Saturday, September 29, 2007

I Am a Bunny

I Am a Bunny
Ole Risom ~ Richard Scarry ~ Golden Books, 1963

I love this book. I have very vivid memories of it from when I was a child and even today, browsing the pictures gives me this overwhelming sense of nostalgia. Something about the way the skin on the frog is painted makes me feel all snuggly inside.

I am a bunny.
My name is Nicholas.
I live in a hollow tree.

The ultimate cute story about a little bunny and his place within the weather and seasons. The tall board book feel and amazing pictures still hold up in the reprint, but it's the deeper colors of the take me back. That's what I love about toys and books from the past. They can give you these incredible sense memories that other things can't. With this one, I can remember being on my parents bed reading it and the way their bedspread felt on my hands.

Also by:
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Chipmunk's ABC
Great Big Air Book
Rabbit and His Friends
The Bunny Book
Richard Scarry's Best Rainy Day Book Ever
Tommy Visits the Doctor

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Brian Wildsmith's Birds

Brian Wildsmith's Birds
Brian Wildsmith ~ Franklin Watts, 1967

Today isn't the happiest of days, but I figured I should keep up. Our local Central Library here is so magical. They have a WITHDRAWN book basement where hardcover children's books are 50 cents, and it is just a dream. Drop $15 in there and you leave with a huge box full of books. It's a delight really. I picked this one up the other day. I've never seen it before, but it makes me smile.

A walk of snipe

A wedge of swans

A nye of pheasants

A siege of bitterns

The bird illustrations are really whimsical and sweet with explosive color. And the writing... "The words that refer to a gathering of creatures...." Definitely for those in love with words. There is one on ANIMALS too, so, more seeking to do.

It never ends does it?

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

Sunday, September 23, 2007

You Will Go to the Moon

You Will Go To the Moon
Mae and Ira Freeman ~ Robert Patterson
Random House, 1959

Of late our little guy has been obsessed with the moon and more importantly, going to said moon. I've been reading him the Bernstein Bears' book as well as a signed copy of Buzz Aldrin's kids' read gifted from his aunt. But perhaps the classic is this.

My husband (aged 51), was profoundly changed by this story as a boy. I can imagine how this Beginner Book must have sparked the imaginations of a generation who were gearing up to see someone actually do it. The first jaunt didn't commence until a little over a decade later, but the amazing thing is, the book is pretty accurate on how it would happen... (All except for the part about YOU going to the moon and the non-existent moon house and the fact that I believe there were only six Apollo missions and in all likelihood no one is ever going back there.)

The moon is up there,
far away.
No one has been there yet.
But someone will go there soon.
Some day you may go there, too.

Think about all the boys and girls back in the day who thought they might make it there. That a trip to the moon would become so ho-hum that we'd be jetting around vacationing in craters. (Didn't TWA actually pre-sell tickets?) Even if it's a little outdated, it still paints a pretty impressive picture of how the trips eventually went down, and to wee little ones who don't know better, it just might make them believe they have a chance. Now, I'd like to see somebody do the followup You Will Go to Mars.

Also by:
Fun With Figures


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Friday, September 21, 2007

Madeline and the Gypsies

Madeline and the Gypsies
by Ludwig Bemelmans/ published 1959 by The Viking Press

Ok soooo. I grew up with Madeline, Madeline's Rescue and Madeline's Christmas, but never before had I seen this one. It all started a few weeks ago when we checked out Madeline in London from the library, and in that there is reference to the Gypsies and the Bad Hat, neither of which I'd ever read before. Since Maddy is a must read at our house, I figured I'd better track down these other two that I had not experienced as a child. First off, I love how Bemelsmans always harks back to the original book on the first page of all his subsequent books.

In an old house in Paris that was
covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.

The original book holds one of my favorite children's book end lines ever.

That's all there is
There isn't anymore.

But that aside, this book is freaky. I mean, Madeline and her friend Pepito essentially get kidnapped by gypsies and in order for the gypsy momma to hide them from Miss Clavel, she sews them into a lion hide... and the roam the countryside (as a lion) looking for someone who can help them out of their dilemma.

The Gypsy Mama said, "How would you like to try on
This lovely costume of a lion?"
With a curved needle and some string
She sewed both the children in
And nobody knew what was inside
The tough old lion's leathery hide.

Freaky. It's like another of my son's faves, The Terrible Tiger, where this tiger marauds the countryside eating people until finally he swallows a tailor who uses his scissors to cut a hole in the tiger's side so they can all escape. I mean, how do you even explain that to a kid? I love it!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Very Special House

A Very Special House
by Ruth Krauss with pictures by Maurice Sendak/ published 1953 by Harper & Row

Recently given to my son as a favorite by a friend, this is one in a little series of book written by this team. They are all very imaginative and a little off from the norm, but they encapsulate the wonder of childhood perfectly. We all know Sendak, but apparently Ms. Krauss was married to Crockett Johnson, the famed author of Harold and the Purple Crayon.

