KidPages: An Unfortunate Comparison

Aug 3, 2012

Remember a few weeks ago when I featured the old favorite Fortunately on this blog? Here's the cover if you need a visual reminder to spark your memory:

Well, this week, our library haul included a book called Fortunately, Unfortunately by Michael Foreman, and it bore a striking, almost disturbing, resemblance to the 1961 classic. I say "disturbing" simply because I honestly can't believe you can publish a book that is so blatantly similar to another one and not give some kind of credit or acknowledgement to the original author. No "A modern twist on the classic tale" or "Inspired by Remy Charlip's Fortunately." No, from the looks of it, it was all Michael Foreman's original idea, but I'm not buying it...

The most glaring similarity is that it follows the same "Fortunately, __________ happened, Unfortunately, ___________happened" pattern used in Remy Charlip's story. The progression of events is also somewhat parallel, beginning with average events (a birthday party and cross-country trip in Charlip's, sunshine and rain in Foreman's) and moving to more and more fantastical and unbelievable happenings (sharks and tigers in Charlip's, dinosaurs and aliens in Foreman's). Also, both books end with the main characters arriving (rather miraculously) at their originally-planned-for destinations.

If you remember, I wasn't crazy about Charlip's illustrations...old schoolish, but boring (although I did like the alternation between color and black/white). Foreman's illustrations are very different...the one true deviation from the original story; they are colorful and more detailed, but, meh, I have nothing else to say about them.

But where Charlip's story is charming and funny, Foreman's is weird and ridiculous. Honestly, even if I wasn't comparing it with Charlip's, I don't think I would have liked it. There are too many Fortunately/Unfortunately scenarios, so the book feels endless. And the part with the aliens is just too much. So strange. I had to wonder if he included them in an attempt to separate his story from Charlip's (or if maybe he was trying to appeal to a new generation of boys?).

Obviously, authors are inspired not only by each other but by life events, the media, and people they know. There will always be spin-offs and adaptations and modern re-tellings. But where is the line between "inspiration" and "plagiarism"? This book goes too far in the direction of shameless copying for my taste.

Perhaps I'd be more forgiving if there was some mention of Remy Charlip, but when not a word is said in his direction, well, it kind of makes me despise the new book.


  1. I had just checked these books out last month and had the same thought! I was looking for Fortunately and both came up so I decided to check out the newer one too. Definitely too long! If they're going to copy it they could at least have amazing pictures. Kind of reminds me of how many times the Shop around the corner has been redone.

  2. Thank you for this article. I was a bit confused because I had first seen Foreman's and then saw the name Charlip later. I finally did a search to see who was who...and came across your comparison. Maybe the copyright ran out on the original book? I agree with all you said, esp. that there should have been some sort of acknowledgement or "thank you" to Charlip. This story theme, by the way, is a great writing project for kids around 2-4th grades!


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