Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Four Fir Feet (and other things)

Rising from the grave here because I am just past spring break and shelves were cleaned off, and I was reminded of just how many books there are still to share. Every time I turn around, a beloved author is passing away; their books like tiny secrets lost in time. There will be great authors who will live forever like Seuss or Margaret Wise Brown, but for every one of those there are a thousand others who fade from view. Their wonderful spirits vanished to the bins at Goodwill, or worse, withdrawn and thrown away.

This summer it will be ten years since I started this blog. So much has happened in that time. Publishers have taken more of an interest in out-of-print books that begged to be reprinted. Used booksellers have gotten more savvy about what people are willing to pay for old, beloved favorites. The internet has made it easy to price books accordingly, so that even the shelves of my favorite thrift stores are filled with overpriced gems. Gone are the days of 25 cent classics and incredible finds. Gone are the days when no one was shopping the book section at my local flea market. San Antonio, like many other American cities, is much too hipster for all that now. Sadly, that was what made this blog so easy to begin with. All I needed was a five dollar bill, a son who loved being read to, and an imagination open to looking beyond dingy library binding. It helped that I had a best friend who shared my passion for old children's books and had an even more amazing collection than my own.

I couldn't start this blog now without a much larger budget and more time to pick over and buy premium Etsy scores. All the fabulous out-of-reach design things moms like me pined for ten years ago are now being knocked off and sold at Target for a fraction of the cost, and all the vintage treasures that were so bountiful and inexpensive have been discovered and driven up in price. My son has moved on from picture books for the most part defaulting to his obsessive audio book collection, graphic novels, and middle school required reading like Shiloh (in Spanish) and Walk Two Moons. My BFF moved back to New York and now stretches past kids' books to troll library sales and handpick vintage design books for resale, and I went back to work in publishing. The end result being little to no time for this hobby right here.

But somehow, I always return. This spot reflects the hours I spent cross-legged on the floor with my son taking him to far off lands and introducing him to monsters who dance wild on islands and children who learn to switch on the night. This is the place where we met a fox who was indeed fantastic and spied on three robbers who befriended an orphan girl. This corner of the interwebs will always be the sacred space where I held my son in my arms squirming and squealing... "Again again, Mommy. Read it again." Every book on these pages is a memory of the best years of my life. I will cherish it always and mourn those moments when it was just me and him and all we wanted was the perfect 32 pages and all we had was all the time in the world.

Books are everything. With all that is wrong with the world, we were lucky enough to get lost in them for a while.

That said, Four Fur Feet popped into my view this last week and had me grieving again for the loss of Remy Charlip, lamenting the publishing urge to always re-illustrate, and falling in love again with the words of Ms. Brown. My son might be growing up, but I'll always come back if I find something worth remembering.

Four Fur Feet
by Margaret Wise Brown, pictures by Remy Charlip ~ William R. Scott, INC., 1950

What makes this book incomparable, ingenious, and absolute magic is that you never see the animal depicted in these pages. We only see his feet. His fabulous four fur feet!

See the four fur feet
at the top of the page?
They are the feet part
of a furry animal.

Follow the animal's feet
around the pages of the book.
When you come to a picture that looks wrong side up,
it's because the animal
has gotten part way around the world.

It is plays on the form like this that made Charlip such a delightful illustrator and a true artist. Simple. Playful. Elegant. And absolutely silly.

The feet appear throughout the book as if they are actually walking around the world until at last our creature sets down to rest and dream.

Also by:
What good luck! What bad luck!
Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send For the Doctor Quick Quick Quick
The Dead Dird
Arm in Arm
Wait Til the Moon is Full
Do You Know What I'll Do?
The Sky Was Blue
The Rabbit's Wedding
The Quiet Noisy Book
On Christmas Eve
Christmas in the Barn
The Dead Bird
Little Chicken
The Little Island
The Friendly Book
Little Fir Family
The Sailor Dog

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

More Tomi Ungerer!

