At the school I attended in fourth grade, the “library” consisted of several shelves lining the end of a hallway between the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms. I didn’t mind the lack of atmosphere, though, because one of those shelves held the best school library book ever–Kids on TV by D.J. Arneson.
From the book’s cover, kids from The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, and other shows smiled out at the reader. The psychedelic colors that tinted their portraits made the book irresistible to the eye.
The book took a catholic approach to its subject, both in terms of the shows featured and the actors it labeled “kids.” (Lou Gossett Jr., for instance, featured as a cast member in The Young Rebels, was 35 when the book hit shelves.) It also included young actors from daytime soap operas, as well as stars from shows that had been cancelled well before its publication, such as Gentle Ben.
Cast members from 24 shows appear in the book’s pages. Because I was reading the book almost a decade after its 1971 publication–and because some of these shows didn’t exactly stand the test of time–some of its entries confounded me. Arnie? The Double Deckers? The Smith Family?
The shows I recognized, however, were shows I adored. And even the entries on the unknown shows provided a fascinating glimpse into the exotic world of child actors. (The book strives to make these young people seem down-to-earth, though. In almost every case, it tells us that they earn straight As in school and enjoy riding their bikes.)
When I would find this book on our library shelves, I’d check it out immediately and renew it to the limits of our librarian’s patience. Finding it on the shelves wasn’t easy, however–other kids loved it as much as I did.
I found my current copy on Ebay, and it also started life in a school library–Pewaukee, Wisconsin, represent! Looking at its cover, you can tell that it passed through many young Wisconsinites’ hands.
About the Author
I didn’t expect to find out much about D.J. Arneson; the authors who wrote these old books aimed at libraries and school book clubs don’t usually leave much of a trace. As it turns out, however, Arneson also edited Dell Comics for almost 10 years. Collectortimes.com published an informative Q&A with Arneson in 2010.
Over the next few weeks, I will share some entries from Kids on TV with you.
I’m starting with H.R. Pufnstuf because today is the 44th anniversary of its premiere–and because I’m sure you’ve always wondered what Jack Wild’s hobbies were. (For the record: Swimming, sculpting, and building model cars.)
Other posts you might enjoy: