Q & A with Peggy Adler, Illustrator of "Sets and Numbers for the Very Young"


Q. How did you happen to illustrate a book that was written by both of your parents?
A. Years before I ever wrote and illustrated 1962’s Adler Book of Puzzles and Riddles - Sam Loyd Up to Date (which is part one of BearManor’s Peggy’s Puzzles - Volume One), I had illustrated a few of my Dad’s science books, so it was not unusual to work on a project with him. In fact, when this project came along in mid-1966, the contract was solely with Dad and me. The previous year, my mother had been diagnosed with metasticized breast cancer and by the time the book went to press, she was in the final throes of stage four – and in fact, died a year before the book was even published. So, even though Dad was the sole author, we decide to make it a family affair.

Q. The book is lavishly illustrated. So there is actually much more graphic than there is text. Was this reflected in your contract with the original publisher, New York’s John Day Company?
A. Yes, both my Dad and the publisher felt that the contract should be written up 50%/50% - an equal split in the book’s rights and royalties between my Dad and me. Though in early 1968, just a month before my mother died, the contract terms were modified to a 25%/75% split, with my share being the larger -- and upon both their deaths, all royalties would be paid to me. Then, the owners of the John Day Company retired and sold the business to Thomas Y. Crowell – and in 1977 after Crowell had merged with Harper & Row, all rights reverted back to Dad and me. Dad, in turn, assigned all of his rights to the book to me in the fall of 1989.

Q. I see you not only illustrated the book, but also designed its cover as well. Is today’s graphic the one that was on the original in 1969?

A. Yes. In fact, it was my very first book jacket design.

Q. The book has a really unique dedication. What’s its origin?
A. Yes it does and so did the 1969 original edition. At that time, my Dad dedicated the book to the younger of my two daughters, saying, “To my granddaughter Avery, who is lucky enough to have a set of twelve toes, with a subset of six on each foot.” This 2023 edition is dedicated, by me, to both my daughter, Avery and my grandson, Eli, who was also born with a set of twelve toes.

Q. I see that you refer to the book as an immersive, art infused experience. What do you mean by that?
 A.  Since it’s a workbook for preschoolers and the illustrations are in black and white, from the onset, in 1969, I thought it would make a really neat coloring book. Just had to wait 54 years to accomplish that – and happily, Crayola ® has said we can use the name of their Colored Pencils in association with the book.

About the Author:

IRVING ADLER. whose book The New Mathematics was the first on its subject for the adult general reader, wrote this book for very young children with his wife Ruth. The holder of a Ph.D. in pure mathematics from Columbia University, Irving Adler was an instructor in math at Columbia as well as at Bennington College and was formerly head of the mathematics department of a New York City public high school.  His wife Ruth taught mathematics in public schools in the Greater New York area. Ruth Adler died in 1968, one year prior to the publication of this book by The John Day Company.  Irving Adler had 87 titles to his name when he passed away in 2012, at almost 100 years of age.   His books were published in 31 countries, in 19 different languages.

About the Illustrator:

PEGGY ADLER is the daughter of Irving and Ruth Adler and author of BearManor’s Peggy’s Puzzles – Volume One (2023)  and Pallenberg Wonder Bears – From The Beginning (2022).  Previously, she authored the 2019, award winning pictorial history, Images of America CLINTON (Arcadia) and five books for New York City publishers (The John Day Company & Franklin Watts).  Additionally, Ms Adler illustrated two dozen books and provided art for the Bronx Zoo; the Humane Society of the United States; Little, Brown & Company and many others.  She also coordinated the 1969 World Premiere of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid for 20th Century Fox and in 1991, served as a consultant to the U.S. House of Representatives’ October Surprise Task Force.  She’s a Marquis Who’s Who Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement  honoree; a  2001 recipient of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers’ General Richard G. Stilwell Award; a former police commissioner;  and currently chairs the Town of  Clinton, Connecticut’s Historic District Commission. 

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