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Reviews of vintage children's books both out-of-print and in-print.
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one, two, where's my shoeTomi Ungerer ~ Harper & Row, 1964new edition from Phaidon
, out in September
I finally got around to watching the Tomi Ungerer biopic, Far Out Isn't Far Enough
, and it has totally inspired me to see if I can make my Ungerer collection run a little deeper. Been seeking out titles on eBay and the like and came across this sweet little semi-wordless book that only has two lines of text, one on the first page and one on the last.
I was delighted to see that Phaidon is reissuing it next month.
Each spread has the image of a shoe hidden creatively within it.
Brilliant but simple images and colors for the earliest Tomi readers.
If you haven't already, check out my interview with Tomi last year
Read along on Facebook
and Graphic Novels My Kid Loves
To celebrate the publication of Zack Rock
's first children's book, Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum
, I put together a short Q&A to find out a little more about the man behind the bulldog.
After following his fledgling career for five years, this past spring I was finally lucky enough to meet Zack in person, on the night before he was moving from Seattle to Berlin. Moving not because he had a job in Germany. Not because he was chasing a girl or following a friend. He was moving just for the hell of it. And he was taking his cat.
How bad ass is that?
That night I found out that not only is Zack talented, but he's also curious, brave, totally neurotic, and kind of an all around virtuous guy. And he has a tremendous heart. But I didn't need to meet him to know that. You can tell from his drawings that he cares about the world and sees it with a sense of wonder very few of us are able to hold onto as adults.
Anywho, I won't brag anymore as I've done that plenty here
, and here
. Without further blah blah, meet the most awesome of the awesome, Zack Rock
What sort of children's books did you love as a child?ZACK:
If it featured cats, I was hooked. Nicola Bayley's Copycats
series and Ursula Le Guin Catwings
were favorites, and I had enough Garfield
and Calvin and Hobbes
annuals to dam a river. In fact, I ended up reading more comics than picture books, especially Mad Magazine
. Their paperback collections from the 60s and 70s formed a large portion of my literary sustenance throughout the late 80s. The significance of the Berlin Wall falling may have eluded me, but no one in my second grade class had a larger repertoire of Spiro Agnew jokes.VKBMKL:
When did you begin to draw as a child? Any inspirations non-book or people-wise that brought you to this line of work?ZACK:
A time when I wasn't drawing is beyond my memory's reach. Even in elementary school, I kept a pad and pencil at the ready in case some muse needed a sketch of hot dog riding a skateboard STAT. My binders were filled with 17% studious notetaking, 81% drawings, and 2% Stüssy logos. So all my career aspirations as a child leaned heavily on drawing and storytelling.VKBMKL:
I love the opening line of Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum
. "Everything has a story." Is that a concept that you've mulled over for a while?ZACK:
Humans are meaning-making machines, and the way we endow people, things and ideas with meaning is by fitting them into stories we tell ourselves about them. We have Grand Narratives for how the whole universe works, and less grand narratives for smaller things, but we always have narratives. They’re rather invaluable for tidying up reality. However, these stories can also be limiting. The only thing humans are better at than making stories about the world is taking those stories for granted, especially as we get older and the stories turn stony.
If we come across an object or idea that falls outside our narratives, there’s a tendency to reject it or ignore it instead of exploring it. So the book suggests looking deeper into things we take for granted (including what we tell ourselves about ourselves), and seeing if maybe that’s not the whole story. (Love this Sky Squeaker watercolor from Zack's youth!)VKBMKL:
How did you come up with the wonderful things that lines the walls of the curio shop? Any Easter eggs?ZACK:
Honestly, I stared at a blank wall and imagined REAL HARD. My main goal was to create curios that implied a story without leading the reader to one particular interpretation. Though one of the joys in creating this book was thinking up an unusual item, like a flute made from a leek, and discovering someone already created it in real life
. That being said, the collections at certain museums inspired a lot of the artifacts: Pollack's Toy Museum
and the Horniman
museums in London; and San Francisco’s Musee Mecanique
for instance. And towards the end of the book, I just began including items related to my personal interests: Søren Kierkegaard
’s face in the slice of toast, the hat and apple from Magritte
’s “Son of Man,” etc. I knew I had exhausted my imagination when I painted a strand of Blue Ivy descending from a giant bottle of Beyoncé’s perfume.VBKMKL:
How did you decide on a bulldog and who did you use as a model?ZACK:
I wanted my protagonist to be instantly sympathetic and unassuming. One look into an old English Bulldog’s sad sack eyes is enough to for the pity to well up in you, and if said bulldog is half blind, walking with a cane and wearing a stuffy suit, you’d likely not suspect he was anything other than an old museum custodian, a curio amongst curios. Unfortunately I didn't have a friendly bulldog on hand to sketch. Had to rely on the Google Image Search Modeling Agency.VKBMKL:
The book is part Indiana Jones
part Tyger Voyage
. Were you obsessed with the idea of adventure as a child?ZACK:
I was/am obsessed with the idea of elsewhere, that a road away was whole other world I couldn't even begin to fathom, with its own rituals, beliefs, traditions, stories. And beyond that place something more unfathomable, and beyond that, and that. It’s less a desire for adventure, more a hope to have my imagination bested.VKBMKL:
Reoccurring theme of the Phoenix in Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum
The Phoenix is a mythological bird that is consumed by fire and is reborn from its own ashes. As Homer Henry Hudson experiences a similar rebirth in the book, I thought the symbol was appropriate. But it wasn’t supposed to be reoccurring! I painted both scenes where the Phoenix is namedropped months apart, and totally forgot the credit card Homer uses at the restaurant had had “Phoenix” written on it just like the ship does at the end. I justify the accident to myself by saying the Phoenix Credit Card lets him earn travel miles he can redeem on a future voyage aboard the Phoenix line of cruise ships.VKBMKL:
I love how my turbaned tiger (from my banner) shows up. What's his story?ZACK:
I don’t know yet! But I’m hoping to find out some day!VKBMKL:
And the rabbit jewel prize from Masquerade
!?! Yay!!!! Elaborate!ZACK:
Good eye! It’s one last shout out to a picture book legend in the book. I had Lisbeth Zwerger
, Shaun Tan
, and Maurice Sendak
in the sushi restaurant, and Kit Williams
’ prize fit in perfectly in the museum.VKBMKL:
What are you working on now?ZACK:
My next title is yet another book about the power of stories, evidently I can’t get enough of the topic. In fact, I realized last week the protagonist—an accounting pig who dreams of being an acrobat—is basically saved by a bookstore.