I'm bringing home a turtle
and a rabbit and a giant
and a little dead mouse
– I take it everywheres –

I love how in the illustrations in this one, the boy is in black, white and blue and the imaginary things are all line drawings. Not to mention the giggling, snickering and smiling all illustrate what I like to describe in my own son as the "rascal."

Also by:
Happy Egg
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
Moon Jumpers
What Do You Say, Dear?
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale
Some Swell Pup
Let's Be Enemies
Chicken Soup with Rice
Lullabies and Night Songs
Outside Over There
I'll Be You and You Be Me
The Juniper Tree
Where the Wild Things Are
Seven Little Monsters
The Giant Story

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Giraffe and a Half

A Giraffe and a Half
by Shel Silverstein/ published 1964 by HarperCollins

Who didn't idolize this guy as a kid? The Giving Tree and Missing Piece and The Lion Who Shot Back and Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book were all staples at my house. Sadly, I don't ever remember reading this one as a child, but my kid has it memorized. And what a joy to read out loud. It's so good, you almost don't have to think about reading it... the lyrical phrasing practically reads itself. The funny tale of a boy and a giraffe and all the little things that happen to them in rhyme.

If he fell in a hole that was dug by a mole...
you would have a giraffe and a half
with a rat in his hat
looking cute in a suit
with a rose on his nose
and a bee on his knee
and some glue on his shoe
playing toot on a flute
with a chair in his hair
and a snake eating cake
and a skunk in a trunk
and a dragon in a wagon
and a spike on his bike
and a whale on his tail
in a hole with a mole.

I've always admired this guy for being so cynical and real while still speaking to kids. I was even more in love when I found out he wrote the song "A Boy Named Sue". And even though his giant author photo always gave me the heeby geebies, I'd still have married him.

Also by:
Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back
Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book


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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A House is a House For Me

A House Is a House for Me
by Mary Ann Hoberman illustrated by Betty Fraser/ published 1978 by The Viking Press

Again pushing the bounds of what is vintage, I discovered this little number at the library and can't get over how much fun it is... both in the smart, lyrical story and the super cool illustrations. Really, this title couldn't be more enjoyable. If I had a third thumb, I'd be giving it extra digit kudos!

A box is a house for a teabag.
A teapot's a house for some tea.
If you pour me a cup and I drink it all up,
Then the teahouse will turn into me!

The basic premise is that everything is a house for something if you ponder on it long enough. Since this one is truly of my era, I do feel a kinship with the style and voice, but all the same, this is a wonderful book to read aloud and look at for hours. You'll always find something new tucked into one of the pictures or read a line one way that you thought was meant to be read another. I am secretly tucking this in as one of my current favorites even if it is almost an 80s book!

Also by:
All My Shoes Come in Twos

Monday, September 17, 2007

Prehistoric Monsters Did the Strangest Things

Prehistoric Monsters Did the Strangest Things
Leonora & Arthur Hornblow ~ Michael K. Frith ~ Random House, 1974

I love this book because a) the title... come on... AWESOME, b) the Frith drawings remind me of his Sesame Street story books of the 1970s, and c) it was the first book I discovered from the fabulous Random House Step-Up Books series, of which we now have about a dozen.

Definitely not one for the creationism set, this book is all about the boiling fire that the earth is born from, leading up to the first dinosaurs crawling out of the muck of the sea and then to the modern dinosaurish creatures of today...

Life began in the water. The water then was warm and salty. The air was hot and damp. Little plants began to grow. Soon, small creatures started to crawl on the bottom of the sea.

A great way to introduce dinosaurs and evolution and all that cool prehistoric awesome stuff to your kid. I can already see the mystery and wonder beginning to brim in my son's eyes when I read him this book. (Who knew that the brachiosaurus had a nose in that big hump on his head so that he could hide his mammoth body under water and still be able to breathe?)

Also by:
Birds Do the Strangest Things
Some of Us Walk Some Fly Some Swim


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Thursday, September 13, 2007

How the Animals Get to the Zoo

How the Animals Get to the Zoo
Mary Elting with pictures by Stefan Martin
published 1964 by Wonder Books

Again, I shutter to think of the complete unPCness of this book, but it is hugely fascinating none-the-less. For any fan of the awesome John Wayne flick, Hatari!, this book takes the story one step further. When my husband was wee, Hatari! was his favorite movie, partly because those guys who used to trap exotic animals old school-style were like African cowboys. Looking at it now, the capture and caging techniques were pretty horrific...

How do wild animals get to the zoo?
Men from the zoo go out to look for them.
Men from the zoo catch them and bring them back.

