Lassie Online

The Lassie
Whitman Novels,
Big Little Books,
and Others
Whitman "Authorized Editions"

Whitman Books were a long-running imprint of Western Publishing Company, who sold five types of books: classics, such as Black Beauty, Little Women, Treasure Island, etc.; girls' and boys' series books, such as Trixie Belden, Ginny Gordon, the Timber Trail Riders, Troy Nesbit, and others; short story collections like Stand By for Adventure; real-life stories about courageous people, including nurses, soldiers, and even animals (Patrick Lawson's More Than Courage for example, which has a chapter on Lassie and other animal performers); and their most popular line, the "Authorized Editions" of movie and later television books. All the books were printed on cheap paper, now yellowing because it was not acid-free, but the 1930s-1940s books had plain covers with shiny jackets; the later books had the shiny cover designs printed directly on the cardboard covers, encased in cellophane. The early books "authorized editions" were mostly about young movie actresses—Jane Withers, Deanna Durbin, etc.—having mysterious adventures; the later books covered television series, from Bonanza to Bewitched, Star Trek to Fury. In the late 1950s-early 1960s, the books sold for 25¢, a price within easy reach of a child's allowance in those days.

Lassie and the Mystery at Blackberry Bog
Dorothea J. Snow
Original cover for Lassie and the Mystery at Blackberry Bog
«« original cover art
It's spring and Jeff is desperate to earn money to buy a new English racin bike like his wealthy friend Harry's, especially after Porky's dad gives him an English racing bike, too (Jeff is still riding his dad's old, battered bicycle). Gramps, upset that he cannot give his grandson all the things he wants, hands over care of the farm strawberry bed to Jeff, telling him he can keep any profits from the sale of the berries. Jeff and Porky also earn cash by picking blackberries at a nearby, treacherous bog. Jeff finds a good customer for the fruit in the person of the owner of a new motel/restaurant, but can't figure out the man's son, Butch, who seems to be afraid of Lassie! And if he hadn't enough to do, he's also trying to rescue an abused dog belonging to a cruel neighbor.

Later, 1960s cover for Lassie and the Mystery at Blackberry Bog 
«« later, 1960s cover art
Like most of the early Whitman kids' books, this one is chock-full of non-lethal adventures (although the idea of letting pre-teen kids go picking berries next to such a treacherous swamp would probably make modern parents blanch). The story introduces some of Jeff's classmates, including one who only appeared once in the series, Harry (this Harry's nicer than he is in "Sunday School"), and indicated that at thirteen he's already showing an interest in girls (at least ones who don't giggle). In this way Jeff has a more rounded social life than he did in the series. The book makes use of two locales that had already been introduced in the television series, Tucker's Bog and Jeff's secret cave.

Lassie and the Secret of the Summer
Dorothea J. Snow
Original cover for Lassie and the Secret of the Summer
«« original cover art

It's time for summer vacation, and Jeff's trying to earn money again—this time to buy himself a record player so he can listen to records by his favorite singer, Dan Dawson (he's found his dad's old Victrola and some of his favorite records up in the attic, but it's a poor replacement for a hi-fi unit with a record changer)—but his money-making schemes come to an abrupt halt when Gramps severely injures his back, and then the pump to the well breaks down. To Gramps' horror, Ellen decides to takes in visitors who want to spend their vacation on a farm, and gives Jeff an opportunity to earn some money by helping with extra chores and entertaining the guests. Jeff views the vacationers as just so much more work and more trouble, but to his surprise he makes some fast new friends.

Later, 1960s cover art for Lassie and the Secret of the Summer
«« later, 1960s cover art
There's a nice variety of guests—two birdwatching schoolteachers, a couple with a small daughter and grandparents with a lively young grandson, a painter looking for peace, quiet, and natural settings, among others—who come to the farm, but the biggest surprise comes from Jeff's dad's old "Victrola" record collection. See if you can figure out why Lassie's special record is so special before the truth is revealed. Let's say Jeff gets his heart's desire, but in a very unexpected way!

Lassie: Forbidden Valley
Doris Schroeder
Cover for Lassie: Forbidden Valley
Timmy and Lassie make three new friends: Letty, a slightly spoiled but sweet city child whose parents have just bought a broken-down old farm in the neighborhood; Letty's pet poodle Pom-Pom, who seems to have a genius for getting into trouble in the country; and a reclusive old man who calls himself "Joey" and who is living in a cave in the forest. Unbeknownst to anyone else, however, there's also an escaped convict in the area who has the elderly recluse—a victim of amnesia who only remembers he's from some sort of "hospital"—convinced he's a wanted man.

Escaped convicts, floods, runaway ponies, adults with secrets, and a friendship with a child who is often testing the boundaries: one wishes one's life was as adventurous as Timmy's. This novel openly discusses Timmy's adoption, and how Timmy has been teased about it at school; the illustrations, at least, seem to have been drawn with Jon Shepodd and Cloris Leachman in mind in the parents' roles (Paul smokes his pipe, for example).


Lassie: Treasure Hunter
Charles S. Strong
Cover for Lassie: Treasure Hunter
While on a hike in a nearby mountain area, Timmy and Boomer find evidence of past Native American habitation, leading the Martins to call a museum expert to come to the area to investigate the historical memorabilia. In the meantime, Lassie runs afoul of bank robbers who are also using the mountain as a hideout for their loot.

The bank robbers just happen to do something that gets Lassie suspicious of them and hide their loot in the same area with the fossils—and even with those coincidences this is still a slow-moving novel. This isn't my favorite of the Whitman Lassie novels, because Timmy seems to speak and act much older than an eight-year-old kid.


Lassie: The Wild Mountain Trail
I.G. Edmonds
Cover for Lassie: The Wild Mountain Trail
Paul Carter, a young man who's long-time resident of Black Rock, returns to his hometown from school, and discovers that his good friend since his father's death, an elderly prospector named "Hardrock" Hartley, has suffered a head injury and is now living up in the mountains as an aggressive recluse. People have approached him only to end up facing the barrel of his rifle, and there is talk that he should be "put away." Paul is determined to find Hardrock and get him back to the hospital before the effects of his injury kill him. Meanwhile Corey and the rangers battle a firebug in the forest—whom everyone but Paul suspects is Hardrock.

The forest ranger sequence of Lassie novels begin with a bang with this volume, in which earthquakes, forest fires, and an amnesia-stricken man who thinks he's being accused of a crime he didn't commit all figure—Paul gets in more trouble than either Jeff or Timmy could have imagined. Hank Whitfield, Corey's partner in the first season of ranger stories, is featured in this novel.


Lassie and the Mystery of Bristlecone Pine
Steve Frazee
Cover for Lassie and the Mystery of Bristlecone Pine
Corey and Lassie are given temporary custody of the 12-year-old runaway they discovered who says his name is "Bristlecone Pine," while they cope with angry loggers, a group of trail motorcyclists called the Red Devils, and quarrelling ranchers in the Sleepy Cat National Forest. "Briss," as the boy likes to be called, is evidently a city boy, but with a deep respect for the outdoors, and he provides a nice touch to this novel.

Frazee, who did the remainder of the Lassie Whitman novels, managed to impart a lot of the mission of the Forest Service into his stories without ever getting too boring. This one's the best of the bunch, with the mystery of "Briss" unfolding slowly. If you ever wonder how Corey got all his paperwork done when he was so busy wandering after Lassie, we meet his secretary Billie Sanderson here. Frazee wrote other Whitman adaptations, including for The High Chaparral and Bonanza, and was a prolific author of Westerns. For his work on the Lassie novels, Frazee received the "Lassie Forest Ranger Conservation Award."


Lassie and the Secret of the Smelter's Cave
Steve Frazee
Cover for Lassie and the Secret of the Smelter's Cave
While Corey plays diplomat—and then detective when he turns up some mysterious secrets—as he surveys disputed property (the Forest Service is planning to open up a forest area for logging and camping, but the neighboring landowners, including an imperious senator with impressive political connections, don't want their privacy disturbed), Lassie and two local boys, Billy Kent and Pete Sandoval, search for the legendary Don Madrid, a Spanish smelter's cave from the 18th century that's reputed to still hold gold.

A story that definitely needs more action and less talking, although the political infighting isn't as intrusive as it might have been. The story includes a very positive Hispanic character, Pete's eloquent grandfather who was originally in favor of selling the property that the Forest Service wants and has suddenly changed his mind, quite a rarity in the late 60s.

A nice review of this book.


Lassie: Lost in the Snow
Steve Frazee
Cover for Lassie: Lost in the Snow
Scott Turner and Lassie visit the Wapiti National Forest, where they investigate the intrusion and damage the new sport of snowmobiling is causing in the area. Scott, a novice to the sport, doesn't want to clamp down on snowmobilers, but he finds their advent has caused animal deaths, winter forest fires, burglaries, and poaching in this once peaceful area. The obligatory kids in this outing are hot-dogging snowmobiling twins Bob and Ted Pettigrew (accompanied by their husky Chinook); it is Ted who turns the tide for safety measures when he is trapped in an avalanche.

A nice change of pace on Lassie novel locations, this one could have done with a little less lecturing about the dangers of winter sports, especially snowmobiling and how to manage people who use them unwisely.


Lassie: Trouble at Panter's Lake
Steve Frazee
Cover for Lassie: Trouble at Panter's Lake
Two boys, Tom Dennison and Kevin Adkins, their cocker spaniel Dude, and two neighborhood "hippies" named Bill and Chan find Lassie dehydrated and dying from snakebite after her escape from a junkyard, where she was trapped by a spar of metal for days without food or water. After she recovers, she helps the two boys and "those hippie kids"—whom the neighborhood occupants distrust—save Panter's Lake, a veritable wildlife sanctuary, from being bulldozed and turned into an exclusive housing development and shopping center.

The writers who did the "Lassie on her own" TV adventures could have taken a leaf of advice from this book; it stays "relevant" without being downright boring, although the "hippie" subplot really dates it. Did you guess Chan's secret? It was rather typical of the time.

Big Little Books
Lassie: Adventure in Alaska
George S. Elrick
Cover for Lassie: Adventure in Alaska
While surveying Alaskan sites for new wilderness recreation and park areas, Corey is injured after an earthquake; the earth tremor also exposes a mammoth's body. But the thawing meat forms a threat to the incapacitated ranger when it starts attracting predators, including a vicious wolverine who has been stalking the ranger and the collie from the start.

When Whitman Books revived the old "Big Little Books" in the late sixties, one of the first issued was this miniature Lassie novel. All Big Little Books followed a formula of a 4 inch by 5 inch format with an illustration every other page. Early ones were "hardcovered" in thin cardboard, the later books issued in paperback; plus early illos were in full color, later ones had black-and-white sketches.

More about Big Little Books.


Lassie and the Shabby Sheik
George S. Elrick
Cover for Lassie and the Shabby Sheik
It's Lassie versus sandstorms, camels, and a untrustworthy outback outlaw nicknamed "the Shabby Sheik" when she and Corey visit Heartbreak Ranch—but the location is not anywhere in the Mideast! Instead ranger and collie meet kangaroos, koalas, and the remenants of the Camel Patrol while in the wilds of the Australian bush country for three months investigating the local hardwood trees and giving advice in constructing flash flood barriers.

Lassie does the Crocodile Dundee thing long before Paul Hogan was a glimmer in any moviemaker's eye. Unfortunately the aborigine bits are a bit patronizing today.


Lassie: Old One Eye
George S. Elrick
Cover for Lassie: Old One Eye
Lassie and Ranger Bob Carlson (who?) are in Washington's Cascade Mountains with local resident Frank Savage, a professor investigating the possible existance of the Sasquatch, and his small twin sons Jimmy and Johnny when trouble strikes: the boys wander away and are stalked by a renegade bear.

One wonders why "Ranger Bob" in this novel was not Bob Ericson of the television series, although by the time this book was published, Lassie was no longer with the Forest Service. This is one of the second generation of "Big Little Books," and the color illos and hard covers are much missed, and the mischief of the twins are absolutely too precious for words.

Other Lassie Books

I planned to put only the Whitman novels and Big Little Books on this page, but so many people have asked or told me about other Lassie books that I thought I'd make a "short list" of them in alphabetical order, plus two "series" at the very end.


Lassie: A Christmas Story

Lassie: A Christmas Story

In conjunction with the Cinar Lassie series, a Lassie children's book by Earl Hamner Jr (The Waltons) and Don Sipes was released in 1997, relating the collie's involvement in the Christmas celebration. The story is an unusual mixture of the 1997 series and the classic farm episodes: Although Timmy and Lassie are living in Hudson Falls, Vermont, as in the new series, and Timmy's mom is a veterinarian, Timmy's mom is Ruth Martin, not Karen Cabot as in the new series, and the illustrations of Timmy and Ruth look exactly like Jon Provost and June Lockhart (Lassie looks like "Howard," the eighth generation dog who did the first season). Ruth's old friend from school is neither Ethan Bennett as in the new series nor someone named Paul, but a man named Andrew, and a character not in either series, Grandpa Martin, appears. This is a beautifully illustrated storybook, and the accompanying text concentrates on the real meaning of Christmas rather than Santa Claus, toys, and receiving physical gifts.


          Back to Main Page

tricolor divider

Visit our television sites       Flying Dreams Domain