Sunday, December 30, 2007

Billions of Quacks

Billions of Quacks
Faye Tornquist
pictures by A. E. Kennedy
Samuel Gabriel Sons & Company, 1939

My mother has been obsessing about getting Quacks for my son for a while now. She had a copy from when she was little, but the binding was all broken. So this Christmas, he got about a dozen of the pages framed from her original as well as a purchased vintage copy. Billions of Quacks quite simply rocks!

Once upon a time there was a dear Little Duck
who couldn't stop quacking.
"Stop quacking", said his mother.
The Little Duck tried, but he couldn't!
"Stop quacking", said his father.
The Little Duck tried, but he couldn't!...Little Duck tried as hard as he knew how.
He cried. He worried. He took sips of water.
He held his breath. But it didn't do any good!
The quacks just kept coming out
one right after the other, like this,
Thousands of them! millions of them! billions of them!!!
The illustrations are vibrant and the story of the Little Duck who gives his quacks away to the Toy Maker is completely delicious. It has a high collectible factor, so if you ever run into one at a book sale, grab it! You can't help but fall in love with the proud little duckling, and the slight old-time "kids should be seen and not heard" moral is endearing yet dated. I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Kangaroo for Christmas

Kangaroo for Christmas
James Flora ~ Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962
reprinted Enchanted Lion Books, October 2011

So this is my last post for a few days... headed to the family in Virginia... but as I am a Flora fan and it's Christmas Eve, I thought this number would be appropriate. The often hilarious story of a small girl who receives a -- HAAAAZAAAAA -- kangaroo for Christmas.

On the day before Christmas a truck came.
It left a big box on the porch.
On the box was a card.

As you can imagine, havoc ensues with the bouncy bugger wrecking the joint... from the grocery store to the bakery to the top of Grandma's old electric automobile. This one is a riot, and completely far out (as expected).

Mine is a first edition library copy, and it has a wonderful book plate in the front that reads --


It made me laugh to think of the hundreds of librarians my son has horrified with his sticky finger marks.

Merry Christmas!

Also by:
Grandpa's Farm
Pishtosh Bullwash and Wimple
Stewed Goose
Great Green Turkey Creek Monster
Leopold the See-Through Crumbpicker
The Day the Cow Sneezed
Little Hatchy Hen
Grandpa's Witched Up Christmas
My Friend Charlie
Sherwood Walks Home
The Fabulous Firework Family

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scuttle the Stowaway Mouse

Jean and Nancy Soule with pictures by Barbara Remington/ published 1969 by Parent's Magazine Press

I hate to sound sexist, but it is hard to believe a woman did these illustrations. The pictures of the rats and the pirates in particular are pretty creepy, so it's kinda cool that a woman could come up with them. According to one of the back pages of the book, Ms. Remington illustrated the first paperback volumes of The Lord of the Rings trilogy - which makes sense. The two authors are a mother and her thirteen-year-old daughter who published several books together during this time period.

In the midst of that battle he was so small
That nobody noticed the mouse at all.
Quickly Scuttle hunted around
Till over the railing he looked and found
The captain's hat with the turned-up brim
A perfect boat for a mouse like him.

Mouse looks for home. Mouse find adventure instead. Mouse escapes pirates. Mouse steals pirate loot. Mouse ends up with nice house. That's basically the gist. I thought my son would be tweaked by the pictures, but he's actually pretty into them. We purchased it earlier this week at a Goodwill, and it has been through at least six reads already without one creep out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat

The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat
Eugene Field with illustrations by Helen Page
Follet Publishing Company, 1945

My son received this one as a Christmas present this week from a friend in Colorado. This is a reprint from 1963 and includes not just Dog & Cat, but also a story called The Dinkey-Bird. Both tales are pretty far out by today's standards. The namesake story is about a toy cat and dog that get in a fight while a horrified clock and China plate look on. The poem ends with the revelation that the two stuffed dolls have eaten each other.

Next morning, where the two had sat,
They found no trace of dog or cat;
And some folks think unto this day
That burglars stole the pair away!
But the truth about the cat and pup
Is this: they ate each other up!

