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Reviews of vintage children's books both out-of-print and in-print.
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1. Margaret Bloy Graham RIP

"Children’s book illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham, widely known for her depictions of Harry the Dirty Dog in a series of books by her former husband Harry Zion, died January 22 in Cambridge, Mass. She was 94." More at Publisher's Weekly

Also by: 


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2. Father Fox's Pennyrhymes

Father Fox's Pennyrhymes
Clyde Watson ~ Wendy Watson ~ Scholastic, 1971

The beloved nursery rhyme classic written and illustrated by two sisters from Vermont about the stories a father fox tells his brood of 15 kits. We've always loved this book in our house because of how each rhyme is accompanied by an illustration that fully and precisely tells the tale, often starring one or many of the fox children. A small and busy feast for the eyes.

Mister Lister sassed his sister
Married his wife 'cause he couldn't resist her,
Three plus four times two he kissed her:
How many times is that, dear sister.

Belly & Tubs went out in a boat,
Tubs wore knickers & Belly a coat,
They got in a quarrel & started to shout
And the boat tipped over & they tumbled out.

Ride your red horse down Vinegar Lane,
Gallop, oh Gallop, oh gallop again!
Thistles & foxholes & fences beware:
I've seventeen children and none can I spare.

Thomas Thomas Tinkertoes
Upside down & away he goes!
He's off to call upon the Queen
In blue & crimson velveteen.


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3. Winners of the Great Holiday Give

Finally.... the winners are here, picked at random!

Gus was a Friendly Ghost goes out to Liana.
Arial will be receiving The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature.
Loretta Mason Potts now belongs to Danzel.
Kira wins The Beast of Monsieur Racine.

And because I never did post a final day and this whole thing has kinda been half baked! I am picking a special winner of a mystery grab bag of vintage books. And it's you, cruelshoes1.... Winners can send me their mailing info to webe(at)soon(dot)com.

Anyway, thanks for playing gang!


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4. Great (Post) Holiday Give Day 4 - Gus Was a Friendly Ghost

Yes! Day four of the Great (Post) Holiday Give is a new reprint from Purple House Press of the classic Gus Was a Friendly Ghost.

There was once a friendly ghost, by the name of Gus, who lived in an old house in the country. Mr. and Mrs. Scott and their twins, Susie and Sammy, lived there too during the summer. Then autumn came and the Scott family left. Which meant Gus had nothing to do but sit around.

One day, during a walk, he met Mouse, who was cold and hungry. "Come spend the winter at my house!" cried Gus.

Thus begins an unlikely but heartwarming friendship. First published in 1962, children have delighted in this story and other Gus the Ghost books for over fifty years. Seymour Fleishman's sweet, nostalgic illustrations bring Gus, the Scotts and Mouse to life.

So without further blah blah, I will be giving away one copy of this sweet, spooky book. To be entered to win a copy, simply comment on this post by 11:59 PM CT Wednesday, January 7. The winner will be announced the next day!!!! 

The Great Holiday Give will run through Wednesday so be sure and check back each day to find out about a new vintage reprint and enter to win a different book. Good luck!

Great Holiday Give Day One: The Beast of Monsieur Racine by Tomi Ungerer
Great Holiday Give Day Two: Loretta Mason Potts by Mary Chase
Great Holiday Give Day Three: The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature


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5. Great (Post) Holiday Give Day 3 - Berenstain Bears

Hey all. Welcome to day three of the Great (Post) Holiday Give! The give today is The Berenstain Bears' Big Book of Science and Nature. Dover has reprinted my three favorite Berenstain books into one giant volume: The Berenstain Bears' Almanac, The Berenstain Bears' Science Fair, and The Berenstain Bears' Nature Guide. Nothing like the thin, morality paperbacks that make up the bulk of the Berenstain backlist, these books from the 1970s were massive tomes filled with busy illustrations, chock full of all sorts of useful nature and science information. 


Sooooo without further yadda yadda yadda, I will be giving away one copy of this fat book of awesome. To be entered to win a copy, simply comment on this post by 11:59 PM CT Wednesday, January 7. The winner will be announced the next day!!!! 

The Great Holiday Give will run through Wednesday so be sure and check back each day to find out about a new vintage reprint and enter to win a different book. Good luck!

Great Holiday Give Day One: The Beast of Monsieur Racine by Tomi Ungerer
Great Holiday Give Day Two: Loretta Mason Potts by Mary Chase


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6. Brian Wildsmith's Twelve Days of Christmas

Brian Wildsmith's Twelve Days of Christmas
Brian Wildsmith ~ Oxford University Press, 1972

And for slagging off the last few weeks... a little post-Christmas treat.

This, plus Father Christmas Goes on Holiday.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Also by:
A Child's Garden of Verses
Professor Noah's Spaceship
Maurice Maeterlinck's Blue Bird
Brian Wildsmith's Birds
The Hare and the Tortoise
Brian Wildsmith's Wild Animals


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7. Great Holiday Give... to be continued

Unlike what some unsuspecting well wishers thought, I did not pass away over the holidays! Just merely got jammed up in the last minute minutia of it all. That said, the great holiday give will finish up anew next week, with three more gives on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

In the mean time, you can still throw your hat in the ring for the two gives that have already been posted.