I am definitely a memoir girl in my own reading, and one of my all time favorite books EVER is West with the Night by Beryl Markham. Though she was much more of an animal observer and a conservationist, this story still takes you back to that time when Africa and its wildlife were still so exotic to the Western world. I know, I know... there are so many things wrong with that too... but my son's favorite animals are African, his favorite movie is Africa Imax on DVD and the place he talks about going someday all the time is Africa, so any book that brings him that much closer to the experience is OK with me. My husband and I went on safari in Tanzania a few years back, and already are saving money so that when the little guy turns 11ish, we can take him.

Includes techniques for wrestling crocs, trapping monkeys in trees and digging holes to capture rhinos... a title definitely not for the squeamish animal lover, but still an interesting picture of how all these generations of zoo animals made it stateside in the first place.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chickens Aren't the Only Ones

Chickens Aren't the Only Ones
Ruth Heller
Grosset & Dunlap, 1981

I know 1981 isn't exactly vintage... or is it!?! OH MY GOD, I'M OLD! Anyway, even though this isn't vintage in the traditional sense of the word, I still think it is an old(ish) book that is awesome, and my son loves the vivid pictures of all the various oviparous animals.

Chickens aren't the only ones. There's no more to discuss. Everyone who lays an egg is oviparous.

The colors are all so bright and vibrant, and the one page with all the different bird eggs is a Kodak dream. So yea, this book is about anything and everything that lays eggs from dinosaur to hummingbird to platypus to fish to bug. A very cool idea with a great execution. Two thumbs up.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Hare and the Tortoise

Hare and the Tortoise
Paul Galdone
McGraw-Hill, 1962

The prologue to this book reads only this...

THE HARE AND THE TORTOISE is one of the most famous of AESOP'S fables. Very little is known about AESOP except that he was born about 620 B.C. and died about 564 B.C. He was a Greek slave of Samos whose master set him free.

I've always loved the fact that Aesop used animals to tell tales of the human condition. His stories are kinda like Bible stories... just told through animals instead of prophets. And Paul Galdone. I am still up in the air about this guy. Some of his pictures are mildly creepy. My son still won't go near Three Little Pigs, and I remember being more than a little freaked out reading his Rumpelstiltskin and Puss in Boots as a child. This one, however, is a big winner at our house, mainly because of the medley of animals that appear, but a favorite none-the-less.

Then said the Tortoise, "Slow and steedy often wins the race."

Also by:
Three Fox Fables

Monday, September 10, 2007

Favorite Just So Stories

Favorite Just So Stories
Rudyard Kipling
illustrated by H.B. Vestal
Grosset & Dunlap, 1957

Was a big fan of If in high school and always loved the Just So Stories, so I snapped up this copy as soon as I saw the handsome animal illustrations on the end pages. From what little I can piece together from searches on the internet, it seems Mr. Vestal was a military illustrator during WWII, and the books he went on to illustrate from their reflect that.... Moby Dick, Kipling, etc. I particularly like the illustrations for the "How the Whale Got His Tiny Throat" story.

Then the whale opened his mouth back and back and back till it nearly touched his tail and he swallowed the shipwrecked mariner, and the raft he was sitting on, and his blue canvas breeches, and the suspenders (which you must not forget), and the jackknife -- he swallowed them all down into his warm, dark inside cupboards, and then he smacked his lips -- so, and turned around three times on his tail.

The Just So Stories were first published in 1902, and Kipling has a long history of being labeled as creating racist characters and the like... (Who remembered that's how the leopard got its spots?) All the same, these books are old for a reason, the tales they spin are universal and everlasting. The face might be a little dated, but the soul still holds true.

Also by:
Look Out For Pirates!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Tell Me Some More...

Tell Me Some More
Crosby Newell Bonsall
pictures by Fritz Siebel
Harper & Row, 1961

Illustrated by the same man who did my son's early fave A Fly Went By, these pictures are not his best, but the story is really like no other I have seen. It is about a little boy who tells his friend that he knows a place where he can do all this unbelievably amazing things.

"I know a place," said Andrew, "where I can hold an elephant under my arm."
"The trunk and all?" Tim said.
"The trunk and all," said Andrew.

The little boy is of course speaking of the library, and by the end, the two are taking home not just an elephant, but a rocket ship, a steam shovel and a giraffe. It is really the cutest story ever about the tall tales kids weave as well as the magic of that unsinkable institution. Any kid who loves books will enjoy the kindred spirits in these pages. The author also wrote another funny little book about two boys fighting over whose blow-up beach toy is the best (hysterical), but that is for another day!

Also by:
The Land of Peek-A-Boo

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Amos & Boris

Amos & Boris
by William Steig/ published 1971 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

You know, I've had a knee jerk aversion to Steig since Shrek became such a monster hit, but this little title may have reignited my interest. The story of a adventurous mouse who finds himself strained in the open sea, friendship is solidified when a amiable whale offers to float him home.

