'The Jester Has Lost His Jingle'
Home-published children's book carries on young man's dream
January 31, 1998
Web posted at: 12:15 p.m. EDT (1215 GMT)
CALIFORNIA (CNN) -- David Saltzman died young but he left behind an enduring legacy -- the ability to elicit joy and hope. His parents are making sure their son's gift, his richly illustrated book about a jester's quest to restore laughter, lives on. So far, they've been very successful.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in the fall of 1988, Saltzman had already begun writing and illustrating "The Jester Has Lost His Jingle" (Jester Company, 1995). In the tale, a court jester awakens one day to find that there is no laughter in the kingdom. He sets out with his friend, Pharley, to find it and discovers laughter's true power.
The young writer and artist said that the Jester got him through some of his darkest days after he was diagnosed with cancer. But Saltzman did not live to see his masterpiece published. He died at age 22 in 1990.
His parents, Barbara and Joe, promised their son they would not let his story die with him. They went into debt to publish the book themselves after every company they approached turned them down. Their belief in their son paid off. The book is now in its fifth printing.
CNN's Natalie Allen recently talked with Barbara Saltzman, and found out the Jester is on a roll.
ALLEN: The Jester has made it into toy version, so it just keeps going, doesn't it?
SALTZMAN: Yes, he's so popular. Children just adore the characters of Jester and Pharley. They begged us to make a Jester and Pharley doll and that's what we have done.
ALLEN: .. None of this would of happened, this darling book would not have been published, had it not been that you
believed in your son's work.
SALTZMAN: From the minute we saw David's book and his idea for the book, we knew that it had the potential to be a children's classic. And we were determined that this book would not die with David. And so, after other publishers told us that rhyme wasn't selling that year; that it would be too expensive to produce the way that David envisioned it with beautiful color and beautiful, vivid illustrations, we decided that we would do it ourselves, and that's what we did.
ALLEN: You did most of the work in your garage, didn't you?
SALTZMAN: ... My old dining room is now the Jester headquarters. And we still ship out of the garage, and also out of a warehouse for larger shipments, because people now order the book by the thousands, and it has become so popular -- and children and their parents and teachers are so enthusiastic -- that we keep expanding our operation.
ALLEN: I cannot imagine what it must feel like for a mother who lost (her) son -- this was his dying wish and look at it now. Can you put into words what this feels like to you and your family?
SALTZMAN: It's an incredible, bittersweet experience, but for us, what makes it so worthwhile is to see the response to the book. Children adore the characters, they love the message of the story; that laughter is inside each and every one of them.
ALLEN: I understand that at first you tried to get (the book) published. The publishing company (turned you down). Since then, have they been knocking at your door?
SALTZMAN: ... We've had tremendous response from major publishing houses, who would love to take over the book.... But we want to really maintain our control of the book, because that's why we feel its quality is so good and why it has done so well.
We also have a donor program. More than 25,000 copies of this book have been donated to every child in the country diagnosed with cancer in the last two years, since the book's publication. And we hope to continue to expand that, with donating the Jester doll and more copies of the book to special needs children and children with cancer.
ALLEN: Your son has given you a new life, hasn't he?
SALTZMAN: He definitely has. ... Maurice Sendak wrote the afterword to the book, and David was inspired by Maurice Sendak. And his inspiration to David is what I hope to bring to children. I hope I can inspire them by telling David's story. And I find that is exactly what is happening.
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