Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Hey everybody, sorry for the late post... but alas, long days do that to a momma. That said, I'm psyched to offer up another edition of The Great Readers Write starring longtime reader Swati, all the way from India. Remember, you too can guest post here at VKBMKLs about a favorite vintage children's book by following the instructions here. Anyways... enjoy!

Stand Back Said The Elephant I'm Going To Sneeze
Patricia Thomas ~ Wallace Tripp ~ Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1971

I have a 1971 copy of "Stand Back," Said the Elephant, "I'm Going to Sneeze!" which is great fun to read. The illustrations are all in ink, with dashes of solid colour on some pages, but they still charm. The verse is tantalizingly fast paced and pretty imaginative. It begins with a plain black and white drawing of an upright elephant apparently taking a deep breath before sneezing -

"Stand back," said the elephant,
"I'm going to sneeze!
I hate to alarm you,
But I don't wish to harm you..
My friends, I fear
It's clear.....
Oh, dear,
You'd better stand back, I'm going to sneeze."

The alarmed buffalo complains, among other things,

"Your sneezes send
everyone flying along,
Bumping and thumping down pathway and trail,
Bouncing and jouncing
head over tail,
Tumbling and bumbling...."

A shocked colony of monkeys talk of the last time they were blown right out of the trees, squawking birds remember how every feather was lost, and

"... all the whales
Had peacock's tails,
And the wings of the cockatoo
Were stuck on the kangaroo."

The poor elephant desperately tries to knot his trunk and stop the sneeze as bees remind him of how their stings had to be replaced with rose thorns and glue, and the bear does a double take at the memory of spending "the whole winter in long underwear", his hair having been blown off when the alligator's snout had been "turned inside out" and the giraffe was bent in half. Crocodiles, flies and fishes join the chorus with their woes. The zebra cries "You'll blow off my stripes" and the hippopotamus is afraid

"A lot of us
Will fall right on our bottom-us"

The elephant however, with sincere regret, is unable to hold the sneeze in any longer, and the animals are stampeding away as - well, let us just say something happens, and the elephant finds

"As I live and breathe!
I don't think I really have to sneeze."

Instead, he begins to giggle, and the giggle becomes a chortle, which enlarges into belly shaking, knee buckling, rolling on the ground laughter. And what do you suppose happens then? Exactly what everyone had been afraid of! Monkeys tumble out, stings fall, feathers fly, hair and scales come off, stripes run away, and

"...the hippo went thump
Right on his plump...you-know-what!"

It is a hilarious story, one which is meant to be read aloud to the accompaniment of much chuckling and bright-eyed anticipatory laughter.

Also by:
Sir Toby Jingle's Beastly Journey

Monday, March 30, 2009

Great Monday Give: Space Witch

Hey folks.... short and sweet, OK? Today is Monday, meaning it is time for The Great Monday Give, the moment when I give away a free vintage children's book from our collection to one lucky reader. Today's give is a vintage paperback of Space Witch by Don Freeman. To be entered to win, all you have to do is comment on this post before midnight ~ Sunday ~ April 5... a winner will be selected the following Monday and so on and so forth. Last week's winner of Hooper Humperdink? Marci & Dan... let's give it up for them! Please e-mail me at webe(at)soon(dot)com, and I will get it out to you sooner rather than later. After a while crocodiles...

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Bears' Activity Book

The Berenstain Bears' Activity Book
Stan and Jan Berenstain ~ Random House, 1979

So... I grew up in a small town (or what was a small town) in South Carolina called Pawley's Island. You had to drive thirty minutes south to get to the nearest library so often the book section in The Original Hammock Shop was my respite. It was more of a gift shop with a load of little gifty-type books, but it did have an OK children's collection. Man oh man, I could recognize that place on smell alone, even today. The Workman books like Henry Beard's sailing and golfing or The Official Preppy Handbook.... Peter Mayle's Where Did I Come From?. The spinner racks... Richard Scarry's Find Your ABCs... Simon Bond... 101 Uses for a Dead Cat. The memories of that place go on and on. One such book ~ or activity book rather ~ I was obsessed with, and when I finally got it, I loved and used it to pieces. For years as an adult, I searched for a replacement copy intact, and finally found one that wasn't super expensive. (I imagine all copies in uncut condition are pretty collectible for reasons similar to the one I just described.)

I was seven years old when this book was landed on the shelf and then directly into my hands. I bought it during the summer, and literally... I must have done every activity in it like 100 times. Things to color. Cooking projects. Calendars. Games. The Bear Country Barn Theater. Whenever it rained and I wasn't out trapping tad poles or climbing trees, my butt would be in a corner somewhere with this book doing something out of it. This book was so much fun that I remember every single page some 30 years later. The valentines. The holiday fun. The cut-out Bear Scout merit badges. But, the best part of all... it has a cut-out and assemble Bear Country. I mean, like the whole Bear Country... all of it. From Mayor Honeypot's car to The Honey Store to the tree house... and little paper cut-outs of all the characters... Grizzly Gran. Officer Marguerite. Great Natural Bear.