The bird story is about the land of Wonder-Wander, an island where angelic boys and girls go to do whatever they want.

There the gumdrops grow like cherries,
And taffy's thick as peas
Caramels you pick like berries
When, and where, and how you please.

It almost seems as if the Dinkey-Bird is a winged Pied Piper, luring the kids to his land of plenty with his siren song. Spooky. This book rocks in so many ways. The pastel illustrations are evocative and the poems as sweet as they are bizarre. And my son has been mesmerized with it ever since it came in the mail. "Again Mommy. Again." Obviously the Dinkey-Bird's evil plan is working....

Also by:
Wynken, Blynken and Nod
Favorite Poems

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Happy Egg

The Happy Egg
Ruth Krauss with pictures by Crockett Johnson
Scholastic, 1967

How romantic would it be to spend your day creating children's books with the person you love? I mean, I don't know much about these guys in their deep personal life, but to the outsider, their marriage looks pretty dang cool. The Happy Egg is my favorite of their collaborations, and tells the story of a little little egg and how it came to be cracked.

There was a little little bird.
It was just born.
It was still an egg.
It couldn't walk.
It couldn't sing.
It couldn't fly.
It could just get sat on.

This is the last book the two created together, and I can't imagine it took him longer than a weekend to do the drawings (unless I am sorely underestimating the creative process here). The illustrations just as sweet as they could be, with words that are as humdrum as they are uplifting.

Also by:
A Very Special House
I'll Be You and You Be Me

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas in the Barn

Christmas in the Barn
by Margaret Wise Brown with pictures by Barbara Cooney/ published 1952 by Thomas Y. Crowell

The story of the immaculate birth, Christmas in the Barn has not only helped inform my son of the Baby Jesus, but also of the fact that women carry babies in their tummies and that once he was a baby living in my tummy and that someday he will be a daddy. We actually have two versions of this book and in the updated version illustrated by Diane Goode, it is pretty clear that Mary is "with child"... in this original version, not so visually apparent. Of the era I suppose.

The child was sleeping in the hay
And there they were
All safe and warm
All together in that ancient barn.

I suppose I'd better leave out the part of how the wee Baby Jesus was actually conceived, as I am walking on thin ice on that subject anyway... I wouldn't want to confuse my son's wee little mind further. But I digress... Such a great Christmas story if you are wanting to remember the reason for the season.

Also by:
The Quiet Noisy Book
On Christmas Eve
The Dead Bird
Little Chicken
Chanticleer and the Fox
The Crows of Pearblossom
Wynken, Blynken and Nod
The Golden Egg Book
Ox-Cart Man
The Friendly Book
The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Tree is Nice

A Tree Is Nice
Janice May Udry with pictures by Marc Simont/ published 1956 by Harper & Row

Author of one of my faves, The Moon Jumpers, Ms. Udry created a read that is so totally innocent and sweet it makes you ache for a world here the wonder of trees is an everyday contemplation. I love the simple pen and ink strokes of the pictures and the way all the children depicted look so sure of themselves and the world in which they live.

Cats get away from dogs by going up the tree.
Birds build nests in trees and live there.
Sticks come off the trees too.
We draw in the sand with sticks.

I love the second to the last line there, because these sorts of things are what stick in your child's imagination for a lifetime. Since reading Keats' The Snowy Day, my son is constantly smacking on trees with sticks and this book kind of brings it full circle. Just those sorts of things we lose as an adult. That sticks do come from trees and how cool it is that they are lying around everywhere, waiting for us to pick them up and write in the sand.

Also by:
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed
The Moon Jumpers
Let's Be Enemies

Friday, December 7, 2007

ABC Book

ABC Book
C.B. Falls/ published 1923 by Books of Wonder

I got this book as a freebie while I was working in New York over 15 years ago and held onto it for my future kid. It was one of the earliest books I read to him, and I really just love it. An alphabet book for the design-conscious, the wood cuts are stunning. C.B. had a style that was copied by many, and still is today because his pictures are so much fun to look at and get lost in. Each letter of the alphabet is given a corresponding animal...

