22 February 2012

Throwback Thursday: ValueTales

Growing up, my friend Frank had a whole set of these books featuring cartoony illustrations of important historical figures and their achievements. They featured Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Beethoven, and Abraham Lincoln among many others. Each title focused on teaching you a value lesson, whether it be leadership, courage, adventure, honesty, or curiosity.

For the longest time I couldn't figure out what these were called. Googling around did me no good either. I had been hoping that my memory would eventually kick in, or I'd meet someone who knew what I was talking about, but after reading Krispy of A Nudge in the Right Direction's post about her collection of US History books, I caved and just texted Frank. Within ten minutes I had the answer I'd been searching for years to find: ValueTales.

Their Wikipedia entry informs me that ValueTales was published in La Jolla, a few miles away from where I grew up, so maybe that's why nobody else knew what they were. Between 1977 and 1997, Spencer Johnson and Ann Donegan Johnson cranked out forty five or so of these. (FYI: Spencer Johnson went on to write the deplorable
Who Moved My Cheese?) I also should not overlook Stephen Pileggi's illustrations, as his art gave the series its winning personality.

One day when I own a bookshelf, I will strive to catch'em all. eBay has a lot of thirty ValueTales available right now for $210 in case you're feeling generous. There's quite a few of these volumes I don't recall actually, and really, I need to get educated and find out who Paul-Emile Leger and Ralph Bunche are. I have also never read the Johnny Appleseed one about "love," which could explain so much.

Anyway, a dream project of mine has always been to combine the ValueTales format with personalities from the hip hop community. Imagine a version of these books featuring influential rappers, DJs, graffiti artists, and b-boys. For example, the inaugural set could include DJ Kool Herc (Originality), Crazy Legs (Discipline), Lee Quinones (Exploration), Queen Latifah (Self-respect), Jay-Z (Ambition), Lauryn Hill (Miseducation), Tupac & Biggie (Camaraderie), A Tribe Called Quest (Noncomformity), Kanye West (Humility).

All I need now is an illustrator. And a publisher. And buyers. Don't make me draw these out myself and staple them together. My first Hip Hop Tale will be about my favorite rappers, Gang Starr in the Value of Partnership!

I'm taking pre-orders now for the people in your life who are nostalgic about ValueTales and also love hip hop. These books will also teach people valuable lessons such as using "Using Rap to Teach Pithy Lessons in Business." Actually no they won't. Not even a little bit. I just had to share that article because I found it to be so ridiculous. I mean, I love Rakim and all but if some venture capitalist starting quoting him to me as a way of imparting entrepreneurship advice, I'd be forced to dance battle it out right then and there.

I also hate it when literature T.A.'s try to cram Public Enemy lyrics down their students' throats as a way to seem relevant and cool. We get it guy, you listen to rap music. On with the show already.