Sunday, February 13, 2011

Alice and Jerry Books

c1941-c1961
Alice and Jerry Alice and Jerry were my best friends.  They taught me to read.
Back in the 50s, when I was first going to school, it wasn't considered proper for students to start reading actual books.  It was the day of the basal reader, and by far the best-known reader was the Dick and Jane series from the publisher Scott, Foresman.  But there were others, and my school chose Alice and Jerry, from Row, Peterson and Company.
That wasn't the name of the individual books.  As I researched this article, I realized that I had forgotten the individual titles.  I had long since called them Alice and Jerry.
Alice, Jerry, and JipLike Dick and Jane, Alice and Jerry were brother and sister, along with their dog, Jip.*  I do remember the immortal words:
"See Jip.  See Jip jump."
What impressed me about the books at the time was that they were interconnected. Of course the early ones were just a series of stories about the two,** but as things advanced, the connections were less obvious.  Toward the end, you'd be reading all year about some pioneers on the prairie, and discover that they were Alice and Jerry's great grandparents.
The books were usually written by Mabel O'Donnell, with art by Florence  and Margaret Hoopes. Obviously, they weren't great literature or art, but there was something about the first day of school when you'd find the new books there like familiar friends.
The series was discontinued in the early 60s, as the reading instruction switched away from basal readers,*** and Row, Peterson joined Harper Brothers to become Harper and Row and now HarperCollins. Alice and Jerry seem to have been overlooked while Dick and Jane became a catchword. 
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* Even in first grade, I thought that "Jip" was a stupid name for a dog.  Addendum 11/6/13:  For those wondering why the dog had that name, it turns out that there was a dog in Dicken's David Copperfield named "Jip" -- short for "Gypsy."
**Typical American kids, if you assume all Americans were white and middle class.  Since I was, it seemed reasonable at the time.
***There was an uproar about US reading levels, centered around Rudolf Flesch's book Why Johnny Can't Read from 1955.  Flesch blamed the readers -- and their "see and say" method of instructions -- as being inferior to teaching phonics. Like all educational theories, the truth lies in between:  some children do better with phonics, and some do better with "see and say" (and some do better with some other method). 

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved Alice and Jerry, too. The book that I remember best was called, I believe, If I Were Going. It was about the town stationmaster, who, upon retirement, was given an around the world ticket by the train company. So we learned some geography and social studies as well as improving our reading skills that year.
jeanne in Canada

Voracious reader said...

You say the Alice & Jerry books were from 1941-61, but I thought you might like to know that I was in an antique store today and saw a group of four small framed pictures of Alice & Jerry that were listed as being from 1933.

I personally gew up in Ohio on Dick and Jane.

Anonymous said...

I started school in September, 1939. There was no kindergarten, so in Grade 1 we learned to read and love the Alice and Jerry and Jip books. We learned cursive handwriting rather than printing. Imagine that! I told my grandchildren about Jip and am looking at this page today because my grown grandson just told me he plans to name his dog Jip.

Anonymous said...

I have in hand an Alice and Jerry "Day In and Day Out" book given to me for Christmas in 1938. The cover corners are all well worn but the binding is intact as are all of the interior pages. It was well used by me and all my children, now 49, 43 an 40. I came across it today while cleaning our attic space. Amazing how well I recall its brief stories.

jjenkins said...

I'm glad someone create this page because today a verse ran through my head of "Run Jip Run" and I asked my co-workers (whom most are near and above my age) did they remember Jip in the elementary school books that we learn to read from and they all said "No". They all thought that I was confused with Spot from Dick and Jane and I said no way. I found this page and now I've proved them wrong. I wasn't confused (and I knew I wasn't) Thanks for the information on this page.

Anonymous said...

I also grew up reading Alice and Jerry. Book authors today would do well to look back 50-60 years and copy some of the techniques used in those days. We learned to read, learned history, geography, and our children's imaginations were working hard as well. Brings back many fond memories of the early 1950s and the times spent going to school in those days.

Anonymous said...

I was so happy to find these old books again I cried. I read online that a lot of the characters were based on real people--it was posted by Jerry's niece or great-niece. The lady in through the green gate was real, too, it said.

Anonymous said...

There were also Catholic school readers that used the Alice and Jerry characters. These were published by Ginn and Co., as I recall (perhaps licensed specifically for Catholic schools). Ours were the Through the Green Gate readers. Since my name is Alice, I loved them, but especially because of one story in particular (not featuring Alice or Jerry) about two colonial girls in New England. The story was "The Dimity Dress." It was my favorite because I had a dimity Communion dress which was passed down in my family.

hughmac said...