Franklyn M. Branley ~ Don Madden ~ Thomas Y. Crowell, 1988
Wanted to drop in today to talk about Don Madden. Whenever I stumble across one of his books in this house, it's almost as if I have never seen it before. Each one is so vibrant and alive with color, each read is like seeing it for the first time. His books never fail to excite me, and more and more I am thinking he might be one of my fave 70s/80s illustrators. I can't find much on him except this from here. "Born October 24, 1927 in Cleveland, Ohio and educated at The Philadelphia Museum School, now the Philadelphia College of Art, Madden illustrated magazines, advertising, cartoons as well as children’s books."
And scans of his work for Playboy pop up here and there, but sadly keep getting blocked by my childproof fire wall... click here
and hopefully you won't be so unlucky.
This site touts a OMG-how-awesome-would-this-be-if-it-is-still-moving-forward movie version
of The Wartville Wizard
(Don's most famous book) which, according to them, was the first children's book printing entirely in full color when it was released in 1986.
He's definitely a guy I'd like to track down and interview if he's still with us, but until that day, I'll share this little ditty from the gotta-love-um This Is a Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science Book
At night you can see a lot of stars because the sky is dark. You can also see a star in daytime, when the sky is bright. It is the sun. The sun is our daytime star. It is also the star nearest to us.
Yes. The star nearest to us, even though it is 93,000,000 miles away. Yet is it so hot and bright that it is the thing that makes life on earth possible. Sun helps plants and animals grow, and so on and so forth. The point of this book isn't really the few facts it is teaching a kid about our solar friend, but the fabulous illustrations that bring those facts to life.
I have a very secret dream of having a house wallpapered in giant-sized Don Madden illustrations, but until then, I have his books full of technicolor beauty to remind me every now and again of the amazing awesomeness of pen and ink.
Also by:Is There Life in Outer Space?The Daddy BookOxygen Keeps You AliveThe Wartville Wizard
Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum
Zack Rock ~ Creative Editions, 2014
I know this is a "new" book (so new you can't even get it until next month), but hear me out first...
I can't remember what post Zack Rock first commented on on this blog, but that's how I met him. One click on his website and one look at his illustrations and it was instant love. Perhaps it was the fact that he drew amazing birds. (You long time readers know that is one of my son's favorite things!) Perhaps it was the sheer amount of magical realism and fabulous detail in his work. Maybe it was the intellectual whimsy and humor he displays in each and every one of his drawings. Who knows... but whatever it was, it kept me coming back again and again to peruse his watercolors and follow the funny cat stories on his blog. I got him to paint a picture of my son astride a peregrine falcon, and eventually asked him to paint the banner you see up top.
Zack's a huge talent, a perfect gentleman, and a true artist.
I happily second that emotion.
ZACK ROCK. It isn't hard to remember, and it's a name that won't easily be forgotten. Expect great things from this guy. And now, without further blah blah...
"Everything has a story. Take the Homer Henry Hudson Curio Museum. Looks like an old schoolhouse. And it did, once, serve the children of Bolshoi, four towns over. The Columbus Day Twisters of '67 sprang the schoolhouse skyward, where it leaped and pirouetted like a ballerina before landing here, upright, its dignified demeanor intact. The museum houses -- to quote one recklessly alliterative reviewer -- 'a colossal collection of curios, discovered, described, and displayed by that eccentric explorer extraordinaire: Homer Henry Hudson'."
Part Indiana Jones... part The Tyger Voyage
, the story follows an exploring (though semi-retired) bulldog and his collection of all things curious, gathered from all the most exotic locations in the most remote and mysterious corners of the world.
"Every thing has a story: the dullest clam may hold the brightest pearl."
Highlighting some of his favorites from the collection... a radial tide diviner acquired from the Ionian Sea... a Temple Montepaz choir finch from the Andes Mountain Range... each with a personal note highlighting details from the acquisition.
"The Manneken Mort of King Ingmar: Figure composed of hundreds of thin fabric threads. When a Nottlander passes away, their friends and family gather to tell stories about them. For each story, a bright new band is woven into the figure."
It is through these remembrances that the bulldog convinces himself that it is time again to hit the road to find out.... that he still has more stories in him. Goodness. Each picture has a ton of hidden treasures.
(Can you spy the prize from my favorite children's treasure book Masquerade... see it? The rabbit on the wall behind the couple?!)
And each glimpse of the bulldog's expressive eyes (one blue and one brown) have you wishing you could hop on that steam cruiser and set sail for adventure with this daredevil doggie.
This is THE book I will be giving for the holidays. Not to be missed! Stay tuned in the coming days for a Q&A with Zack and a giveaway!
I am giving Henry Homer the ultimate endorsement of........... 100,000,000,000,000,000 thumbs, five pinkies, two index fingers, and a pointer finger way way UP!
Congrats Zack! I sincerely can't wait to see what's next. Your momma must be so so proud!
The beautiful artist Madeleine Gekiere took her own life today. I'm not sure of all the details but it seems she was ailing and thought it was time to go. As you hardcore readers know, I was lucky enough to interview her in 2012 about her illustration work in children's books, especially the first edition of Ray Bradbury's Switch On the Night. What an incredible spirit and artist.
Godspeed dear woman.
My original interview with her is here.
Wow. You guys are awesome! Only four of the 20 left. My son and I are having a great time sorting packages and deciding who gets what. I'll be mailing them out before the weekend.
In case you missed it this morning, I am offering up, for the first time EVER, a $20 vintage children's book grab bag in my Etsy shop. Each package will include at least 4 to 5 vintage books, and the $20 includes shipping and packaging, and will hold guaranteed awesome stuff and maybe a surprise here and there. Way, way, way over a $20 value. The suspenseful thrill alone is world hundreds!
