Tuesday, July 31, 2007


by Alice Low with Roy McKie pictures
Random House, 1963

This is probably one of my all time favorite books to read to my son.

We like the things the summer brings.
It brings the sun.
It brings the heat.
It brings the things we like to eat.

I originally checked it out from the library and fell in love, then went searching on the Internet for another copy. It is still in print, but I believe I purchased my used copy off of half.com. When it arrived, I was surprised to see that there were some major changes to the book from when it was originally published to the most recent version like we'd checked out from the library.

First off, in the original version, both children in the book were blond. In the new version, the girl is mousy brown. There were also some additional pages deleted that portrayed a few scenes that could be construed as negative in an otherwise idyllic summer book but funny none-the-less. The offending scenes include a run in with an angry red bull, an ant attack on their picnic, the boy putting a croquet ball through the window of a car and a meeting between the dog and a wayward crab.

Also by:
Bennett Cerf's Book of Animal Riddles
The Nose Book
Bennett Cerf's Book of Laughs
Bennett Cerf's Book of Riddles


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Monday, July 30, 2007

Petunia, Beware!

by Roger Duvoisin/ published 1958 by Alfred A. Knopf

Often I am amazed at how many older children's books flirt with the idea of death. Sure, there is always the dead parent portrayed in movies today, but it seems in books written in the last 10 years, you are less likely to find main characters being devoured (as in Henny Penny, published 1968). Such is the case with Petunia Beware. This is a book that leads you to believe not only that the grass is not greener on the other side, but going to the other side to have a little taste might actually lead you to be eaten alive.

"Yes, do wait a while, Petunia," said a soft, purring voice from a clump of birches. Weasel, Fox, and Raccoon will not harm you while I am protecting you."

I've seen this theme played out over and over again in books, and it is funny to think what bit of wisdom the authors were actually trying to relay to their readers. Yes, there is always "the grass in always greener", but it can also be interpreted as "be happy with your lot in life, and don't strive for that which is out of your reach". I shudder to think what desktop sales would be like today if little Billy Gates had heeded that advice. All the same, this is a great book from a series, and one that my kids adores. (Granted, animal lover that he is, if you put a place mat with the Chick-fil-a mascot in front of him, he'd probably squeal with delight.)

Also by:
Veronica and the Birthday Present
The Rain Puddle
A Child's Garden of Verses
White Snow Bright Snow
Petunia's Christmas
The Old Bullfrog

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Trip to the Pond

A Trip to the Pond
written and illustrated by Melita Hofmann/ published 1966 by Doubleday & Company

A wonderful nature book that focuses specifically on things that live in or near the pond. I bought it for $1 off the markdown shelf at a secondhand book shop and still regard it as one of my greatest finds. My tadpole lovin' butt would have been all over this book as a child. My absolute favorite part being the end pages where the author lists various forms of pond life, their average sizes, how to catch them, how to transport them once you catch them, what to put them in, what to add to the thing you put them in, what to feed them, and finally, what behaviors you should look out for while watching them. Example:

Name: Frog or Toad (up to 6 inches)
Catch: Strainer or dip net or by hand.
Carry: Net or cloth bag.
Put Them In: Large wooden box with screen cover.
Add: Must have large pan of water and dry ground too. Can add turtle and snails.
Feed: Small bits of fish and worms.
Watch: Catch insects. Hop, breathe, etc. Shed skin.

The illustrations are old school nature guide and remind you of every natural history museum you've ever loved. This one has an inscription which is particularly idyllic and telling.

January 11, 1969

To Tracy:
To add to your science shelf. We look forward to a time when we can buy a book on turtles written by Tracy Burnett! Lots to study, isn't there?
The Pittmans

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My Friend Mac

My Friend Mac
by May McNeer and Lynd Ward/ published 1960 by Houghton Mifflin Company

Penned by the prolific husband and wife team, the theme is similar to Lynd Ward's Caldecott award-winning The Biggest Bear in that it's a tale of falling in love with something wild, only to have that very wildness come between.

"When a moose is old enough, he must find his own kind. When a boy is old enough, he must find his own kind too."

