Last month Barbara Saltzman flew east to introduce the latest product of her late son's imagination, the Jester doll, with detachable Pharley, the Jester's friend.
As Saltzman explains, the family had wanted to create a doll since the beginning of their quest to ensure that David Saltzman's book, "The Jester Has Lost His Jingle," reached the young readers for whom he created it, during his terminal bout with Hodgkin's disease.
"Someone had had a doll made for David, and we saw how it buoyed his spirits," she recalls. The Saltzmans searched long and hard for an appropriate designer, and finally found the local Dollmakers of Monrovia, who designed the prototype.
"We wanted to make it very child friendly and playable," Saltzman says of the doll, which she compares to a soft sculpture. The 21-inch figure with its sidekick should be in bookstores and toy stores (including FAO Schwarz) in time for holiday gift-giving.
Saltzman points out that David's brother Michael drew the faces of the Jester and Pharley. (Michael is a former executive producer of "Murphy Brown," who is now developing sitcoms for NBC).
The doll sells for $32, or $45 packaged with a copy of David's book.
Saltzman is determined that "The Jester Has Lost His Jingle" will not suffer the fate of most books, which appear on store shelves only to disappear as quickly as snowflakes. "This is a book that is going to be in print forever," she says.
The Saltzmans have been approached about doing an animated version of the book as well as a feature film on David's life.
Since retiring from The Times earlier this year, Saltzman works on the Jester project full time. She says she is heartened by the response of adults and children alike to her son's optimistic book.
She cites a recent e-mail message from an adult admirer who wrote: "The ancient Norse said that a man does not die so long as someone remembers him. I think David will live for a long time."