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The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch Hardcover – February 1, 2012
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From the Author
My passion for cereal inspired me to launch this project, but you don't have to be a cereal lover to enjoy The Great American Cereal Book. I was thrilled to find a publisher that shared my vision.
Cereal is fun. Eating cereal is fun. Reading cereal boxes is fun. Cereal spokescharacters are fun. Not too many morose thoughts run through one's mind when Sonny the Cuckoo Bird is proclaiming, "I'm Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!" I tried to express that sense of fun on every page and Harry Abrams followed suit. The 350 images of cereal boxes, ads and memorabilia that pepper the pages of this book make it colorful and, of course, fun.
But if not for co-author Topher Ellis and heaps of information provided by the cereal companies, this book would never have become a reality. Thanks to everyone!
And to everyone out there ... enjoy!
About the Author
Marty Gitlin is a freelance writer and the author of more than 40 books. He has won many awards for his writing, including first place for General Excellence in Journalism from the Associated Press. Gitlin lives with his wife and three children in Cleveland, Ohio. Topher Ellis is a cereal expert and editor of the cereal newsletter the Boxtop, the longest continuously running publication dedicated to breakfast cereal. He lives in Matthews, North Carolina.
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On the first level is the book you put out to look like a cultured fancy pants. You really don't like the book, and the people who come to your home really don't like it either, but they go through the motions of leafing through it, as a social custom more than anything. This is the level in which you find your Frank Lloyd Wright retrospectives and your selected Georgia O'Keefe female parts flowers.
On the second level is the book that anyone will have a passing interest in. The book caught your eye in the bookstore; you flipped a few pages, found it interesting enough, and brought it home. Anyone who comes over can browse it contentedly. This level is where we find the brightly colored rainforests photography collections and various other natural phenomena.
But on the third and highest level is the book that is so great, not only will people gravitate toward it excitedly as soon as they put butt to cushion, but will shriek with joy more than once throughout your chitchatty dinner party preamble. This is the kind of book that people will connect with on a personal level. Firmly situated on level three is where you will find The Great American Cereal Book.
This tome of the most American of breakfast products charts the rise, and occasional falls, of the American cereal industry from its humble beginnings at a sanitarium in New York in the late 1800s. It is the passion product of authors Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis, 15 years in the making.
Chock-full of facty goodness, there is something delightful on every page. Hundreds of cereals are broken down and catalogued meticulously. Included in the cereal bios are facts about the manufacturers, debut and discontinuation dates, advertising mascots, and any other interesting marbits the compilers could dig up.
The artistry of cereal box design is pushed to the forefront as well, with fantastic full page photos of boxes old and new. Ok so maybe with WWF Superstars cereal, artistry might not be the exact word. But you know what I mean.
Peppered throughout the book are asides which explore topics more in-depth such as Cap'n Crunch's life story (It's way more detailed then you might think) or the origin of the aforementioned "marbit," those delightfully dry marshmallows originally found in Lucky Charms.
All of the classics are here (Cheerios, Kaboom, Corn Flakes, Rice Crispies) as well as the strike-while-the iron-is-hot ephemera of pop culture (C-3PO's, Bill and Ted's Excellent Cereal, Urkel-O's, Nintendo Cereal System). Indeed, something for everybody.
I cannot recommend The Great American Cereal Book highly enough. It is an epically researched and wonderfully fun collection that every leftover-milk-slurping American should own.
Plunk it on your coffee table, sit back, and enjoy the squeals of delight and nostalgic conversing that is sure to follow. You might also want to stock up on some Frankenberry just in case.
What I liked about the book were the pack shots presented as cutouts, frequently page size. Several pages feature lists and printed ephemera from past decades. It's worth saying that only cereals made by General Mills, Kellogg's, Nabisco, Nestle, Post, Quaker Oats and Ralston are included but this surely must be most of the market.
Cereals must be a hard market to crack considering the number of failed brands. What chance would anyone give these of succeeding: Ooobopperoos (Nabisco 1972) Grins & Smiles & Giggles & Laughs (Ralston 1975) Spider-Man (Ralston 1995) Spider-Man (Kellogg's 202) Spider-Man 3 (General Mills 2007) well, they disappeared in no time. The chapter dealing with 1981 to 2010 reveals that the companies will clutch at anything, especially entertainment and celebrities to launch a new brand. Page 290 has a pack shot of HULK Limited Edition Cereal from 2003 to tie in with the Universal movie. Despite the gone in a flash brands others just keep on pouring. A hundred years or older are Nabisco Shredded Wheat, Grape-nuts, Puffed Wheat and Corn Flakes. Eighty years or older are All-bran, Post 40% Bran Flakes, Wheaties and Rice Krispies. Even Trix and Special K have been here for over fifty years.
Overall a fun read in a very nicely presented book, especially the dozens of pack shots. A very minor criticism is that the paper is rather thick preventing the book from being opened flat