Click here to join in the fun. THERE'S ONLY FOUR LEFT!
Oh and PS, I know I should retire this blog, but there are still so many things I want to share. I'll find the time eventually! Until then, expect me every now and again.
Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter, Etsy and Graphic Novels My Kid Loves.
Hello all. I know I still have some die-hard fans out there. We've been doing well, and while we still have time for picture books, we are fully immersed in other things like The Giver, Return of Zita the Space Girl,
and Foxtrot comics
. That said, we just finished up a big bookshelf purge... and when I say purge, I mean purge. We are getting rid of almost all of our picture books except for the very favorites.
That said, I am offering up, for the first time EVER, a $20 vintage children's book grab bag
in my Etsy shop
. Each package will include at least 4 to 5 vintage books (maybe more if I feel like getting the stuff out) that are super awesome. The $20 includes shipping and packaging, and will hold guaranteed awesome stuff and maybe a surprise here and there. Way, way, way over a $20 value. The suspenseful thrill alone is world hundreds! I thought this might be a fun way to purge some of our faves and make a little summer camp money on the side.
But act fast I am only going to be selling 20
of these $20 grab bags and the sale only lasts until 4pm CT THIS Friday.
Leave a note when you purchase and maybe I can personalize somewhat for age and taste.
I promise the stuff inside will be awesome and way worth the Jackson.
Hope you can join in the fun. Click here
to do so.
Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter, Etsy and Graphic Novels My Kid Loves.
This post is for you locals out there... Last year, something amazing happened. San Antonio got its own book festival. And not just a little, puny, insignificant book festival. A real live, highly organized, amazingly entertaining one. Headed up Katy Flato (the most efficient organizer and one of the most generous people I know) and the San Antonio Public Library Foundation (yup, San Antonio has a private charitable organization that augments our public library system's budget... raising more that 35 million dollars in the past three decades), year two is turning out to be even more fun with more things to do for anyone and everyone who loves the written word. And its all FREE!
The San Antonio Book Festival takes over our bright red and amazing Central Library, the lovely Southwest School of Art, and the street in between on Saturday, April 5 for book signings, conversation, lectures, readings, and activities for kids. This all day event features food trucks, live music, and more books and writers than you can possibly fathom (or at least fit into two city blocks). Poetry. Fiction. Nonfiction. It has it all!
Everyone's favorite morning show veteran Jane Pauley is headlining and National Book Award winner Barry Lopez (one of our authors) is just one of more than 90 talents who will participate in this incredible display of literary prowess. The lineup of authors is stellar. I'm particularly stoked about Philip Meyer, the author of the epic Texas novel, The Son, who will be in conversation with Michael Fisher, the VP of Faculty and Student Affairs at Trinity University and head of editorial board where I work.
This festival is exactly why San Antonio has been getting a good wrap as an amazing place to live, because we support the literary arts and come out full force when people create awesome things. The day is being capped off this year by the debut of San Antonio's Literary Death Match, a show described by the Los Angeles Times as the “most entertaining reading series ever.” The smack down takes place at The Charline McCombs Empire Theatre and is the only part of the festival that you actually need a ticket for, available here.
If you make it out, (which if you live in San Antonio you should because if you don't you are totally lame, and I mean TOTALLY lame), be sure to stop by and say hi at the Trinity University Press booth, where I'll be shilling our wares and talking about books all day, or until my voice gives out. A special treat for all you vintage book lovers. A trip to Central Library is not complete without a visit to the basement for a shopping spree at the BookCellar, a used book shop that sells record LPs,
withdrawn library books, new and used reads, and more. All run by volunteers and open every day, year round. The kids section is HUGE, and I spent many an hour there back during my stay-at-home mommy years. Ahhhh, memories of all the books I discovered down there. (I bought my first James Flora there!)
Anyway, be there or be totally square.
Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter, Etsy and Graphic Novels My Kid Loves.
Crash Bang BoomPeter Spier ~ Doubleday and Co., 1972
It's been a great spring break here in Texas. A visit with my sister. The premiere of the incredible Cosmos series. (If you aren't watching this with your kids, they are really missing out.) Beautiful weather... even though every time it seems like spring is here, old mother climate change has other plans. On this bright and beautiful nearly spring day, I just thought I'd peek in and share with you another gem by one of my all time faves, Peter Spier.
Similar in theme to Goggle Growl Grunt!
, Crash! Bang! Boom!
is a visual extravaganza of sound. BLUBBA-BLUBBA-BLUB... the sound a glass of liquid makes when a child blows into it through a straw. The RAT TAT TAT TAT TAT of a stick taping along a picket fence. The WHOOOOOOOOO of a tornado.
Or more dated sounds like the CRRRUNCH of an ice tray makes. The SCREEEEEETCH chalk makes on a black board. The hacking cough made my Daddy (UGH-UGH-UGH) when he smokes that awful pipe. The fake death by popgun, OH! AH! The FUDDA-FUDDA-FUDDA-FUDDA of a classroom reel-to-reel. It's a time machine of a good time, all illustrated with Spier's delectably detailed drawings. Never gets old...
Also by:The Fox Went Out On a Chilly EveningThe Star-Spangled BannerNoah's ArkPeter Spier's ChristmasGobble Growl GruntRainBored -- Nothing To Do!Peter Spier's Little Bible StorybooksOh, Were They Ever Happy!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------- Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter, Etsy and Graphic Novels My Kid Loves.
In an effort to visit this spot at least once a week, I want to share with you one of my favorite library finds. This past Thanksgiving, I contemplated whether or not my eight-year-old son was ready to partake in the listening of "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (commonly called "Alice's Restaurant"), a Streetman family tradition since the beginning of time. I forgot to actually get the old record player cranked up, but regardless, seeing as I found this fabulous semi-nonfiction book in the children's section of the library where I work, the decision has been made. He's definitely ready!
