Vandalizing James Marshall

The only edition of James Marshall’s The Three Little Pigs (1989) currently in print has been vandalized by its publisher, Grosset & Dunlap.  In reprinting the book at 8” x 8” instead of its original 8.5” x 10.5”, the publisher has truncated images, altered the layout, changed the typeface, and removed the final illustration.

Here’s the original:

James Marshall, The Three Little Pigs (1989): second pig builds his house (original version)

Here’s the new version, which crowds the layout, cramping Marshall’s watercolors:

James Marshall, The Three Little Pigs (2000): second pig builds his house (new version, as mangled by Grosset & Dunlap))

Making the text difficult to read, Grosset & Dunlap also changed the elegant Berkeley serif font to what appears to be the title typeface from Sid and Marty Krofft’s Lidsville (1971-1973).

James Marshall, The Three Little Pigs (1989): front cover (as mangled by Grosset & Dunlap, 2000)

And the final image, in which the three pigs take their bow (on the back cover), has been removed entirely. This is a shame because the front and back cover frame the tale as a theatrical performance.  It reminds us that no pigs were harmed in the making of this story; they were performing a production of The Three Little Pigs.

James Marshall, The Three Little Pigs (1989): back cover (paperback edition, 1996) James Marshall, The Three Little Pigs (1989): back cover (as mangled by Grosset & Dunlap, 2000)

In one sense, what Grosset & Dunlap has done is not unique. Publishers do alter children’s books to make them fit a different format.  When they retain the original design sense, as in HarperCollins’ board-book version of The Carrot Seed, they minimize any sense of loss: the board-book Carrot Seed is still recognizably a work by Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss.  However, when they remove text, change layout and design – as in Random House’s board book of Dr. Seuss’s ABC – we end up with a work based on the original, but a demonstrably different book.  (For “L,” the original has “Little Lola Lopp. / Left leg. / Lazy lion / licks a lollipop.”  The board book has only “Lion with a lollipop.”)

What’s baffling in the case of Marshall’s The Three Pigs is the impetus for the publisher’s mangling of his original.  This is not a board book.  It’s a “Reading Railroad” book, and I have no sense what mandates these books being sold in a tinier size.

The practice is of course also offensive.  No one would suggest a slicing up a Rembrandt so that it would better fit in a particular gallery space.  Presumably, the fact that the art is intended for children makes a publisher feel justified in mangling its aesthetics.  Is the font intended to “kiddie-up” the text?  What possible rationale can there be for letting some alleged “designer” (who appears to have no training in design) damage the work of an artist who is no longer alive to protest?  No idea.

I wonder: Do Marshall’s heirs know that Grosset & Dunlap is defacing his artwork?  If they don’t, could someone please notify them?  And ask that they bring back the original work in its original format, please.


  1. Reply

    board book versions of Seuss books are particularly egregious in this way–I remember being utterly dismayed by the board book of “Are You My Mother?” which changes the language from the original, and skips some. (Including family favorites about the “snort.”) And have you seen the board book “Peter Rabbit”?

    But you’re right, this one actually implies that it’s the same book–and now it isn’t.

  2. Reply

    Did James Marshall choose the layout and typeface of this book, or were those the choices of the in-house art director or designer?

  3. Reply

    James Marshall died in 1992 at the age of 50. He thus can have had no involvement with the Grosset & Dunlap edition, published in 2000.

    Whether or not he personally did the layout and design of The Three Little Pigs in 1988-1989, he would have at least approved the layout and design. (It was published in 1989, with the 1996 paperback version following that format.) The use of space to control pacing and timing resembles the use of space to do the same in his other works, such as the George and Martha stories. The Three Pigs (in its original version) certainly looks like his other work; the Grosset & Dunlap version does not.

    However, to determine the precise nature of his involvement, one would need to do some archival research. His papers are at the deGrummond Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. In series 3, box 6A, folder 1 are the following materials from The Three Little Pigs: sketch, watercolor and graphite, 3 pp.; illustration, watercolor, 2 pp.; illustration, pen & ink, 3 pp. These would tell us more, as would any correspondence — either in the offices of Dial Books or in his papers.

  4. Reply

    Marshall’s George and Martha stories have also had recent format changes. Sandpiper is publishing easy reader versions of the stories in the 9″ by 6″ format.

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  6. Brian


    It’s depressing to see the people in charge of this sort of thing not give a damn about doing a quality job with it. Thanks for pointing it out.

  7. cynthia marshall


    I am the only living blood heir of my brother James Marshall. I would very much like to speak with you. I did not know this was happening. I am in the process of writing the biography of my brothers life. I just went through a court battle that stunned me. A massive amount of information is being witheld from me concerning his works. I could not find a way to email you. If anyone reads this, please have Mr. Nel contact me asap. If anyone knew my brother personally, please feel free to contact me at
    On the subject line put Regarding James Marshall
    Kindest Regards,

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