Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, September 14, 2018

I Call Banker!

It lasts for hours; sometimes even days.  Many a summer afternoon is spent on a large blanket under a shade tree, on a deck beneath an umbrella, around a kitchen or dining room table or on a bedroom floor; a board centered among a gathered group.  The hours race by on snow days or wild winter evenings as minds strategize while others hope for sheer luck to alter their course. It stakes a claim in the memories of childhood and adulthood.  Around the world it's a staple in many homes. Monopoly is a game firmly cemented in human cultural history.

Monopoly has numerous editions and versions.  It can be played electronically and online.  What many of these players might not know is the origin of this famous pastime.  Pass Go And Collect $200: The Real Story Of How Monopoly Was Invented (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt And Company, July 17, 2018) written by Tanya Lee Stone with illustrations by Steven Salerno is an eye-opening look at exactly who is responsible.

What kind of Monopoly player are YOU? Do you save your money until you land on Park Place or Boardwalk?  Do you buy up all the properties you can?  Do you always want to be banker?

Regardless of the type of player you are or how long a typical game lasts for you and others, to find the beginnings of Monopoly we need to dial back the clock more than one hundred years.  Elizabeth, Lizzie, Magie was a woman with gifts, many gifts.  One of the things most upsetting to her, though, was the inequality between rich landlords and poverty-stricken tenants.  To demonstrate this gap in wealth, Lizzie used one of her gifts and designed a game.

Lizzie's game was meant for adults but she believed children were clever enough to benefit from playing it.  She filed and was granted a patent in 1904.  She was thorough in outlining both sets of rules, a picture of the game board and the pieces to be used.  You can't help but read her rules of play and see the direct parallel to the game you've played countless times.  Lizzie called her original The Landlord Game.

Before long people were making their own boards and adapting the game.  It began to be called Monopoly by students in a university business class.  Its popularity was growing. Twice, the first time in 1909, Lizzie took her game to the Parker Brothers company.  They turned her down.  With a renewed patent in 1924 she was still adapting her game's rules.  Other people continued to make variations, too.  One of the more lasting was in 1930 by a woman living in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In 1930s the Great Depression left people wealthy and poor alike in dire conditions. Now there was a man named Charles Darrow, jobless, who played the 1930 version at a friends' home.  He liked it so much he began to make his own with new and improved changes. And, unlike others, he sold his version and took credit as its creator!  In four years, Charles was marketing his game.

He was turned down by other companies but department stores began to buy individual copies.  The success of these sales got the attention of the Parker Brothers company, who had turned him down too.  There was a huge problem with buying and selling Charles Darrow's game.  Lizzie Magie had a patent.  What happened next is still a subject for discussion.

This book is written in a style both captivating and informative by Tanya Lee Stone.  Her first three paragraphs make connections with each reader drawing us into her story.  She gives us personal and specific details about Elizabeth, Lizzie, Magie and her game as well as the historical setting prompting her to devise The Landlord Game.  Each step of the way she builds her story of Lizzie, growing our respect for this woman.

When Charles Darrow appears in the narrative, we can identify with his dilemma and his initiative. Tanya Lee Stone continues with her same use of language and overall tone but we know a conflict is coming.  The concluding two paragraphs are especially important.  They further engage readers in this story.  Here is a passage about Lizzie and one about Charles.

Elizabeth Magie---or Lizzie, as she was called---was a woman of many talents.  She was smart, made people laugh easily, wrote poetry and short stories, and enjoyed acting.  Sometimes Lizzie would dress in a costume, knock on her own door, and trick her husband into thinking she was someone else!  She wasn't afraid to speak her mind publicly, either, which was brave behavior for a woman at the time.

He made each one by hand, drawing the game board on a large piece of oilcloth with pen and ink and using oil paint for the colored bands.  He cut scraps of wood into houses and hotels and painted those too.  He also typed up the rules.  Each game took about eight hours to make. 

Even though the people around the table playing Monopoly on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case are from another era, there is something about the scene with the game pieces, houses, hotel, dice and money which transports readers to every game of Monopoly they have played.  Each portion of this image, including but not limited to the color choices and font style, is a reflection of the game.  To the left, on the back, an interior illustration shows both Lizzie and Charles, back to back, claiming to be the inventor.  A card placed along the lower portion of their bodies reads:

Invent Popular Game
Become Millionaire  

A familiar figure on the card sits in a chair with his feet propped on a desk.

The opening and closing endpapers are a pattern of alternating yellow and orange rectangles (cards) with a question mark on the yellow and a dollar sign on the orange.  Beneath the dedication on the verso is a light bulb.  Striding between the text on the title page, carrying a bundle of money on his cane is Rich Uncle Pennybags.

These illustrations were originally created with

crayon, ink, gouache, and pastel on paper.  After scanning the drawings, he (the artist) layered and arranged them into the final compositions using adobe Photoshop, with additional coloring applied.

With the exception of four single page pictures, all of the visuals extend across two pages.  Believe me when I say they are crackling with life and authenticity.  Steven Salerno's ability to shift perspectives within a single image or from picture to picture is excellent. His attention to details, the architecture, clothing, games, Lizzie's hair style and eyebrows, literally takes you back in time. For emphasis and pacing portions of his illustrations are larger than life.

One of my many favorite pictures is of Lizzie standing in front of The United States Patent Office in1904.  The office extends from the left side to the right side bleeding off the edges.  It provides an imposing background for Lizzie who is standing in front close to readers on the right side.  She is dressed in appropriate attire, smiling.  In both her hands she is holding her patent sheet for her game.  A larger circle with the patent number is framed in red with an arrow pointing to the number on the patent sheet.  This is an important visual.  It matches a final statement by Tanya Lee Stone in a series of paragraphs.

The patent was granted in January 1904, at a time when women received fewer than one percent of all US patents.

If you want to give the ultimate gift for a birthday, holiday or housewarming of the game Monopoly you have to include Pass Go And Collect $200: The Real Story Of How Monopoly Was Invented written by Tanya Lee Stone with illustrations by Steven Salerno.  It's a spirited and compelling account of the truth in both words and pictures.  It represents inspiration, innovation and determination.  At the close of the book are Tremendous Trivia!, Monopoly Math, A Note From The Author and Sources.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Tanya Lee Stone and Steven Salerno and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Tanya Lee Stone maintains a Twitter account.  Steven Salerno maintains an account on Facebook as does Tanya.  To view interior images please take a few moments to stop at the publisher's website.

Be sure to check out the titles listed at Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by Alyson Beecher by others participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

No comments:

Post a Comment