In a fit of nostalgia I acquired the three books that I remembered from my school days in Ohio in the 40's. I was also impressed with the continuum of the series and specifically remember how surprised I was that the boy on the stagecoach at the very beginning of "Singing Wheels" was the grandfather at the end of "Engine Whistles"
In addition to reading, the books provided lessons in history, science, travel and civics through the story line. "If I Were Going", the first in the series in addition to teaching about different cultures provided us with an introduction to good grammar by using the subjunctive case in the title, thereby setting a pattern for a frequently difficult concept. We learned a lot from these books.
I specifically remember my concern when the last chapter began: "An early morning in 194_!". I thought what happens if it is later than the 1940's...then, since I was 8 years old and it was 1947, that time would be so far in the future it was likely never to come.

dsumners said...

I read from Alice and Jerry readers in elementary school in the mid to late 50's.
Every year I could not wait to get to the next reader. My favorite was "Runaway Home". How I envied those kids whose parents let them travel for a year in a camper. I still remember vividly some of the pictures in that book! I bought "Through the Green Gate" for my 2 year old granddaughter. I plan to find the whole series for her.

M. McD said...

These books, along with Dick and Jane, were based on systematic phonics along with sight words. From the late 20s to the early 70s, children successfully learned to read this way. The words were repeated at least 5 times in a set of 1 or 2 pages so that a child could repeat and remember. You could sound out Jip and Spot. Words like "come" are sight words so repeating it would fix it in your mind. My 5th child has severe learning problems. I bought her a set of old Dick and Jane books and she learned to read using these. Almost 60 years of children learning couldn't be wrong! I saw, however, that in the 60s and on, the books reduced the vocabulary, the children did mean things and the TV was pictured. I believe the TV was a culprit in why kids struggled to read in later years, not this method of teaching. My oldest had, in his only 6 months at school before I homeschooled, "whole language" which he thought was silly. He already knew how to read at 3 by sounding out words and having me tell him the sight words which he then remembered. Whole language is guessing off the picture! No phonics, no repeating, nothing! That method seems to have been abandoned, thank goodness!

GilHigh said...

When I moved to Aurora, IL, to enter college I experienced many days of deja vu moments -- I had walked certain streets before, or an older building would look very familiar. Eventually I learned that Mabel O'Donnel based the Alice and Jerry books on what was once the village of Aurora and the surrounding prairie and farm land.

Anonymous said...

I was so enamored of the books, I began to buy them on eBay a number of years ago. I have all of the hardback books, but am missing some of the pre-primers. My granddaughter loves them! A first grader, she thinks learning from the books her grandmother learned from is great.

Lodis Dinwiddie said...

I also grew up reading Alice/Jerry books. My teacher use to call us to her desk to read. I use to read up to 10 pages each day. If I stammered over one word, I was made to go back to my desk and the word, "Study" was written on the page beside the word I had failed to pronounce. I remember it like it was yesterday. Because of that dedicated, loving, and no none-sense teacher, and those wonderful books, I developed a love for reading that I have to this day.

Anonymous said...

I loved my Alice and Jerry books! If I Were going was certainly my favorite..... It felt as if you were looking into exotic lands .... It was an adventure!!! Quite honestly I would love to find a copy to give to my grandchildren so they can learn how reading can transport you to far away places!!

You know, I'd love to name my dog Jip... Just to see how many recognize the name...... Hehe

Cindy Raymond q

Anonymous said...

I started school in 1958 in Georgia in a segregated school, and I loved the Alice and Jerry books. I especially remember the kindly older neighbor Mr.Carl; I think he did a lot of fishing. Most of the kids in my class were reading pretty well by Christmas break if I remember correctly.

Carson Lee said...

Wow, what a rush. I learned to read, Alice & Jerry in Mineral City, Ohio, 1965-66 or 67. Then throughout life heard of "Dick and Jane" and felt sort of like my own experience was "left out" somehow of the culture.
thanks for researching & writng this! Must add your site to my list to check; Best to you!

trajeff2001 said...

Though I went to grade school in the 70`s, I had a few A and J books a teacher friend had given us. Along with Dr. Seuss and an adapted Alice, they were among the first things I read on my own. Still have "The Wishing Well."

RAPUNZEL said...