One rainy day, the boy and I are sure gonna have fun down that sunny dirt road... I... I mean, HE, can hardly wait.

Also by:
Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree
The Big Honey Hunt
The Bears' Nature Guide
The Bears' Almanac

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak ~ Harper & Row, 1963

As yesterday was a hopeful day in the lives of children’s book/film buffs, I thought today was special enough to give props to… wait for it… the book that VKBMKL dubs as the all-time BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK EVER. That’s right. My number one top pick. The book I would pack if I only had one book to take of a deserted island. The one book I bought my son to celebrate his first birthday. Where the Wild Things Are is THE book folks, and I know the world is crossing its fingers and holding its breath hoping that Spike Jonze and his crew do it justice on the silver screen. I personally am a huge Dave Eggers and Jonze fan, so I have tremendous faith. Rumors abound that the movie was redited and part was reshot because the film company thought it too scary for kids. Who knows? But what I do know is that my son has asked to watch the trailer no less than five times, and I will be taking his four-year-old soul even if it scars him for life. That said…

Really, I almost can’t think about this book without getting teary-eyed. It is so special and so wonderful and so unique and magical, lovely, exceptional, fantastic… well, you get the picture. The story is almost genius in its simplicity. It encapsulates everything about childhood that makes us all long for it so. The mystery of the imagination. The fear and wonder of the unknown. The magic of youth. The goodness of home.

The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him “WILD THING!” and Max said “I’LL EAT YOU UP!” so he was sent to bed without eating anything. That very night in Max’s room a forest grew and grew – and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max and he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost a year to where the wild things are.

This bravo-inducing book is one every child should have, hands down. A childhood spent without Max and his wild thing friends is a sad one indeed. Quite simply, my son and I are in love with this book… and chances are… we are not alone.

Also by:
A Very Special House
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
Seven Little Monsters
The Giant Story

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are Trailer

Be still my beating heart....

The Mellops Strike Oil

The Mellops Strike Oil
Tomi Ungerer ~ Harper, 1958 ~ reprinted Phaidon, Oct. 2011

OK, so I knew nothing of The Mellops before I picked up this book and The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure at a used book store for $1.98 a piece a few months back.

Apparently, all the titles in the series are pretty collectible (they were Tomi's first-published), so there must be a good handful of people who remember this delightful ~ if not quirky ~ swine clan. And, I know this blog is called VKBs My Kid Loves but we all know it is full of VKBs that I love... however, anything Mellop, for sure, is a huge favorite of the boy. My son has a canvas tent over his bed with pockets on the inside where we store lots of paperbacks and if I even attempt to rotate these books out to the bookshelf, I'm sure to hear a blood curling "NOOOOOO..... READ THE MELLOPS NOW!!!!!!!"

Really, I know I recommend a ton of books here ~ more than anyone could possibly hope to collect except an utter looney bird like myself ~ but these little piggies get the coveted four thumbs up... or two hooves up... or what ever. They are bad-to-the-pork-chop for sure.

One summer morning Mr. Mellop and his sons go cycling through the countryside. At noon they find a nice shady spot to picnic. Father opens the basket of sandwiches prepared by Mrs. Mellop. "But we have nothing to drink," cries Ferdinand. "We can have fresh water. There is a brook nearby," exclaims Casimir. And he fetches water for everyone. "Pfffff! That water has an awful taste. Like oil," Father complains. "Hey, that means we might find oil in the vicinity."

And sure enough, after some snappy fossil research, the uber-intellectual pig family quickly turns to prospecting. They do hit black gold, but when a forest fire sends things awry, this closeknit herd bans together, for after all... there's nothing in life some of Mom's delicious cream cake can't fix, no? Consider me and the boy cult fans, for sure.

Also by:
The Hat
Zarelda's Ogre
Seeds and More Seeds
The Three Robbers
Moon Man
Orlando The Brave Vulture
Christmas Eve at the Mellops'
I Am Papa Snap and These Are My Favorite No Such Stories
The Beast of Monsieur Racine
Book of Various Owls

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tooters, Tweeters, Strings and Beaters

Tooters, tweeters, strings and beaters
Allen L. Richardson ~ Art Seiden ~ Grosset & Dunlap, 1964

From the accordion to the xylophone, if you're looking for a lesson in the musical instruments of a traditional symphony for your child, search no further. The tale is told in rhyme (not the best rhyme in the world, mind you, but sufficient enough to do the job), and each instrument has a corresponding poem. The pictures are a medley of real photographs of instruments and drawings of people and animals getting down with said instruments. In the back is a series of games for kids to test their knowledge.

All around -
They make such pretty sounds!
We hear them every night and day -
While at work and while at play.