"What sort of fish are you? the whale asked.
"You must be one of a kind!"
"I'm not a fish," said Amos.
"I'm a mouse, which is a mammal, the highest form of life.
I live on land."
"Holy clam and cuttlefish!" said the whale.
"I'm a mammal myself, though I live in the sea.
Call me Boris," he added.

Friendship knows no bounds be it size of berth or size of heart or whether you sport skin or fur. When you believe in each other, anything is possible. Steig is a master at highlighting genuine human emotions in a way that is accessible to kids. The guy has been illustrating for The New Yorker for three decades, so there is no denying that his wit is universal. This is a wonderful story, and according to our local librarian, one of her favorites.

Also by:
The Amazing Bone
Rotten Island
Yellow & Pink
The Zabajaba Jungle
Gorky Rises
Tiffky Doofky
Father Palmer's Wagon Ride
Solomon the Rusty Nail


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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Story About Ping

The Story about Ping
Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese
The Viking Press, 1933

A wildly popular book, it has somewhat of a colored past with controversy surrounding its seemingly racist portrayal of the Chinese as well as some undertones of animal cruelty. If you can get past all that, it is really a delightful book with wonderful illustrations -- the sentiment being that there's no place like home (even if home means getting whacked on the butt with a rod and an eventual death by slaughter.)

SPLASH! There in the water was a Boy! A little boy with a barrel on his back which was tied to a rope from the boat just as all boat boys on the Yangtze river are tied to their boats.

Wikipedia says that Ms. Flack was married for a while to the artist Karl Larsson who was one of my favorites as a girl. And according to the Michener Museum Web site, Mr. Wiese was German born and did the drawings for the original Bambi book. He spent some time in China selling merchandise as a young man, thus accounting for any dated visual opinions about the Chinese.

Pretty much anything old nowadays tends to offend, so on some level you have to be able to explain outdated concepts to your kids so hopefully they can begin to learn and understand the world around them better than our grandparents did.

Also by:
The Five Chinese Brothers
The Country Bunny
Tim Tadpole and the Great Bullfrog
Angus and the Cat
The Wonderful Story of Ting Ling

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Red Tag Comes Back

Red Tag Comes Back
Fred Phleger ~ pictures by Arnold Lobel
Harper & Row, 1961

Other books that bore by Mr. Phelger (including the utterly actionless but much-loved by my son The Whales Go By), first turned me off of this writer, but I have since become a convert. This story is especially cool because it follows a tagged salmon on his trip downriver and then return to spawn. Totally cool for teaching a kid about nature and such things. Plus, Arnold Lobel almost never disappoints. I mean, geez, the guy illustrated everything. Including writing Frog and Toad for god's sake!

A little digging online shows Fred Phelger to be an utterly fascinating human being.

This from the Online Archive of California...

Phleger received three degrees in geology, an A.B. degree from the University of Southern California in 1931, an M.S. from the California Institute of Technology in 1932 and a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1936. Phleger's early work in paleontology concerned Ordovician fossils, Lichadian trilobites, and Pleistocene cats.

And Phleger received the 1980 Joseph A. Cushman Award which recognized Phleger as a pioneer of modern marine geology whose work "had considerable impact on the development of paleoecology and paleoceanography, both in deep-sea research and in the study of shallow marine deposits.

And then perhaps the most unlikely turn in his life...

Phleger had a literary career as well as a scientific career. His wife, Marjorie Temple Phleger, taught drama at the Bishop School when they first arrived in La Jolla. She later became public relations head at the La Valencia Hotel, which was owned at the time by oceanographer Gifford Ewing. While there she met many actors and writers, including Clark Gable and Tennessee Williams. She was a columnist for the San Diego Union and the La Jolla Light. She was a founder of the original La Jolla Playhouse. The Phlegers became acquainted with Ted Geisel and his wife Helen in the early 1950's. Geisel encouraged the Phlegers to write children's books and introduced them to the editors of Beginner Books at Random House. Marjorie Temple Phleger first wrote a survival book, Pilot Down, Presumed Dead. In 1959, Fred Phleger published The Whales Go By and Ann Can Fly and in 1960 Red Tag Comes Back. He and his wife published You will Live Under the Sea and Off to the Races in 1966.

I am thoroughly captivated by the fact that someone with such a renowned scientific pedigree would go on to meet Dr. Seuss and have a legacy such as this. Very cool. I love how incestuous children's books in the 60s were.

Also by:
The Terrible Tiger
The Ice-Cream Cone Coot
Oscar Otter
The Star Thief
Mouse Tales
Prince Bertram the Bad
The Secret Three
Benny's Animals
Miss Suzy
Martha the Movie Mouse
Terry and the Caterpillars
The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Cluck
Ann Can Fly


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