As most of you kids born to the baby boomer generation know "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" is a song/ spoken word extravaganza written by Arlo Guthrie (son of famed folk singer Woody and a hippy-era legend in his own right) that was eventually made into a full length feature film staring Arlo himself. The story told within the song is loosely based on true events that happened to Arlo surrounding a Thanksgiving feast at his friend Alice's church/house in 1965 and involves a rather complicated case of arrest due to littering.
This song is called "Alice's Restaurant." It's about Alice, and the restaurant, but "Alice's Restaurant" is not the name of the restaurant, that's just the name of the song. That's why I call the song "Alice's Restaurant."
For those of you who have never heard the song before, it is freaking HILARIOUS and smartly political. Radio stations used to play the full 19 minute track every Thanksgiving when I was little (do they still do that?), so it was always a tradition in my house to sing along and recite as many of the lines as you could remember. It wasn't until high school that my sisters and I scored our own LP version of it and could listen whenever we wanted. (The B-side of which carries one on my all-time favorite songs ever, "The Motorcycle Song". Look it up. Best three minutes of your life.)
The basic premise is that Arlo and his buddy go visit Alice for Thanksgiving and arrive at her house (which is an old church) only to find that Alice has a habit of letting the garbage pile up. In a friendly gesture, the two load the "half-a-ton" of garbage into their "red VW microbus with the shovels and rakes and implements of destruction" on top and take it to the dump only to discover that the dump is closed on Thanksgiving.
We'd never heard of a dump closed on Thanksgiving before, and with tears in our eyes, we drove off into the sunset lookin' for another place to put the garbage. We didn't find one 'til we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road was a fifteen-foot cliff, and at the bottom of the cliff was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile was better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up, we decided to throw ours down. This unfortunate event leads to an arrest and turns into one of the greatest songs sung by anyone, ever. It is a story about friendship. Kinda. More really about the Vietnam draft. It is anti-war and pro-people. It stars the unforgettable Officer Obie and a cast of other characters that entertain, educate, and delight.
This song is one of those things in the world that reminds you how awesome people can be.
So let's just say that I was beyond the moon psyched to discover a book version of this ditty existed. I couldn't find anything on the illustrator (unless he is or was related to one of the greatest toy designers OF ALL TIME... Lite Bright, Mouse Trap, Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots and THE INCH WORM? Yes? No? Anyone? Anyone?) Regardless of who he was, the simple black and yellow illustrations are perfect for the tale. Whimsical and completely silly in a way over the top way.
Anywho... the existence of this book is way, way, way super cool in my book. If for some reason you've never heard of "Alice's Restaurant" (and aren't particularly prissy), take a seat on the "group W bench" and listen up and.... you're welcome.
Hello kids. Feels weird and strange to have been away from the interwebs for so long. (Though you can always visit me daily on Instagram if you just ask.) Happy new year and all that. I've been posting some over on my other blog
, but mainly I've been working and taking care of family. Just wanted to share a little yellowed paperback that's been getting some love around these parts.
One day Gia and her friends were on their way to the circus......when they found an old dog with a hurt paw."Go on without me," said Gia. "I'll stay with this poor old dog."Ever so carefully, Gia took the dog home and bandaged his paw."Thanks," said the dog, and gave Gia a hundred dollars.
Can you guess what she does with it?
Also by:MacGoose's GroceryHere Comes the Cat!Monkey Face
Sorry I missed Friday guys! Too much going on. Even still... I am here now with the winners of the truncated four days of the Great Holiday Give!
The winner of the day four prize of the New York Review Children's Collection two-fer is Sy Pie.
The winner of the day three prize of The World is Round is Fierce Nauga.
The winner of the day two prize of the Cranberryport books is Mary Making.
The winner of the day one prize of Little Boy Brown is Sasha Dewitt.
To make up for my lack of a give on Friday, I have selected another winner at random from the fours days of entries to win a vintage surprise package from my personal collection. The winner of that secret bit of awesome is... Andrea!
Congrats winners. Please send me your mailing address to webe(at)soon(dot)com, and I will get your prizes out ASAP! Happy Hanukkah and Happy Thanksgiving all!
Day four of the Great Holiday Give is here and we have two delightful reprints up for grabs, donated by the incomparable New York Review Children's Collection
. Seriously, you could just buy off their list and be done with the holidays. But I digress! So, who didn't love Pat the Bunny
as a child? Well, it seems that the author Dorothy Kunhardt did a slew of other books including the two we are going to give away here! Now Open the Box
, (later re-illustrated by P.J. Miller and published as Little Peewee
) and Junket is Nice,
packaged up in the red-spined, signature look that makes NYRCC so classy and glam!
To win your very own brand spanking new copies of these two superfab books
, simply comment on this post before midnight CT on Sunday, November 24
. A winner for this give (and the other four daily gives) will be selected at random and the winners will be announced Monday the 25th.
Make sure you check back on Monday's post to find out if you're a winner!Day One Great Holiday Give: Little Boy BrownDay Two Great Holiday Give: Cranberryport BooksDay Three Great Holiday Give: The World Is Round
Happy Thursday kids!
Today's give is the brand new edition of The World is Round
by Gertrude Stein, illustrated by Clement Hurd, a book that was first brought to my attention years ago by my favorite blogger, Ariel Winter
. In this 75th anniversary edition (that is pretty hefty and swank, BTW), Harper Design includes a foreword by Thacher Hurd (Clement's son) and an afterword by Edith Thacher Hurd (children's book author and Clement's wife). Very nice edition of a fabulous book.
To win your very own brand spanking new copy of this, the only children's book by a literary legend
, simply comment on this post before midnight CT on Sunday, November 24
. A winner for this give (and the other four daily gives) will be selected at random and the winners will be announced Monday the 25th.
Make sure you check back on Monday's post to find out if you're a winner!Day One Great Holiday Give: Little Boy BrownDay Two Great Holiday Give: Cranberryport BooksDay Four Great Holiday Give: New York Review Children's Collection Two-fer
Happy humpday all!
