrasses him by getting soused. To escape this harsh reality, Doug decides to escape through taking the 'ludes and playing pinball at the arcade. After a near tragic accident, Doug's mother gets knocked unconscious. He must reconcile his feelings and relationship toward his parents, his friends and girlfriend and kick the drug habit in order to get things straightened out.I found these two books in an old used bookstore in Glen Cove, Long Island when I was 19 and working as a cab driver. I had been thinking of drawing comics that had something to do with the young adult novels that I loved to read. Seeing these old YA novels illustrated with photographs really inspired me. I titled my first mini-comics series Quaaludes, based on the story of Rock Fever. Later, when I was drawing my comic book A Last Cry for Help, I based some of my drawings on the photographs from Toni's Crowd. Ten years later I still revisit these books from time to time. They hold a special place in my heart.
Rabinwich's 3rd YA novel is Underneath I'm Different from 1983. This is a more traditional YA novel in structure. It's longer and there aren't any photographs. Rabinowich really gets to show off her writing talents in this format. And, no surprise to me, she is a great writer! This book, dedicated to her husband, is a romance story about an overweight girl who falls in love with an artistic boy suffering from a nervous breakdown. It has all the elements that makes books by the likes of Paul Zindel (thinking of the character Marsh in his book Pardon Me You're Stepping On My Eyeball) and Barbara Wersba (her "fat" character Rita from Fat: A Love Story). so great. Thc characters are zany and the story is equally funny, sad, easy-to-relate to, tragic and with an ending that leaves you hopeful. It only makes me wonder why Rabinowich did not write more. This is the last work of hers that I know of. Anyone else out there have any more info.?

I don't know much about Rabinowich's career after 1983. She is originally from New York (Brooklyn and East Meadow, I believe) and later moved to LA to perhaps work in the film industry. I wonder how much of the YA books she wrote were based on her own personal experiences? For example, the romance in Toni's Crowd involves Sandi, an aspiring writer and Scott, an aspiring actor. Likewise, her two other books involve teens interested or involved in the arts. Additionally, her books have a very suburban feel, which I relate to having grown up on Long Island.

Finding lost teen treasures like this is what this blog is all about. For me, Rabinowich's Triumph Books were the beginning of what would turn into a decade's worth of collecting and several attempts at paying tribute to their glory through my comics and zines.




Thursday, July 7, 2011

M.B. Goffstein's YA novels

M.B. Goffstein is a picture book author and illustrator famous for her simple and elegant black and white linework used to tell stories. This prolific creator averaged about one picture book a year throughout the 1970's, winning several awards for these books along the way. Her most well known picture book is Goldie the Dollmaker (1969) which was reprinted several times. The book's theme advocates a dedication to art and a simple life. Many of Goffstein's books are about artists and based on her own experiences. Goffstein also taught children's book illustration, beginning in 1985, at The Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Unknown to most fans of her work, Goffstein also had two young adult novels published. The first, The Underside of the Leaf (1972), describes a 12-year old's crush on her neighbor's boy friend. When she meets him several years later in New York City, her dreams are brought down to reality when he is not quite as special as she had remembered him to be. This simple story of first love is both sad and bittersweet as the reader becomes more aware of the character's mistakes than she is.

The second, Daisy Summerfield's Style (1975) is about a teenager who switches suitcases with a girl she meets on a train in New York City. Daisy has the desire to take on this girl's persona as an artist. Unfortunately, in order to find herself and her independence, Daisy must make several blunders first. After squandering money, and trying to create an artistic air around her, she comes to learn that she will not be an artist by association but instead by skill.Both of these slim books are interesting, somewhat detached views with a narrator who lets us into the lives and awkward mistakes of two young girls coming-of-age.

More information about this author can be found on her website.

Mad for Chad!



The brothers Chad Lowe and Rob Lowe played their fair amount of teenage roles throughout the 1980's. Rob Lowe was the bigger heartthrob of the two and a posterboy of that decade. One of his earliest roles included The Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Thursday's Child, a drama about a teenager with a bad heart that needs a transplant. He was also in two ABC Afterschool Specials. Schoolboy Father (1980) stars Rob and is about a teenager's reaction after he finds out a girl he has slept with over the summer is going to have his baby. He also made an appearance in the special from 1981 entitled A Matter of Time. Probably his most well known teenage role was that of Skip, in Francis Ford Coppola's classic adaptation of SE Hinton's unforgettable young adult novel The Outsiders (1983). Yet, for most, Rob is remembered for his youthful roles as a college prep and waspy 20-something in films such as Oxford Blues, St. Elmo's Fire, Class and Youngblood.