Like Puff the Magic Dragon and Peter Pan, when something seems so magical and too good to be true, it usually is once the cold hard reality of adulthood sets in. It would be nice if this were a world where over sized wild animals could live in harmony and in house with a small boy, but alas, those kind of stories are longed for the fairy tale. This book, like The Biggest Bear, is for the realist in every child. Those who can tip their hats at the way we would like things to be, yet move forward happy in the knowledge of the way things actually are.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The 2 Ton Canary & Other Nonsense Riddles

The 2 Ton Canary & Other Nonsense Riddles
by Polly Cameron/ published 1965 by Coward, McCanne & Geoghegan

"What is black, lives in a tree and is very dangerous? A crow with a machine gun."

Not all the riddles in this book are that sinister.

"What hops, lives in the grass and is very dangerous? A frog with a hand grenade."

Well... I suppose this was the era of Vietnam. If other kids were anything like my husband (born 1956), they spent the span of their childhoods glued to the TV every night watching war footage on the news. So, I suppose those implements of destruction came with the territory. Machine guns and hand grenades aside, the rest of this clever book is lighthearted and fun, devised using the author's keen sense of design. The illustrations are made up of smudged together finger prints, drawings and light collage.

According to the back of the book, Ms. Cameron overheard some kids making a silly joke and was intrigued enough to plant a joke suggestion box in her neighborhood store, and after over 300 hundred suggestions, a book was born.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Changes, Changes

Changes, Changes
by Pat Hutchins/ published 1977 by The Macmillan Company

This is fairly famous book from the seventies, still in print I believe with Simon & Schuster. I had this one when I was wee and it still confounds me as much today as it did back then. It's a story in pictures of two little wooden doll type figures who set forth a series of events and objects using colorful wooden blocks. There is a bizarre fire and a flood, but if ever a book was forged out of the imagination, this would be it.

Her books have a look that is pretty iconic of that time period, making them super retro finds if you can get hold of some vintage copies. This one is in library binding, stamped 1979 for purchase by the librarian.

What's a Ghost Going to Do?

What's a Ghost Going to Do?
by Jane Thayer with pictures by Seymour Fleishman/ published 1966 by William Morrow

I can't remember where I acquired this one, but it's a super sweet story about a ghost in fear of losing his home, and the underlying theme sends a nice message about preservation.

"The Scott's didn't believe in ghosts, but when Gus banged and clanked with his bang-clank equipment, they told their friends proudly, 'We've got a ghost named Gus.'"

According to the about the author section, Jane Thayer is a pen name for Catherine Woolley, and apparently, there are other titles about Gus the ghost floating around out in the world somewhere. This Weekly Reader Children's Book Club Edition has a few doodles and words written on the first few pages. Most notably, underneath the title on the title in the title page, some ancient rascal scribbled "Now wouldn't you like to know."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Space Witch

Space Witch
Don Freeman~ Penguin Books, 1959

Remembered having this one as a child. I bought it at a library sale, but I have to admit, the first time I read it to my son, he got creeped out. Famous for writing Corduroy, Don Freeman crafts a sweet and sinister tale of a witch with the right stuff. Only this guy could create a character who designs a "Zoom Broom" out of suspenders, tinfoil, six containers of silly putty and an old dinosaur tooth.

"Kit, how would you like to spend Halloween frightening creatures on other planets?"

As you can imagine, her trip into space doesn't quite go as planned, but that's the fun of it. Once I'd read it all the way through I remembered that the book had scared me as a child too. Not really the story, but the drawings of the witch... or it could have just been that she is a witch, period.

Either way, gotta love that Space Witch!

Also by:
Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library
Fly High Fly Low
Mop Top
The Guard Mouse


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Why I Built the Boogle House

Why I Built the Boogle House
Helen Palmer ~ photographs by Lynn Fayman
Random House, 1964

This was one of the first titles I picked up for my son a few years back, from Cheever's Books on Broadway in San Antonio. Written by the first Mrs. Dr. Seuss, it follows the struggles of a young boy in search of the perfect pet and the perfect house in which to house said perfect pet. Possibly better known for the classic Fish Out of Water, Helen Palmer did a series of these awesome books with photography including I was Kissed by a Seal at the Zoo and Do You Know What I'm Gonna Do Next Saturday.

Ms. Palmer's incantation is a delight and once you've gotten into reading her stuff, you can tell instantly if a book is hers. I love the way she repeats words to get her point across...

"So, I swapped him.
I swapped the rabbit for a dog."

A truly far out title and one that several friends have remembered fondly from childhood. (My copy came with the sweet inscription "Merry Christmas Nora Ellen from Fred & Lois, 1974").

Also by:
I Kissed a Seal at the Zoo
Do you know what I'm going to do next Saturday?
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