The always awesome Purple House Press is offering up the next selection in the Great Holiday Give. Today's winner will receive all three titles of the recently reprinted and much-beloved Cranberryport series by Harry and Wende Devlin: Cranberry Christmas, Cranberry Thanksgiving, and Cranberry Halloween. This couple are also the authors of two of my all time favorite children's books from my childhood, How Fletcher Was Hatched and Old Black Witch.
So.... to win your very own brand spanking new copies of these totally timeless holiday favorites
, simply comment on this post before midnight CT on Sunday, November 24
. A winner for this give (and the other four daily gives) will be selected at random and the winners will be announced a week from today, Monday the 25th. Make sure you check back on Monday's post to find out if you're a winner!Day One Great Holiday Give: Little Boy BrownDay Three Great Holiday Give: The World is RoundDay Four Great Holiday Give: New York Review Children's Collection Two-fer
Happy Tuesday all!
Welcome one and all to the annual Great Holiday Give here at VKBMKLs. A giveaway for each day this week, so be sure and come back four more times. I've selected a few of my favorite vintage reprint titles for this year and a few publishers were kind enough to humor me with some donations. Plus, on Friday I have an extra surprise or two up my sleeve, so don't miss out! I've haven't been around as much lately meaning that I'm guessing there will be fewer entries than in past years, so be sure and throw your hat in the ring as the odds are gonna be always in your favor for sure!
That said, the first giveaway is my favorite reprint of the year, Little Boy Brown. I bought this book at an estate sale back in 2008, and immediately blogged about it because I fell so deeply and madly in love. Six years later, it's still in my top five discovered books ever, so I was over the moon this summer when I heard that Enchanted Lion was putting it back into print.
(Enchanted Lion did donate this book, but I would've purchased a copy to giveaway myself if they had not obliged. It's THAT FABULOUS!!!!)
So.... to win your very own brand spanking new copy of this timeless children's tale, simple comment on this post before midnight CT on Sunday, November 24. A winner for this give (and the other four daily gives) will be selected at random and the winners will be announced a week from today, Monday the 25th. Make sure you check back on Monday's post to find out if you're a winner!
The goose, she is getting fat, so be sure and enter as you'll have one less present to purchase.
Day Two Great Holiday Give: Cranberryport Books
Day Three Great Holiday Give: The World is Round
Day Four Great Holiday Give: New York Review Children's Collection Two-fer
Good luck and happy everything!
Hi all... Just some pre-warning. Monday, November 18 marks the start of my annual Great Holiday Give
. A giveaway every day for a week including brand spanking new copies of fabulous vintage reprints. Participating publishers include Enchanted Lion
, Purple House Press
and more! Don't miss it!!!!
Let the holidays begin friends!
As I've been warning for some time, I've decided to taking my blogging in another direction. If you've been reading me from the beginning, you know that I launched this blog a million years ago when my son was a baby. It started as a way to connect with other people about all the wonderful books I was finding for and sharing with my son. It ended up that I wasn't the only mom looking for the vintage awesomeness of an old book. Loads of like-minded folks were looking for past picture books to share with their kids. Illustrators were looking for inspiration from the past. And TONS of people were just randomly Googling the key words they could remember about a book they loved long ago and lost. (Hi there!)
Way back then, I was a stay-at-home mom on hiatus from working, and had way more time and energy to funnel into this labor of love. Now, I'm back working in publishing, and though I still do love the thrill of finding a treasure here and there and sharing it on the other blog, my son's literary passions sit elsewhere. He hasn't yet become the voracious reader I had hoped for but he still loves books, but more appropriately, graphic novels or anything of the cartoon variety. He adores any story told in images as drawing is his number one passion. More than anywhere else nowadays, you'll find us in the graphic novel section at Half Price Books digging to find the handful of things age-appropriate for an eight-year-old who loves animals, anime, and Doctor Who.
So here I am, starting a new blog when I should be doing a million and one other things.
Welcome, Graphic Novels My Kid Loves
, banner by the Ben, fabulous creator of Zita the Spacegirl
I hope you'll come visit me over there, and know that I'll still be here, posting on new things I find.
For example, the annual Great Holiday Give is ready to go for the start of the November, so tune in to win!
Happy reading kids, and, as always, thanks for riding along!
Kay Thompson ~ Hilary Knight ~ Simon and Schuster, 1969
Forgive me as I've posted on this book before, and it's hardly an undiscovered treasure, but I felt like now was the appropriate time in my son's book reading career to fully appreciate Eloise. When I posted on it back in 2008
, my son was a toddler, and though he loved Eloise dearly, I don't remember that he did it with the same amount of vigor and understanding that he embraces her with now.
"Kleenex makes a very good hat"
Often people ask me what my favorite children's book is and I compile lists in my head or tell people the favorites that I think will most match their tastes. But, unequivocally, if someone were to ask me what my all-time favorite children's book is and/or was, it will always, always, ALWAYS be, forever and always until the end of time... Eloise
The copy we have in our collection now, it not my true childhood copy. My two sisters and I read our original copy so vigorously in our little kid years that by the time I got to elementary school it had long since fallen apart and been lost. Later, when I was around ten years old, my mother took me to the local bookshop and told me I could get anything I wanted. Instead of buying one of the Narnia books, The Wizard of Oz
or a Cynthia Voight title, I opted for an upgrade of Eloise
. So many of the books in our family library were hand-me-downs from my sisters or shared books, that I remember being so enamored with having a brand new Eloise
that was all my own. This copy followed me through high school, to my dorm room at college and to my first apartment in Williamsburg, Virginia, and my second apartment at 404 West 51st Street in New York...eventually finding its way to my son's bookshelf.
When I was young and my mother would take us on trips to New York, we would load in a cab and go on mecca to The Plaza for ONLY one reason. That is where Eloise lived.
I could spend hours looking at that book, even in high school, getting lost in the illustrations, chuckling over the hidden treasures tucked within each. It is an absooooolutely PERFECT book, from beginning to end in both words and pictures. I could go on and on about images and moments I love in this book. The foldout elevator sequence where Eloise movements in the text are mapped out exactly in a dotted arrow line.