But enough about Rob! Chad, the younger of the two, born in 1968, has a more boyish appearance and played the role of a teenager up until he was twenty and beyond. One of his first films, and a personal favorite of mine, was the 1984 made-for-tv movie Silence of The Heart. In it Chad plays Skip Lewis, a suburban 16 year old with both academic and social problems. After giving several of his friends clues that he might be considering suicide, Skip ends up driving off a cliff, plunging to his death. The rest of the movie relates the after effects this has on his family and friends. His sister was played by Dana Hill (another Afterschool Special alumni) and a young Charlie Sheen. There is something relatable and sensitive in Chad's acting here and the viewer can't help but sympathize with the confused character of Skip, even though he goes over the edge.


The same year, Chad landed the starring role in his own TV series Spencer that ran from 1984-1985. Due to contract and creative differences, Chad only appeared in the first 5 episodes before his role was recast with Rossie Harris and the show was retitled Under One Roof. The show was a High School comedy, but I know little else about it besides this video:

Chad Lowe also played beside Dana Barron (who would later appear on the TV show Beverly Hills 90210) in the CBS Schoolbreak Special No Means No (1988). This particular special dealt with date rape in a High School setting as seen through the eyes of a high school girl and her older brother. In this way, the story is presented from both a male and female perspective as both brother and sister are in relationships where they have to make difficult decisions.
In 1990, Chad also starred in a feature movie that played into the crossdressing craze of 80's cinema that followed Tootsie (1982) and included the likes of Just One of the Guys (1985). In Nobody's Perfect (1990), Chad plays Steve, a college freshman who dresses as a girl in order to join the women's tennis team and get closer to the girl he has a crush on. The movie is a ridiculous farce, less subtle than it's predecessors, but nevertheless a staple of late-night television viewing when I myself was a teenager.

The TV series that Chad is most remembered is Life Goes On (1989-1993) in which he played the older brother Jesse in 35 episodes. The story was about the Thatcher family and was notable for it featured Chris Burke, an actor with Down Syndrome, who played Corky, a teenager with this disorder who is mainstreamed into an ordinary school.
In addition to appearing as a character in 8 episodes of the Beverly Hills 90210 spinoff Melrose Place (1997 season), Chad also appeared in one of the final ABC Afterschool Specials, Me and My Hormones (1996). One of the final coming-of-age roles Chad would play was in Floating (1999) a feature film written and directed by William Roth. This is also one of Chad's best roles and his character Doug is a believable gay teenager, even though Chad is already in his twenties at this point . This character-driven drama costars Norman Reedus and deals with two good friends engaging in a crime spree over a summer in a lakeside town.

Chad would continue to play teenage roles, in a sense, without the camera. He has read for several Young Adult audiobooks where the story is told from a teenager's first person perspective. Probably the most well known of these is Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen, which was later made into a feature film. The one I prefer however is Pool Boy by Michael Simmons. I love Chad's reading of this character and for fans of his acting, it's almost like getting a one-person stage performance. Here is a brief summary of the book:
Brett had it made with his good looks, his winning personality, and, most importantly, a lot of money. But when the police bust down his door and take his dad to prison, everything changes. Not only is Brett's family forced to move out of their house; Brett has to get a job as well. And flipping burgers isn't doing much for his social life.When he gets a job with Alfie Moore cleaning pools, he is humiliated. He even has to go clean out the pool at his old house where the present owner doesn't recognize him and calls him by the name "Pool Boy". However, through his surprising friendship with Alfie, Brett stubbornly comes to terms with himself and the hatred he feels towards his Dad.

Chad Lowe often gets overshadowed by his older brother's fame, but I think he is one of the most underrated teen actors of the 1980's. He continues to act and direct to this day.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2 Books about Teenage Runaways

The following are two books about teenagers that run away from their parents and end on a positive note. Both books feature female characters who find success living amongst difficult situations and enter into alternative family units. I read these books several years back and this is what I remember about them. If you are interested in this subject, I'd recommend them both!
Looking for Home by Jean Ferris (1989)

Soon after her prom night, 17 -year-old Daphne realizes she is pregnant. When her boyfriend goes off to college, she fears telling her parents the truth. She hops a bus to a new city and finds a job as a waitress. The owner and some of the customers take a special interest in Daphne, forming an alternative family and a support system for this brave girl.

To Take A Dare by Crescent Dragonwagon (1982) w/ Paul Zindel

This novel is based on Crescent Dragonwagon's own experiences. She wrote the book with Paul Zindel (whose editor, Charlottte Zolotow was also Crescent's mother). Chrysta runs away from her parents and the book follows her adventures thumbing it on the road. After suffering from some degree of loneliness, she ends up working at a hotel in Excelsior Springs, Arkansas, a hippy town in the Ozark Mountains. There she finds a boyfriend and learns what it means to love and be cared for. Dare is the name of a young boy who lives in the town that's far more lost than Chrysta. As she matures, she learns to help him and to take care of herself.



Who is Julia Sorel?






