Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is Blueberries for Sal out of print?

Have you tried recently to buy a new copy of Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey? Have you succeeded? I'm pretty sure the answer is no.

What's going on with Blueberries for Sal? It's not possible that it would go out of print, right? It's a beloved classic and a Caldecott Honor book.

Here's the answer: Blueberries for Sal is sort of, kind of out of print.

I had re-ordered it for my bookstore a few times when I was working as a book buyer. The orders kept being canceled and the reason on the invoice was "out of stock." Since this happened more than once, I asked our store's publishing rep from Penguin what was going on. Here's what I recall of the conversation.

(Note: Since I don't like posting anything unconfirmed and without details, I've been trying for a while to find confirmation for this. But I've scoured the internet and used all my librarian tricks- and can't find any official information at all. If you have a link to a news story, or better yet, if you have direct information, please post it here. I'm sure there's more to the story than what I've heard.)

Our rep said there was a lawsuit involving the book. An injunction has been issued to Penguin forbidding them to sell the book. That means they can't sell it in any form: paperback, hardcover, in a collection, with a CD, etc. So, not only is it not possible to buy the book itself, you also can't buy collections of Robert McCloskey books that contain Blueberries for Sal. If you go to Penguin's website, Blueberries for Sal is listed... but if you try to put it in your cart, you'll get a note that the publisher is out of stock.

Penguin isn't actually out of stock... they have a warehouse full of the books, but they can't sell them. There wasn't any warning, so they couldn't offload them before the injunction hit. My (unconfirmed) understanding is that relatives of the McCloskey family sued Penguin.

Also, it seems to be a permanent thing. The injunction has no end date.

It's breaking my heart to remove copies that are falling apart from our library's collection, because at the moment, it seems doubtful they'll ever be replaced.

If you're desperate to find a copy, you'll have to look for one used. The prices of the used copies on Amazon have skyrocketed recently, so at least the used book dealers know that the supply is scarce. I'd recommend library book sales and used book stores as good places to look.

The strange thing is, nobody seems to know what's going on. I haven't seen any publicity at all. The extremely well informed and savvy buyer at my library didn't know why her orders weren't be filled until I told her. If this is a permanent thing, I'd love to see a little more ruckus raised and more people made aware of the situation.

UPDATE: Blueberries for Sal is coming back! See this post for more information.


  1. How weird is that? Why would the McCloskey family not want it sold? I can see suing over not getting enough royalties or something, but flat-out not sold at all?

  2. Very strange and mysterious. I love love love this book, and hope they get all the legal stuff settled sometime soon.

  3. Hmm, I got a cd/paperback combo of Blueberries a couple months ago from Weston Woods with no problem....definitely funny. I looked at my vendor (Baker & Taylor) and they say publisher out of stock - 342 copies on order. I hope they release those copies soon, we need a new book at my library!

  4. We needed a new copy, so I wound up getting one from Perma-Bound. I don't entirely love Perma-Bounds, but they do fill the gap from time-to-time.

  5. From an online Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf August 21, 2008:
    Rhalee Hughes, director of publicity at Penguin Books for Young Readers, acknowledges that the classic picture book is currently unavailable, but says, "We have been in negotiations with [Robert McCloskey's] estate and we are hopeful that we may be able to put Blueberries for Sal back into circulation."

  6. As soon as I found out, I began hunting for a copy here in the Philippines. I knew there had to be reasonably priced new copies here because it would have taken a while for the news/injunction to spread internationally. I couldn't concentrate at work. I was really antsy. I just kept thinking about how to find a copy. I enlisted the help of my friends...

    Then one weekend afternoon at the mall I found a copy! Maybe the last new copy in the whole of the Philippines. Bwahahahahahahaha. It's miiiiiiiiiine.