How all of her imaginary scenarios are inked out in a red (pink?), sometimes so faint, it almost seems like they are not there at all.
Weenie (the dog that looks like a cat), Skipperdee (the turtle that loves strawberry leaves), and Nanny (the beer loving boxing fan)! Each and every character, a dream.
My son always loved it as a wee one, but for several years it has sat untouched on the back of his bookshelf (that, BTW, is so overloaded, each shelf is two or three books deep, and once things get lost in the back row, they are often never heard from again.) A few weeks ago, it managed to squirt itself back up to the front row, and I read it to him at bedtime, and the giggling commenced. And when I say giggling, I really mean chortling, belly laughing, screaming and screeching hysterically. So for the past few weeks, it feels like Eloise makes her way to the top of the read pile each and every night. My husband is now convinced that Eloise is psychotic... as evidenced by the pictures below, and whenever he states this fact aloud, it just makes my son howl all the more. (The gin, the nailing of the chair to the floor, the sawing of the doll in half, the bizarre role playing... literally, I could go on and on.) My son thinks the fact everything Eloise owns is wrecked is outrageously awesome.
I have come to the conclusion that Kay Thompson, Hillary Knight and my son are cut from the same cloth, and, in fact, share the exact same sense of humor. He finds the oddest lines to be so massively funny that he has trouble breathing at least five times in a read through.
My son's favorite passage?
While I'm brushing my teeth there is this pigeon
who is always hanging around our bathroom window
and he does absolutely nothing but coo
He is fat and grisly and I holler at him
It slays him each and every time. Go figure.
This book. Always, always, always and forever in my heart.
Jan Slepian and Ann Seidler ~ Richard E. Martin ~ Follett, 1967
I still can't resist a book by the Slepian-Seidler-Martin trio, as wild and wonderful as they are. This one is perfect for the toddler set as it is filled with odd pairings and silly sounds.Where is your ear?Can it hear...Quiet sounds...shhhh?Loud sounds....BOOM!Wet sounds...splash?Even sounds that are silly like hum-a-dum-dilly?
It continues on page after page. Does it hear a mouse's tear? A dog playing cowboy. A bird who found a chocolate worm. Can you hear...A lollipop cry? The laugh of a fly? A pie say goodbye?
All aptly illustrated with Martin's always mildly whack-a-doodle drawings and culminating in a party for everyone
. By the way, any book that features a dog playing cowboy is OK in my book. Brilliant!
I just got an e-mail today from HarperCollins letting me know that a facsimile edition of Gertrude Stein’s only children’s book, The World is Round, is due out in October. If you've never read Ariel Winter's write up on it on his blog We Too Were Children, you are in for a treat! He includes wonderful photos of the original limited edition released at publication. Just fabulous!
Anyways, illustrated by Clement Hurd, the beloved illustrator of Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, this edition is being released to coincide with the 75th anniversary of its publication.
From the publisher:
Written in Stein’s unique prose style, The World is Round tells the story of a young girl named Rose, who contemplates who, what, and, why she is, often expressing herself through rhyme and song. Although published as a children’s story, the book is a literary work for adults, too, as Stein focuses on themes of individualism and personal identity. As with many of her writings, Stein plays with words and language throughout the book, incorporating her most famous line, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” several times in the story. The book also features:
- a foreword by Clement Hurd’s son
- numerous correspondence between Stein and Hurd during their collaboration on this work
- an essay by Edith Thacher Hurd, Clement Hurd’s wife, entitled “The World Is Not Flat,” which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the making of the book
I, for one, can NOT Wait!
Back for one final post, again, help me in welcoming my good friend, fellow old book collector, and Etsy purveyor
of all things vintage modern and awesome, Thingummery
Dare Wright, Random House, 1961
It’s pretty hard to talk about Dare Wright’s Lonely Doll series without talking about Dare Wright. This isn't generally the case with children’s book authors. Though I’m always curious to read biographies of my favorites, I don’t actually need to know about the personal life of William Stieg or Margaret Wise Brown to appreciate their work. Dare Wright is a different story, because her stories—about a pretty, narcissistic doll and her surrogate family of Steiff stuffies—are so oddly beautiful, so unsettling and also share an uncanny resemblance to Wright’s own deeply unsettling, very sad life.
You can read the 2004 biography The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll
by Jean Nathan for all the chilling details; I read the excerpt in Vanity Fair
and then immediately bought the book, but I've never read the whole thing. It’s just too sad. The nutshell is that in 1917, Dare’s parents divorced when she was just three. Her father, a theater critic, moved from their home in Cleveland to NYC with her beloved older brother, leaving Dare alone to contend with her overbearing mother Edith, a society portrait painter. Oh, and Edith just happens to be the name of the titular Lonely Doll, who just happens to look exactly like Dare.
According to the biography, the mother-daughter relationship was very intense, very strange, and much has been made of the fact that as adults they shared the same bed and that Dare never married and quite possibly remained a virgin her whole life. It’s all very Grey Gardens/What Ever Happened to Baby Jane type stuff. After Dare finished high school, they moved to NYC, where she struggled as an actress, succeeded as a high fashion model, but ultimately preferred to work behind the camera, as a fashion photographer and then as the author/creator of the books that would become her life’s work. Today
, those books enjoy an illustrious cult following: A New York Times article
from a few years ago name-checks all sorts of literary/fashion/music icons who admire her, including Kim Gordon, Anna Sui, Steve Meisel and David LaChapelle.
There are ten books in the Lonely Doll series, three of which were reissued in the late 1990s by Houghton Mifflin (including the first) but I’m writing up The Lonely Doll Learns a Lesson
because I scored the first edition at a library sale a few years ago. To sum up the first book, which was published in 1957 and introduces the characters—and the controversy surrounding them—Edith is a despairing doll living alone in a grand NYC mansion until one day two stuffed bears inexplicably arrive on the scene. Stern Mr. Bear becomes a father figure; his presumed son Little Bear becomes her brother and best friend. Like most kids, they get into all sorts of mischief. Single dad Mr. Bear grimly puts up with it until Edith one day plays dress-up with her never-seen, never-mentioned owner’s makeup and gowns without permission, so he puts her over his knee and spanks her bottom. He also threatens to abandon her, which is more distressing to Edith than the corporal punishment (hmm… father and brother abandoning little girl… sounds familiar, right?).