I started school in 1950 in Canton, Ohio and the Alice and Jerry White readers were used in our school and I became not only a good reader, but an avid reader as did both my older sisters. I moved to the West Coast after high school and seldom found anyone who remembered these characters...they insisted that I must have meant the Dick and Jane readers...NOT! Finally I happily can post this bit of trivia on my facebook page...However, I do not consider the readers trivia...they were a valuable reading tool for teachers and it seems that fewer and fewer students graduating from high school have any reading skills or spelling for that matter...I am grateful for the fine education I received in the Ohio school system and honestly feel my generation was the last of those receiving a great education. Amen

Mr G said...

I started kindergarten in 1961, and at my school we used mostly Dick and Jane books, but were introduced to Alice and Jerry in about 3rd grade.

I never really liked Alice and Jerry, and it was probably all about the illustrations. At that time I would pick books to read almost totally based on the style of illustration, and I didn't like the A&J style as much as I did the D&J style. I'm guessing that if the A&J books were illustrated by the D&J people, I would've liked them better. My impression was that the D&J books seemed bright and new, while the A&J books seemed dim and old.

I also remember, as GilHigh mentioned, a connection to Aurora, IL. I think our teacher told us about that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this page! I loved Alice, Jerry and Jip, their pup. We had them in first and second grade (this was the early 1950s in New Orleans, Louisiana) and I have told others that I believe that my wanderlust started as a result of reading those books. I remember things from some of the books like I read them last year (and I'm old!) - I remember the bakery that they would visit to buy tarts and the view from a hilltop looking down at their village. I wanted to live in their town! And the travelogue that took them to the Netherlands (the Dutch bed in the wall and the wooden clogs) and the visit to the pyramids of Egypt! I've wanted to see Egypt for as long as I can remember and I attribute that to the Alice, Jerry and Jip books! What a wonderful way to learn to read.

G.G. Faircloth said...

95I have wonderful memories of Alice and Jerry books. I loved the name Jip for the dog. I loved their stories and I was happy and proud of myself for finally learning how to read! At 7 years old! I had to wait to go into 1st grade until I became 7 years old on January 7th 1955.
Septenber 1954 I could not go into 1st grade since I had to be 7 yrs
old if my memory is correct. So I had to wait until September 1955 to go to school. I am so happy that I have found these Alice and Jerry and Jip books on the internet!

G.G. Faircloth said...

Also I used to want to be able to read the comics on Sunday mornings in the newspaper when I was 5 or 6 and even 7! I remember starring at the words in the speech balloons and wish that I could know what they said.I guess that i thought if i starred at them long enough they would magically become easy for me to read them!But it never happened!I enjoyed looking at the drawn comics too very much! When I finally learned to read the Alice and Jerry books in school, I was thrilled to finally be able to read the words in the comics!

Anonymous said...

I devoured every book in our second grade class library section long before the school year was even half way over, and I remember my teacher, Mrs. Pinscke digging out some old Alice and Jerry books for me to read. I loved them, but of course, that made me the only kid in town who even knew who Alice and Jerry were!
And, yes, they were originally published in the 1930's.

Half Empty said...

I grew up on Alice and Jerry while attending public school in Southern Illinois in 1959-1961. I loved the illustrations. My favorite book was Friendly Village. When I was bored in Reading class I used to stare wistfully at the cover of the book - wishing I could live in a wonderful town like that. I still own a few of the books, and once in a while I pull them out just to enjoy the pictures. They really are great watercolor illustrations. As a girl, I also loved the fact that Alice was a bit of a tomboy, and that the kids did get in trouble now and then.

Anonymous said...

I came over from Germany in early '58 and didn't know any English. I was put in first grade and we had the Dick and Jane books and I picked up the language in no time. I really loved those stories. We also had Alice and Jerry books later on in the upper grades and they were very enjoyable as well. Brings back so many memories of years gone by. "See Jip jump" - something you never forget !

Anonymous said...

No one ever believed me when I said we read Alice and Jerry books in first grade! Imagine the laughs when I told them that their dog was Jip. Some friends said I was dreaming up those names. Others thought I was loosing it!! Wait till I show them this page. I get the last laugh!! Ha Ha

Anonymous said...

I read the alice and Jerry books in 1964 when I was in first grade. I still remember my spelling list (which I used to memorize) containing the words Alice, Jerry, come, look, and, see, the, Jip.... Whenever I mention this series to other people they never heard of it. I am happy (and relieved) to know it wasn't a figment of my imagination!!

Anonymous said...

