Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006
Misery Is When Someone Recycles Your Book Idea

Picture Book Plagiarism?

An editor at Kirkus noticed similarities between a soon-to-be released picture book by the prolific children's author Harriet Ziefert and another one, by the well-known author Judi Barrett, published some twenty years ago. Likenesses included the title and the last couple of lines. (Ziefert was about to self-publish her book, but, still...)

The AP reports that Ziefert has pulled A Snake Is Totally Tail from the market (although it's still on Amazon--ed.).  Ziefert said in a statement, "I have no recollection of ever seeing Ms. Barrett's book - though it would be foolish of me not to consider the possibility that I might have seen it decades ago and that its structure and some of its language imprinted somewhere on my subconscious."

Some of its language? The Book Standard reports,

In 11 of the 12 instances in which an animal is mentioned in both books, the language is duplicated word for word, for instance: “A crab is conspicuously claws,” “a duck is quantities of quack” and “a porcupine is piles of prickles.”

Meanwhile, a publicist at Simon & Schuster, which issued Judi Barrett's A  Snake Is Totally Tail in 1983, didn't comment on the matter, telling the Book Standard that all editions of Barrett's book are currently unavailable. However, if someone at S & S will just high-tail it  to the Donnell Library Center in mid-Manhattan, he or she will find it. In reference, even.

Note: Chicken Spaghetti update at "Misery Is When Someone Recycles Your Book Idea," posted on February 2nd.


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This is such an interesting story and one that makes me pretty angry (and sad).

Kelly, this is a weird story, isn't it? I imagine we'll hear more about it.

A very good catch by the Kirkus editor.

I am a library director. My staff cataloger just noticed that Ziefert's book squeaked into our processing through a standing order with a fairly large and reputable book vendor. It seems strange to me that her book, which she is not selling, is turning up in library standing orders in September 2006. I just found out about the "scandal" today when we were trying to figure out why the title matched Barrett's book....It's really too bad, and we're sending this copy back along with a comment to our vendor.

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