But it’s the spanking that disturbs (and/or titillates) a lot of readers, and it recurs in other books in the series. Which is why many adults find her stories too creepy to share with their kids, though I don’t think kids find them creepy at all (mine don’t). Adults see sadomasochistic subtext where kids only see an interesting anachronism—a misbehaving little girl getting spanked instead of being put in time out or having her iPad privileges revoked.
In The Lonely Doll Learns a Lesson
, Edith doesn't get spanked for her bad behavior—she gets measles. The story begins with Edith enamored of a new kitten and Little Bear feeling very left out. Self-centered Edith is totally oblivious to her brother/BFF’s feelings until Mr. Bear has to give her one of his lectures. She agrees to make more of an effort to include Little Bear but they still keep bickering because Edith is so obsessed with the cat. Finally, Mr. Bear has to send her off to bed and then comfort poor Little Bear, who wishes he had a dog.
The next morning Edith wakes up feeling crummy. The doctor is sent for and when it’s discovered she has measles, she has to stay in bed and find ways to pass the time (I love the photo where she’s reading Now We Are Six
Little Bear pays her an illicit visit, right after the kitten has gotten all tangled in Edith’s hair. Little Bear decides to rectify matters by roughly cutting off Edith’s golden locks. She freaks out. Mr. Bear rushes to see what the fuss is about, and then does the only thing he can do—he finishes the job, giving Edith quite a cunning bob.
The next day, Edith is feeling better and regretful about her bad behavior. She goes to apologize to Little Bear and finds that now he has the measles too. She hatches a plan with Mr. Bear to buy him a puppy as a gesture of kindness and forgiveness, and all ends in happiness and harmony.
So are Dare Wright’s books compelling if you don’t know her backstory? I definitely think so. For one thing, her photographs are beautiful (especially if you have a taste for midcentury interiors and vintage New York City). But her most impressive artistic achievement is creating a hermetically sealed world inhabited by a doll and two bears. A world that’s convincing the way a really good episode of The Twilight Zone is convincing: something doesn't feel quite right but you don’t find out what it is until the end. With the Lonely Doll books, you don’t ever have to find out—unless you choose to read about Dare’s real life.
Atomics for the MillionsDr. Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff - Hyman Ruchlis - Maurice Sendak - McGraw-Hill, 1947
Recently, I've been thinking about Peter Sieruta. I was cleaning up my side bar the other day and saw his site listed in my blog roll and nostalgically took a click.
Peter and I both started blogging about children's books in 2007, just a few months apart, and back then, he was one of only a few on the landscape. Reading his blog always made me feel smart, or rather always made me feel like my blog was authored by an airhead, but by reading his blog, Collecting Children's Books, it would make me smarter. I was a dabbler, but he... HE was someone who really knew what he was talking about. He was a writer for Horn Book, and his opinion was respected and his knowledge about the subject of children's books, bottomless. He was the real thing. He was in the middle of writing a book with Seven Impossible Things and Fuse Eight. His posts were knowledgeable and heartfelt, and often made me cry with their generosity of spirit about seemingly little things that mattered a whole lot.
Peter died tragically and unexpectedly over a year ago. His dear little blog sits untouched since May 13, 2012. I'm not much of a social butterfly when it comes to the internet, and in all those years, I never reached out to him beyond a few random comments on posts I loved. If I could talk to him now, I would tell him how I always respected him from afar. I would tell him what a great writer he is. How I wished I knew as much as he did about everything.
As I started sorting through his blog pages again, I came across a post he did
on the first book Maurice Sendak illustrated, Atomics for the Millions,
illustrated when Maurice was only 19 as a favor to one of his teachers. The next day I checked the shelves at my office, and of course, it was there. Pulling it from the shelf felt precious and wonderful. The weight of it in my hand. The way the cloth cover felt on my fingertips. The cracking spine and pencil-made notes in the margins left by students long ago. I stood marveling at the illustrations, such a wonder, looking back on this early hint of a life so well-illustrated. Smiling at the connection I felt, like so many others, with Maurice Sendak because of the books he illustrated that I've loved. Smiling about how this little moment among the stacks was brought about by a stranger who always seemed like a dear friend because of the love of books we shared.
I was thinking of cleaning Collecting Children's Books
off my side bar, but only for a second, then thought better of it. I'll probably keep returning to it as there is always something new to discover. If you've never read Peter's blog before, start here
and enjoy. If you discover a wonder or two there, something that reminds or delights, remember that it is readers like Peter who truly make books come alive. Through his love for children's literature, Peter took the best of the boy and translated it into one hell of man. It we could all keep the best of childhood alive in our hearts like that, the world would be a better place indeed.
It’s a wonderful thing to go to an estate sale and find a Tomi Ungerer book you didn't even know existed, especially one illustrated at what might be considered the apex of his children’s book illustrating career. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
was published in 1969, around the same time period as some of my favorites: Moon Man, Zarelda’s Ogre, The Hat, The Beast of Monsieur Racine
… But unlike those masterworks, Ungerer didn't write The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
; he left that to Barbara Hazen, better known as Barbara Shook Hazen, a midcentury magazine editor turned prolific children’s book author, who has over 80 titles to her credit. Of those many titles, I’m only familiar with two: The Knight Who Was Afraid of the Dark
, an old favorite at my house, and Mr. Ed, The Talking Horse
(yes, that Mr. Ed, and if you’re interested, I've got a copy for sale at my etsy shop
No offense to Ms. Hazen (who I believe is still living and working in NYC), but this book is really about the pictures, which should come as no surprise to Ungerer fans. Based on a poem by Goethe—though best known in its Mickey Mouse incarnation—Hazen’s version of the tale of a ne’er-do-well apprentice who unleashes powers he cannot possibly control is a bit overworked and wordy for my taste (my kids think I’m being a snob). Probably anyone’s prose would seem colorless next to these illustrations, which are classic Ungerer: trippy, witty and always with a deep, dark underbelly. Full of cockeyed references to previous books, disembodied body parts and loopy creatures. Kind of like Highlights magazine’s “Hidden Pictures” reimagined by a very sinister mind. The broom alone is terrifying.
