Whitman Publishing was a subsidiary of Western Publishing that produced a popular line of children’s books the early 1900s to the mid-1970s. Whitman published a variety of genres including westerns, mysteries, science fiction, and adventure stories. Eventually they also published authorized editions of popular television shows and book adaptions of many Walt Disney films.
Among the most popular Disney adaptions were a series of mystery novels featuring Annette Funicello. And although I don’t have one of those, yet, I do have two Disney-related titles to share with you today:
Toby Tyler is a film produced by Walt Disney Productions and was released January 21, 1960. The book version above is copyrighted the same year. The story is based on the 1880 children’s book Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus by James Otis Kaler.
Film Synopsis: Ten year old Toby runs away from his foster home to join the circus. There he soon befriends Mr. Stubbs, a chimpanzee. However, the circus isn’t all fun and he has some rough times. At one point, he departs the circus for home but is brought back to the circus against his will. His family is in attendance during one particular performance and a reunion ensues. Along with his chimpanzee sidekick, he creates a new act and is a big hit at the Big Top!
The book basically follows this plot with less detail than the movie version. Here are a few pages to show the artwork. The crude one-color printing is indicative of the period in publishing for children’s books:
Inside leaf, front and back
The next book that I have does co-star Annette along with Tommy Kirk as the title character, Merlin Jones:
Inside leaf, front and back
The Misadventures of Merlin Jones is a 1964 Walt Disney production where Kirk plays a college student who experiments with mind-reading and hypnotism, leading to run-ins with a local judge. Funicello plays his girlfriend (and sings the film’s title song written by brothers Robert and Richard Sherman). This film led to a 1965 sequel called The Monkey’s Uncle which featured another title song sung by Annette but this time with The Beach Boys. The book version is also copyrighted 1964.
Film Synopsis: Midvale College student Merlin designs a helmet that connects to an electroencephalographic tape that records mental activity. He is brought before a Judge for wearing the helmet while driving and his license is suspended. Merlin returns to the lab and discovers accidentally that his new invention enables him to read minds. This leads to a misunderstanding between himself and the judge, with hilarity ensuing!
Merlin’s next experiment uses hypnotism which he uses on lab chimp. Merlin gets into a fight over this and ends up in front of the same judge as before. After some explaining, Merlin and the judge enter into an experiment involving dishonesty with hilarity ensuing!
Let’s have a look at the artwork, which is again one-color renderings of key scenes:
I would give these two books, and the series from Whitman in general, a 4 out of 5 Stars. I think they are a great way to get your tween into reading but being as the series was discontinued in 1970’s it may be hard to interest them in the subject matter.
These books are very common and so can be found at almost any flea market. I paid only a few dollars for each of these. Condition issues are usually prevalent as the clear protective film that covers the hardcover binding tends to peel off, and the spines are often cracked.
Page yellowing is another common issue due to the cheap grade of paper used in printing, but this is expected and so doesn’t affect the price as much. Still, be careful what you pay, and only pay more for a copy that is in absolute mint condition.