Rising from the dead here to post this little tidbit from Tomi Ungerer's social media feed. Phaidon is releasing a single slipcased volume of eight of Tomi's newish and classic books, The Three Robbers, Moon Man, Otto, Fog Island, Zeralda's Ogre, Flix, The Hat, and Emile. Psyched! And in case you missed it a million years years ago, travel back in time to my interview with Tomi himself!

I miss you guys. I always have new stuff to share, but never enough time to share it. (And for those who are interested, check out my storytelling piece on Texas Public Radio.)

Happy Monday kids!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Dead Bird Rereleased

Personal fave The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown has been released by HarperCollins with new illustrations by Caldecott-winner Christian Robinson. Remy Chalip's original illustrations for this classic on love and loss will always be the best to me, but I do delight when a book that's been lost to generations of children gets reinvented so it can be loved once again. And Robinson is obviously skilled for the task. Other awesome books by Charlip include ThirteenArm and Arm, and Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick. And maybe Margaret Wise Brown really will live forever. Wouldn't that be something?

If you can get your hands on the December 2000 issue of Vanity Fair, there is an article about Ms. Brown that is spectacular! Not to be missed.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

It's Raining Said John Twaining

It's Raining Said John Twaining ~ N. M. Bodecker ~ Atheneum, 1973

Danish nursery rhymes translated and illustrated by the author of the forgotten favorite Miss Jaster's Garden. So happy I stumbled across his look in the library. I love the thin lines and intense colors, so elegant and specific.

"It's raining," said John Twaining. 
"Keep me dry!" said John Rye. 
"No I will not," said John Willmot. 
"You must go!" said John Slow. 
"Go where?" said John Square. 
"To Jack Crowning," said John Browning. 
"What for?" said John Sore. 
"Buy some coats!" said John Oats. 
"How many?" said John Penny. 
"Ten should do," said John Drew. 
"Want to bet?" said John Wett.

Guinea pigs and queens. Miss Price and her mice. Trout with applesauce. This book has it all.

On a green, green hill 
I saw two rabbits come. 
One he was a piper; 
the other played a drum, on a green, green hill in the morning.

Also by: 
Miss Jaster's Garden


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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Meanest Squirrel I Ever Met

The Meanest Squirrel I Ever Met
Gene Zion ~ Margaret Bloy Graham ~ Charles Scribner's Sons, 1962

I keep coming back to Margaret Bloy Graham's death earlier this year. Seems every time I turn around I unearth another of her books that I never shared when I was keeping this blog up daily. This one might actually be one of my all time favorites. Of course, anytime there is an unsavory, mysterious character in a children's book, it usually tends to hit the reread pile around these parts. We're spooky like that. But fear not, for all it's shady-characterness, it still falls firmly in the rated G realm. Plus it has this sweet shot of Margaret and Gene in the back flap.

Nibble was a little squirrel who lived in the woods with his father and mother. On Thanksgiving morning, his mother brought a basket up from the storeroom. In the basket were pecan nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts. "Can I play with them?" Nibble asked his mother. "Well," she answered, "if you're careful, you may. But remember, these are not just ordinary acorns. This is our Thanksgiving Dinner." "I'll be careful," promised Nibble.

In what might be the ultimate "don't play with your food" morality tale, after a few rounds of "Nuts in Rows", "Nuts in Circles", and, the classic, "Nuts in Little Piles", Nibble looks up to see a stranger coming down the path. Ignoring the warning of "stranger danger" always seems to come up in forest stories such as this, so it should come as no surprise when said stranger swindles poor little Nibble out of his holiday dinner, pecans and all!

But it's when the squirrel family is forced to get their feast elsewhere that the true story moves into action. Recognize what's on the menu at The Squirrel Cafe?

Ethical questions and nightmares ensue, as the whole clan tries to figure the best way out of their nutty predicament. The theme at the end of the day is repenting for sins and what it means to have courage, two things we could all use more of even in the heat of July.

Another fabulous tale from the husband and wife team that brought us Harry the Dirty Dog and Be Nice to Spiders. May they rest in peace.

Also by: 


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