Day one, The Beast on Monsieur Racinehere.

Day two, Loretta Mason Pottshere.

Winners will be announced on Thursday, January 8.

Happy New Year!!!


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8. Great Holiday Give Day 2 - Loretta Mason Potts

The New York Review Children's Collection is the amazing  publisher that brings long forgotten books back to life. They also have a children's book club where books arrive in mail all the year round just like the old days.

Today's Great Holiday Give is one of my favorite in their latest picks, 
Loretta Mason Potts by Mary Chase.

"The poignancy of Peter Pan lingers over this fantasy, but it has its own special charm, the charm of unabashed fancy and resounding good sense, which made the author’s Harvey a favorite of adult audiences." 
-- Kirkus Reviews

Sooooo without further yadda yadda yadda, I will be giving away one copy of this book of magical worlds. To be entered to win a copy, simply comment on this post by 11:59 PM CT Wednesday, December 24. The winner will be announced (along with all the other winners from the week) on Christmas Day!!!! 

The Great Holiday Give will run through Wenesday so be sure and check back each day to find out about a new vintage reprint and enter to win a different book. Good luck!

Great Holiday Give Day 1: The Beast of Monsieur Racine by Tomi Ungerer


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9. Great Holiday Give Day 1 - Beast of Monsieur Racine

My all time favorite Tomi Ungerer book was reissued by Phaidon this past summer. 

The Beast of Monsieur Racine.


So it's only fitting that this would be my first pick for the Great Holiday Give! 
 (You know, that week before Christmas where I give away new reprints of insanely awesome vintage children's books?)

My original post on the book from 2010 is here. The new book is here. My interview with Tomi is here. And it's still not too late to order it in time for Christmas here.

Sooooo without further yadda yadda yadda, I will be giving away one copy of this magically creepy and fabulously wonderful book. To be entered to win a copy, simply comment on this post by 11:59 PM CT Tuesday, December 23. The winner will be announced (along with all the other winners from the week) on Christmas Eve!!!! 
This book was sent to me by the publisher to giveaway, but I don't think I need to tell you that this in no way educated my opinion of Phaidon, this book and/or the level of pure swank of either. 

The Great Holiday Give will last four more days, so be sure and check back each day to find out about a new vintage reprint and enter to win a different book. Good luck!


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10. Great Holiday Give 2014

My! Have I been asleep at the wheel. I just realized we are a week out from Christmas and I haven't posted the Great Holiday Give yet. Whew. Forgive me.

If there is still anyone out there listening, I'll be running five days of giveaways starting today with the winners announced on Christmas Eve. Stand by!


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11. Knee-High Nina

Knee-High Nina
Jack Kent ~ Doubleday, 1980

Not the most inspired Jack Kent of the bunch, but I am still on a mission to chronicle every last one of his books. The sweetest part of this little ditty is that it follows the classic Kent formula of a wee one wishing she/he was something other than wee. And I love love love the blue and yellow!

Nina was only knee-high. Mostly what she saw was the bottom of things. If she wanted to see anything up high, someone had to lift her up. If she wanted anything from a shelf, someone had to reach it down for her.

Life's rough when grownups are always telling you "You're wearing me out!" and you always have to study the bottom of things. Ah yes, there's always a wish, and in a Jack Kent book, wishes always come true, even if it does seem like the grass is always greener. In a freaky Friday twist of fate, everything gets flipped upside down and comedy ensues.

If you've never read the bit I did on Kent a while back in our local alternative press, check it out. (The post by his son, too)  And if you are a newcomer to his stuff, run don't walk to your nearest used book shop and try to get yourself a copy of Dooly and the SnortsnootMr. MeeblesJust Only John or any one of his fabulous fables.

Also by:
Jack Kent's Twelve Days of Christmas
I Was Walking Down the Road
The Grown-Up Day
The Fox and the Crow
The Biggest Shadow in the Zoo
The Animobile Book
Jack Kent's Book of Nursery Tales
Dooly and the Snortsnoot
Mr. Meebles
Cindy Lou and the Witch's Dog
The Blah
Jack Kent's Valentine Sticker Book
The Bremen-town Musicians
Round Robin
Just Only John
Fly Away Home
Fat Cat
Piggy Bank Gonzales
Socks for Supper


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12. Let's Eat

Bill Martin Jr. ~ Larry NicholsonHolt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967

I'm doing a twofer this weekend for two reasons. Children's photography books from the 60s and 70s! Yay! And apparently the photographers of that era made great parents. The photos in this book were taken mostly by Larry Nicholson, who has at least one super loving son who's a pretty sweet photog himself. No words here just a kid getting a milk mustache, more kids eating ice cream, slurping spaghetti, candy, cake, strawberries, hotdogs.... all the things even kids today love. (Some of the food images are courtesy of General Foods and Birds Eye as you know how important children's nutrition is to those corporate giants.) The concept for this book is credited to Bill Martin Jr., author of the Eric Carle illustrated classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, giving it yet another layer of awesomeness. 