Julia Sorel was a pen name of Rosalyn Drexler, a fascinating American pop artist, playwright and novelist. Her first novel under this name was a paperback original, Unwed Widow, published in 1975. Why Drexler chose a pen name for this is uncertain, for this book retains many of the qualities of her other titles published under the name Drexler. She also used the pen name to script several novelizations of films in the 1970's. Probably the most notable of these was an adaptation of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky (1976). Perhaps she was chosen as the author for this project based on her book To Smithereens (1973), which was a humorous novel based on Drexler's own experience as a lady wrestler. She also wrote the novelizations of three other films, all made-for-tv movies. They are Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway and its sequel Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn. Both deal with the subject of teenage runaways and prostitution. Again, Drexler was a great candidate to write these novelizations. The subject matter was not too far from Drexler's first novel I Am The Beautiful Stranger (1965) a novel written in diary form of the sexual coming-of-age of a 13 year old girl. The other made-for-tv movie adaptation was See How She Runs, a sort of female Rocky, that starred Joanne Woodword as a middle aged woman determined to run the Boston Marathon.

Andy Warhol made a series of silkscreen paintings based on photos of Drexler dressed as a wrestler. She also made sculptures and pop art paintings and collages that have been exhibited at a number of prestigious New York art galleries. Two of these paintings were used as the cover images to Drexler's novels shown below. The 1980 film, Below The Belt, was based on Drexler's book To Smithereens.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Afterschool Specials 1972-1996






In the 1970's, as new ground was being broken in Young Adult fiction, the idea of tackling realistic issues trickled down to an even younger age group into the children's book market. Many of these books would become the basis for made-for-tv movies in the series entitled Afterschool Special that first aired on ABC in 1972. The series was popular and continued at an average of 4 to 6 episodes a year through 1996.

Season 1 of the show featured whimsical and imaginative programs focused primarily towards a pre-teen audience. In fact, Season 1 and 2 both featured two animated specials. Santiago's Ark in Season 1 was the first to evoke serious subjects that would become the trademark of this series. It featured both African American and Puerto Rican teens living in New York and was also one of the few specials to be followed by a sequel, 1975's Santiago's America.
Season 2 (1974) featured several movies based on new children's books.
My Dad Lives in a Downtown Hotel was based on the book by Peggy Mann written in 1973 with illustrations by Richard Cuffari. This is an honest and sensitive portrayal of divorce in an urban environment as seen through the eyes of a child. Told in the first person, a boy named Joey begins to explain his feelings the day after his mother tells him his father has moved out. Joey borrows money from his friend Pepe and goes downtown to meet up with his father in an attempt to convince him to come back home. What he discovers is that his father has no intention on returning, is planning on getting a divorce and has decided to live in a hotel downtown. Joey's first reaction is anger and resentment towards his dad. He even has a daydream in which his father gets run over by a car. But then he feels so bad for thinking this that he prays for this to never actually happen.

While Joey misses his father and realizes he'll never come back, his attitude towards him gradually begins to change. Once his father is happier, he finds that he has more time to spend with him. Also, through his friend Pepe, Joey acknowledges that while his situation is rotten, he is not the only one with this problem. Pepe shows him how tons of other kids have divorced parents, estranged fathers or some who never even met their dads before.

The movie would star Ike Eisenman who would star in another special The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon based on the book by Jean Robinson. Today, Eisenman is most well-remembered for starring in the Disney adaptation of Alexander Key's most well known children's book Return to Witch Mountain.

The beautiful black and white drawings in the book were by Richard Cuffari, a seasoned illustrator who also illuminated several books by Betsy Byars. Byars had several of her books adapted into Afterschool Specials including The Pinballs and Summer of the Swans. Her book The 18th Emergency, a humorous story about surviving a school bully was part of season 2 and retitled Pssst! Hammerman's After You!

Another contemporary author of the time was M.E. Kerr. Her book, Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, was adapted into the 1979 special Dinky Hocker. The story concerns an overweight teenager obsessed with food whose parents ignore her in favor of helping drug addicts. By this time, the subject matter of the specials seemed to be getting more mature and most of the post 1979 episodes were aimed at a middle school and high school audience. The special Schoolboy Father, for instance, dealt directly with teenage pregnancy. One of the most fondly remembered specials was The Wave, which was later adapted into a novel by the prolific young adult author Todd Strasser. The Color of Friendship was another excellent special based on the book What Happened in Marston by Nancy Garden.


By 1984 CBS was also broadcasting a similar series of movies that ran through 1996 titled CBS Schoolbreak Special. Most of these post 1984 shows were designed for junior high and high school students in order to address issues pertinent to them. It was also not uncommon for these programs to be viewed and discussed in public schools in both health and english classrooms.



A list of all the programs can be found on the IMDB.

ABC Afterschool Specials
CBS Schoobreak Specials