I am retired, living in rural Mexico. I have 4 students, that is, two pairs of siblings who wanted to learn English. Teaching them to speak English has been very slow and boring. So, I ordered several A&J books from Amazon used books.

One of the students had her 15th birthday last summer, which is a big deal here. So, I gave her the copy of Friendly Village we had used in her class.

We started with Friendly Village, and the first class is nearly done with IF WE WERE GOING. Trivia point -- the free trip was not at retirement, but after 25 years on the job, and Mr. Sanders comes back to sell more tickets.

Singing Wheels is next.

The kids love A&J books, because they have stories. These kids are as old as 16, but they say even the kid stories in the books are much better than another story about Benito Juarez or Porfirio Diaz, which is what they have here.

Anonymous age 70

Anonymous said...

I love the Alice and Jerry books. I have collected as many as I could. Does anyone know how many A & J books there are? I would love to get them all. I loved them in school and still do. I went to Elementary school in the fifties in Bunkie, Louisiana.

Bertha said...

What do you know about the illustrators of the Alice and Jerry books which were written by Mabel O'Donnell. The illustrators were Florence J. Hoopes and Margaret C. Hoopes.

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

I grew up in northeast Ohio and began kindergarten in 1950. We had both Dick and Jane books and the Alice and Jerry series which I preferred because of the lovely watercolor illustrations. I have most of the books now. The ones I really loved and so did my children were the two extra readers Singing Wheels and Engine Whistles. They were quite special and gave a lot of American history and used popular books such as the Laura Ingalls Wilder series as inspiration. Also as someone else commented the two books together gave a sense of time and the changes it brings which we could never have imagined as grade school children of the early '50s. Thanks for writing about these books.

roses1 said...

I started 1st grade in 1956 in central Kentucky. The Alice, Jerry, Jip stories are still so vivid in my mind!! I remember staring and staring at the picture of Miss Betsy Blue in her yard with all the beautiful flowers! Also, Betsy Lee, the doll, will stay in my mind FOREVER!! And all the other characters throughout the series--just wonderful!!!

Monica DiFranco said...

I learned to read in the Cleveland Public School System with this series of books and I learned to sound out. I cold read and spell perfectly so it must have been a good method. These were such lovely books that I've hunted down and collected several of them in adulthood. But, is my memory playing tricks on me? I thought I remembered one called "If I Were Going Again," similar to "If I Were Going," (a wonderful book). Anyone know definitively if I'm imagining things?

Lois said...

Alice and Jerry and Jip the dog at my elementary school in Phila. Other schools in the district used Dick and Jane. We were inconsistent. I knew how to read at age 2 (my sister was an excellent teacher, even then) and my teachers were not amused that I was bored to tears with "Oh, look, look and see" crap. I wanted something with more meat. Loved "Mrs. Piggle Wiggle."

annasandra chellton said...

so ..its true ..a whole real world of people who know alice and jerry and jip. i grew up in sheridan, wyoming.i remember my first day of school in the first grade.there was an big lettered alphabet on the walls of 3 sides of the room.my teacher handed us our books and sounded out jip. MAGIC. i could read !! i love alice and jerry and jip.the next book i remember is green grass of wyoming.i had to get permission to check this out of the grown up side of the library.

Anonymous said...

I was in Lehman's Hardware (store that caters to the Amish) yesterday with some friends and in the toy department we found a whole collection of Dick and Jane books. All I could remember of the books I learned to read from was "Jip". Suddenly today "Alice & Jerry" popped into my head so I looked on the internet and found them! Called my friends right away to let them know I'm not crazy. My education in a very small school in Holmes County, Ohio, was quite adequate and I still love to read today at age 68, so Alice, Jerry, and Jip must have done a good job!

AliceRay said...

What a wonderful trip down memory lane. I read Alice and Jerry in the mid-1950s in a South Georgia elementary school. I never thought to look in old book stores as some have. I came to this site looking dor sample names of the reading groups we had - red birds, blue birds, etc. Does anyone remember others?

Chuck Rothman said...

Our reading groups were simple: Reading Group 1, Reading Group 2, and Reading Group 3. No need to sugar coat it.

Anonymous said...