X is for Xiphius
Y is for Yak
Z is for Zebra

...though the antelope looks a lot like a goat to me. You can actually buy prints and see all the illustrations from the book here.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Circus is Coming

The Circus is Coming
a picture parade by Hilary Knight/ published 1978 by Golden Press

Circus was recently reissued, and I saw the new version at The Red Balloon, and decided to buy a vintage copy for myself. This book is totally lavish, a little sexualized and almost indescribable. It's awesome! There is very minimal text, but the reason to buy here is the pictures. Each two-page spread illustrates a circus float with different themes: clowns, acrobats, the Arctic, pirates, cowboys and Indians, monkeys, etc... The text is simple but tells a story. Literally, the pictures are worth a thousand words (and reads!)

Snarling and spitting tigers make me shiver.
But cats can be gentle too.

Silly, silly apes in wigs...
I laugh so hard my sides hurt.

Brrr. A frosty float all covered with ice...
...and Eskimos and penguins and furry seal babies.

Best known for his work on Eloise, there are undertones of Knight's second life here and the pictures are utterly fascinating. Those who really get into it, can even buy signed prints of some of the artwork here.

Also by:
Where's Wallace
Sunday Morning

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Roar and More

Roar and More
Karla Kuskin/ published 1956 by Harper and Row

A library find (thus the wrinkly picture), Roar and More is a super cool book. Obviously from that time period when artists started playing with design... Namely two-page spreads with words the appropriate size of their sounds.

Fishes are finny.
Fishes are funny.
They don't go dancing.
They don't make money.
They live under water.
They don't have troubles.
And when they talk
It looks like bubbles.

The animal illustrations are primitive and simple, and the little poems about each animal lyrical and witty. The back cover says the book was created as part of a project for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Design... which sounds pretty right on. If reading this aloud... be ready to put on some voices. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK.

Also by:
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed

Monday, December 3, 2007

Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library

Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library
Don Freeman/ published 1969 by Scott, Foresman and Company

By the author of Corduroy and the previously reviewed Space Witch, I first saw a new edition of Quiet in a local bookstore and found a vintage copy on What an awesome book! This is what I was talking about in that just when you think you've seen it all, you come across something that is so good, you can't believe you haven't seen it before.

After a while Cary slowly closed her book
and started talking silently to herself.
"If I were a librarian
I know what I would do," she said.
"I would have a special day when only
animals and birds would be allowed
to come in and browse."

Since this covers my son's two favorite places... the library and the zoo, it has everything.

You know, it's funny to look at these books now, because a little pen and ink drawing book like this would never pass in today's market. The charcoal looks almost like crayon strokes, and the illustrations are very childlike. Something you don't see much of with all the oil paintings and detail that are on kids' bookshelves today.

Also by:
Space Witch
Fly High Fly Low
Mop Top
The Guard Mouse

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
by Barbara Shook Hazen, adapted from the story by Robert L. May with pictures by Richard Scarry/ published 1976 by Golden Books

The other reindeer in the book play an old (imaginary?) game called tumble bones... one of the games Rudolph isn't allowed to join in on. Happily my son has made up his own version of the game that includes falling (ahem, tumbling) on the ground and rolling around. Hilarious.

All the reindeer loved to play games.
They played tree tag and snow slide and tumble bones.
But Rudolph was never asked to play.
He stood behind a pine tree and watched.
He was very lonely.

After about a thousand reads over the Thanksgiving holiday, I can now recite this book by heart, even though it barely resembles the song. My son talks about Toyland (you know, where Rudolph lives?) like it is down the street from our house and is totally jazzed about the whole idea of a deer with a nose that glows. I can't say that I blame him. I had a copy of this book way back when, since as we know, Scarry was THE illustrator of my generation. I just can't say enough about how cool and sweet his pictures are. And, I have to say that the holiday books of today blow... If I have to look at another Dora story/sticker Feliz Navidad paperback, I'm gonna scream. I mean, since when did all children's books have to come with stickers?

Also by:
I Am a Bunny
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
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