The story line doesn't waver much from the classic telling of the tale. We meet a “wise old wizard” who lived in a castle “high above the River Rhine.”
The cellar was the sorcerer’s workshop. One side of the cellar was lined with shelves of musty, dusty, leather-bound books. By far the most important book of all was an enormous volume called Complete Magic Spells and Incantations... The book stood alone on the top shelf, where it was guarded day and night by an old green-eyed owl. The book was always locked, and the sorcerer always wore the key around his neck.
In the middle of the workshop was a water tub. Every day the tub had to be filled. Heavy buckets of water had to be brought all the way up the steep stone steps which led from the River Rhine.
Enter the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the hapless Humboldt, whose task it is to tote those heavy buckets of water every day. Humboldt aspires to wizardhood, but he’s a total slacker so the sorcerer really has to ride him. “An apprentice must work. An apprentice must learn. An apprentice must earn his magic powers,” he chides, before heading off to a wizard conclave and leaving Humboldt to hold down the fort.
After the sorcerer disappears in his trademark puff of blue smoke, Humboldt kvetches:
“It isn't fair. He has all the fun and I do all the dirty work. Why should I slave all day when the master could cast one magic spell and have all the chores done in an instant. Magic’s a much easier way, and much more fun, too!”
When Humboldt discovers his master has forgotten to take the key to his big book of magic, he immediately opens it and finds the spell that will make a broom “fulfill all the wishes of your will.”
The foolish boy calls out the spell and all hell breaks loose. The guardian owl awakens and knocks him off the ladder.
The ladder crashed and broke in two. But luckily Humboldt landed unhurt, cushioned by the sorcerer’s stuffed crocodile. Humboldt lay there stunned. At first nothing happened. Had he said the wrong magic words?
But you know what happens next. The animated broom stirs, and gets right down to business, filling the sorcerer’s tub with water from the Rhine. And “Humboldt kept on singing and dancing and the broom kept on hobbling and bobbling, and the water kept on rising in the tub.”
Things really start to spiral out of control; the cellar begins to flood and Humboldt can’t undo the spell.
The water was now waist high. The cat was climbing the furniture and the snakes were slithering up the draperies. Scared and soaked to the skin, Humboldt knew he had to do something to stop the broom. He grabbed the sorcerer’s axe.
He cuts the broom in two, which only results in…more brooms. Way more creepy-faced brooms.
By now the flood had reached the top shelf of the bookcase. Humboldt was swimming for his life, and trying to catch the magic book, bobbing always just out of reach.
And just in the nick of time, in his trademark blue puff of smoke, the sorcerer appears and banishes the broom army with a spell. Humboldt feebly begs forgiveness, but the sorcerer just puts him to work, cleaning up the mess of his making. And in a twist I don’t recall from the Fantasia version of the tale, the broom briefly awakens to whack him on the butt four times, “sending the sorcerer’s apprentice flying all the way down the steep stone steps to the River Rhine. AND THAT WAS THAT!”
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Elissa Jane Karg ~ Silvermine Publishers, 1967 ~ Scholastic Book Services, 1968
Once upon a time in the 1960s, a teenage girl from Connecticut would take the train to NYC and hang out in Greenwich Village. You might envision several different outcomes to this scenario—she becomes a groupie or a folk singer or a folk singer’s groupie or maybe a style icon or a statistic—but probably not the one that actually transpired: Elissa Jane Karg, a self-described “cynical & skeptical junior at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, Connecticut” and “an angry & amused observer of my cool contemporaries” instead chronicled her experiences in a comic strip for her school newspaper, which was shortly thereafter published as a book by Scholastic.
She was just 16 years old.
Wow. Does that fuel fantasies for kid comic artists (and their doting parents) all across the land, or what?
Well, Karg’s real-life narrative didn’t exactly continue on the trajectory you might expect from a kid artist prodigy. She didn’t go to RISD and end up a successful illustrator in NYC; she went to Oberlin and ended up in Detroit. She apparently fell in love and never looked back. She became an ardent Socialist, a union organizer, an auto worker, a mother and a nurse. As far as I can tell, she never published another book, except for co-authoring Stopping Sexual Harassment: a Handbook for Union and Workplace Activists
in 1980, which I’m guessing did not feature her finely-wrought, Edward Gorey–esque pen-and-ink drawings. She died in 2008, when she was in a bicycle accident on her way home from a Socialist meeting. From the little I’ve read about her, she sounds like a remarkable lady—a passionate activist and champion of women’s rights who was beloved by a lot of folks—which most definitely is what you’d expect of the singular sort of person who could create a book like this while still a mere chit of a girl.
How to Be a Nonconformist
is very much a time capsule, a cultural artifact from one of the more romanticized moments in recent(ish) history—one that frankly, you don’t see parodied nearly as often as it should be! In her “22 steps to nonconformity,” Karg manages to skewer tight pants, miniskirts, sandals, long hair on boys, short hair on girls, poor-mouthing, pop art, cockroaches, MGs, empty protests, goofy song lyrics and knee-jerk cynicism. Was this the beatnik brew from which punk rock sprang?
Karg’s peers may have viewed rebellion as a fashion statement, but Karg obviously walked the walk. The book may be a blast from the past, man, but the message is still relevant: If we’re all donning the same personae and calling ourselves nonconformists, doesn't that make us all…conformists?
I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this beat-up, yellowing ex-library book at a sale last year. I was sucked in by the cover art, but it’s the voice that’s so authentic—a worldly-wiseacre little sister. I put her in the pop-culture pantheon of all the subversive girls—Pippi Longstocking
and Harriet the Spy
and Winona Ryder in Heathers
and Lisa Simpson and Daria and everyone at Sassy
magazine—astute cultural observers who may not always flout authority outright but at least question it (in the drollest manner possible).