I learned to read in the fall of 1947, from the Alice and Jerry book Skip Along. It seems to me that we used that series only in first grade, but on my own I discovered and read, several times, If I Were Going. I remember learning that English children, instead of getting their treats at a soda fountain or candy store, got them at a bakery--and that in France people ate SNAILS! Years later, when my husband mentioned a book he had loved as a child, Run Away Home, I always though of If I Were Going, but not until I set out to find him a copy for Christmas a few years ago did I realize that it, too, was an Alice and Jerry Book.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember which book it was where Alice - in red - and Miss Betsy Blue - in blue, of course - are walking next to the sea. It's a sunny day and maybe windy and they are walking along together very happy.
I still think about that book - it had a red cover - and when I visited an island recently and thought I was stepping into the book.

Does anyone know which book this would be?

Anonymous said...

I thought we had only the Dick and Jane series--but always remembered the dog Jip. Obviously my school district must have utilized both! NW Ohio.

Melanie Pappageorge said...

Does anyone know which Runaway Home book has the first chapter in which the family travels in a trailer to Nantucket Island during the summer? We have "The New Runaway Home" book published in in 1955, but the first chapter is not about Nantucket Island. If anyone knows which Runaway Home book we are looking for, please reply. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

i have a copy of the new round about 1955 and the pages # 71 thru 74 are out of order. has anyone else seen one like this?

RJHayward said...

I have so enjoyed everyone's posts about Alice and Jerry books. I, too, have discovered through the years in South Dakota that most of the other schools seemed to have used the Dick and Jane series. Can anyone tell me if they recall a book that showed a chubby lady with a green and yellow flowered dress or apron out in her front yard with a picket fence? Was that Friendly Village?

Anonymous said...

I went to school in Maryland in 1960-1965. Alice and jerry were my best friends too. I remember they had a friend from another country who couldn't believe that hand soap was so plentiful.Either they travelled or the friend was here. So many stories.Some of the kids read Dick and Jane, the better readers, I don't remember what they called us, we had Alice and Jerry. We split into 2 groups at reading time.

CathyB said...

I loved Alice and Jerry. I saw a photo of "Singing Wheels" and that stirred memories also. I started first grade in 1951 in Toledo OH at McKinley.

EF said...

From second through fourth grades in Savannah, GA (1957-60), we read Alice and Jerry. I specifically remember "Friendly Village," "Through The Green Gate" and "If I Were Going." I have copies at home. I don't remember "learning" to read... I just read...and enjoyed them. I would love to see a contemporary "urban" version of the series; perhaps it would help increase love of reading.

Anonymous said...

First grade in 1944 in Gnadenhutten Ohio -- I was introduced to Alice and Jerry and their dog Jip. I loved the stories. I was learning to read! Very few friends have heard of them. They remember Dick and Jane.

Anonymous said...

I learned to read with the Alice and Jerry readers... and a wonderful first and second grade teacher Mrs. Tracy. As I write this I am sitting in a coffee shop on Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I made my first trip to the OUter Banks with my partner and our son in the mid 1980s almost exclusively because what I remembered reading about The Outer Banks in the Alice and Jerry Reader "Runaway Home". I've loved the place ever since, thought he changes on the Outer Banks are monumental even in the time I've visited... and with climate change the chance that they will even be in existence in another hundred years is questionable. Still... I have been fortunate, and these readers made me a lover of books and of far places.... Bob Vance

Anonymous said...

I remember reading a book in first grade, and about the only thing I remember is 'run run run, see Jip run'. I'm glad to see that other people remember this book, too.

Anonymous said...

P. S.
My first grade teacher was Phyllis Brulett.

Anonymous said...

I too learned to read using the Alice and Jerry books, up to (I believe) the fourth grade. This was in the late 1940's in Queens, NYC. I also seem to remember that there were workbooks that came with the readers. Other parts of the city used the Dick and Jane series.

whozis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
whozis said...

I grew up in eastern Kentucky in the 1950s (I was born in '51). It seems like that we had Dick and Jane readers in the first grade, but I definitely remember reading the Alice and Jerry books. I loved the stories and the illustrations. I had to read from Runaway Home in front of the class and mispronounced "bedragged" as "bed-raggled" and was embarrassed when the teacher corrected me, although she did it gently and kindly. Runaway Home was my favorite book of the series, especially the part about Cape Hatteras. I finally visited there a few years ago, after wanting to go there ever since reading the book! Wonderful series of books! They opened my eyes about the world beyond our close hills. This was a great way to learn reading and I always looked forward to the next book in the series. These books helped me enjoy reading and fueled my love for reading.

Anonymous said...

I learned to read in the first grade 1962-1963. My first books were, Alice and Jerry with Jip. I'd forgotten the childrens names but never forgot Jip. See Jip run, run Jip run. Even today it brings a smile when I think of it.