Anyway, happy Sunday and behold the magic of children with food long since gone. 

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13. The Walk

The Walk
Bill Binzen ~ Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1972

One of the things I've loved most about this blog is finding out the forgotten stories and people behind old books. The library where I work has a pretty dated children's book section WHICH I LOVE, and I often go down and check out the selection. The other day I came across this one from my birth year. I have a soft spot for photographic children's books of this era, most notably ones like Why I Built the Boogle House, Do you know what I'm going to do next Saturday?, A Very Young Dancer and The Little Lamb. I could go on and on about all the things I love about these books, but mainly it's just fun to time machine back to a different place. I was particularly taken with this one because of its vintage photos of the streets of New York City, and a story line that reminds me of adventures from my own childhood that could never happen in my own son's overprotective suburban existence.

Charlie had waved good-bye to his friend Frank as the bus pulled away from the Boys' Club. Frank was off for two weeks at the Boys' Club camp in the country. I wonder what it's like at that camp? Charlie had thought as he walked home.

Shortly, Charlie gets a postcard from his friend telling him how awesome camp is so he and his other friend, Tony, decide to walk to the camp to see for themselves. Thus begins a journey that takes them over trash piles on Spring Street, a traffic jam on Grand, over the "Commerce Street Bridge" (not sure what that is), across the expressway to meet up with Charlie's Uncle Jack who lives in the Bronx and happens to drive his vegetable truck by the camp everyday.

Though simple in theory, this is a pretty awesome quest for these two young boys to embark on, as evidenced when Uncle Jack drops the boys on a random highway near the camp... "It was a strange feeling to watch the truck disappear down the road."

Woven within is an implicit conservation theme frequently found in books with this early-era Sesame Street feel.

I Googled around for some info on the author. Ends up he passed away in 2010 but his family maintains a website in his honor with a fabulous life history that includes fighter pilot, 1960s Ogilvy Benson & Mather ad-man, Life photographer and patriarch to a family with six granddaughters. His bio references his first photographic book for children, Miguel's Mountain, about a large pile of dirt in Tompkins Square Park NYC that became a makeshift playground for all the children in the neighborhood.

A cool but quiet legacy for a dude who could take a pretty good shot.


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14. The Magic Bubble Trip

Ingrid and Dieter Schubert ~ Kane/Miller 1985

An early book by a husband and wife team who are two of the most famous children's book authors in the Netherlands, its cover haunted me for a while before I actually picked it up and read it. The fantastical realism inside, didn't disappoint.

Meet James. He lives in a tall apartment building, but loves to visit the pond in the woods behind his place. His folks are always getting on him about bringing frogs back to the apartment, and one day, sad and dejected missing his frog friends, James begins blowing bubbles and something strange happens.

One of the soap bubbles began to grow bigger and bigger and bigger. When it had grown so large that it completely surrounded James, it started to float out of the window, carrying him along in it! 

It's not until his bubble finally lands that things get freaky. He meets a mess of grass frogs that eventually take him to Mr. Odd-and-Ends, a guy that lives by an enormous junkyard in a house made of junk, grass, rabbit hutches, and other, ahem, odds and ends.

The mysterious man makes all sorts of things... like toys made out of shoes and match boxes, button snakes, but even better, a Heli-plane; one that is missing a part that James just happens to have in his pocket.

Not really sure how the story arrives at the ending, but let's just say, James' parents don't have much of a problem with frogs anymore.

Wild, weird, and wonderful.


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15. one, two, where's my shoe

one, two, where's my shoe
Tomi Ungerer ~ Harper & Row, 1964
new 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.


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16. Meet Zack Rock

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 herehere, and here. Without further blah blah, meet the most awesome of the awesome, Zack Rock.

VKBMKL: 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 and Soane 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. Explain?

ZACK: 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.


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17. The Sun: Our Nearest Star

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 series.

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 Book
Oxygen Keeps You Alive
The Wartville Wizard


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18. Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Musuem

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 was lucky enough recently to snag a preview copy of his very first book (out in August), Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum...a book Kirkus calls "masterfully illustrated... infused with touches of humble elegance"

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!


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19. Alice's Restaurant

Alice's Restaurant
Arlo Guthrie ~ Marvin Glass ~ Grove Press, 1968

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.

Oh, what the hell...


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20. Gia and the One Hundred Dollars Worth of Bubblegum

Frank Asch - McGraw-Hill Companies, 1974

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 Grocery
Here Comes the Cat!
Monkey Face


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21. The San Antonio Book Festival

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 Sonwho 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 FacebooktumblrTwitterEtsy and Graphic Novels My Kid Loves.

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22. Crash! Bang! Boom!

Crash Bang Boom
Peter 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 Evening
The Star-Spangled Banner
Noah's Ark
Peter Spier's Christmas
Gobble Growl Grunt
Bored -- Nothing To Do!
Peter Spier's Little Bible Storybooks
Oh, Were They Ever Happy!


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23. $20 Vintage Children's Book Grab Bag

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 GiverReturn 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.


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24. Only 4 Left!

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.


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25. RIP Madeleine Gekiere

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

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