"What are they like?" you may ask.
That's why you have this book!...
So you can call each one by name
When you hear them, touch them, or look.

This kid on the banjo here totally reminds me of Bud Cort in Harold and Maude. Every time I get to this page I can't help but laugh. I am literally counting the minutes until I can let my son in on the joke. Though I haven't yet found the boy stringing rubbers bands over cardboard boxes to make music, I am still holding on to hope that he will be musically inclined in some way. A little Steve Martin banjo action would be OK by me.

Also by:
Counting Rhymes

Monday, March 23, 2009

Great Monday Give: Hooper Humperdink...?

Welcome to another edition of the Great Monday Give, the moment when I give a gently-loved vintage kids' book away to one lucky reader. Today's give is a nice hardcover copy of Hooper Humperdink...? NOT HIM! with the original illustrations by Charles E. Martin. All you have to do to be entered to win is leave a comment on this post by Sunday ~ March 29 at midnight... A winner will be selected the following day by the highly-technical blind scroll and randomly point method.

So, who's the winner of last week's give of Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum you ask? The one and only (I think only... don't quote me on that) Seastar! Just e-mail me your info at webe(at)soon(dot)com and the book shall be yours! See ya.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire ~ Doubleday, 1950

I don't remember how it came up, but the other night my son asked me what a genius was. I immediately chimed in Albert Einstein, and my husband scolded me for selecting such an obvious choice. His reply, "What about Leonardo Da Vinci?"... and I said, well, he was more famous for being an inventor and artist rather than a "circle c" genius. I mean Einstein was famous for BEING A GENIUS... and I'm sure more than a handful of readers will have to stretch their minds to remember his job description or what he was famous for... (I'll wait here if you want to Goggle..... physicist... E = mc2).... other than just being a genius. But after much thought on the subject, I have to say if I had to pick one favorite genius, Ben Franklin would be it. Not only was he a founding father and a constructor of many quotable quotes and the inventor of the lightning rod ala kite and key... but he also invented the public library.... which hands down might very well be one of the greatest inventions of all time.

That said, who better to tell his story to kids than the d'Aulaires... who also took on other American-themed big-wigs like Abraham Lincoln, Buffalo Bill and Columbus in picture book form. Really, I try not to use the word stunning lightly... but everything the d'Aulaires touched wreaks of it. Not only are the lithographs on stone mouthwatering, but the story is pretty darn cosy as well. Just check out the end of the book when genius passes on to another place...

Old Benjamin Franklin looked about him and beheld his wonderful country, wide and free, and he pointed to the emblem of the sun in Independence Hall. He had never quite know what it meant. "Now I know," he said, "that it is a rising sun." He sat in his garden in the shade of a mulberry tree and watched his grandchildren play around him. He retired to the quiet of his library, where now he could read his beloved books in peace. And when his hour came, Benjamin Franklin said: "I am ready to repose myself securely in the lap of God and Nature, as a child in the arms of an affectionate parent."

Stunning (and genius) indeed.

Also by:
D'Aulaire's Book of Animals
D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
The Terrible Troll-Bird
Don't Count Your Chicks

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Benny's Animals

Benny's Animals
Millicent E. Selsam ~ Arnold Lobel ~ Harper & Row, 1966

Since delving into the SCIENCE I CAN READ series, I've fallen in love with Millicent E. Selsam. To have written such great books on the animal kingdom and work with such wonderful illustrators... just pure bliss. And Lobel pops up everywhere... either playing second fiddle to the author as in this case... or running the show with the likes of Frog and Toad. (Which, by the way, we were reading to my son in a Thai restaurant a few weeks ago and a man sitting next to us nearly burst into tears when he heard what we were reading... childhood memories run deep friends...)Another case of a children's book teaching me bunches of things I didn't know.
Who knew that animal classification starts with whether or not an animal has a backbone? (OK, don't answer that, I obviously rode the short bus.)

About fifty million years ago there was an animal that lived in the forest. It had a long body like a weasel. It had a head like a fox. It had a long tail. It had sharp claws and teeth. From that kind of animal came lions, tigers, and leopards, as well as small wildcats and house cats. All these animals are relatives.

The way the book goes down with two curious little boys wondering what animals belong together and turning to a professor who helps them break it down group by group is so cool. I love it when books show curious kids exploring something for the first time. Makes me hate Google a little bit for the ease of information our tykes have. But, the more the merrier, I suppose. Who ever said too much information was bad? Oh, yea... me, I guess.

Also by:
Seeds and More Seeds
Plenty of Fish
How To Be A Nature Detective
The Terrible Tiger
Red Tag Comes Back
Oscar Otter
The Star Thief
Mouse Tales
Prince Bertram the Bad
The Secret Three
Miss Suzy
Martha the Movie Mouse
Terry and the Caterpillars
The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Cluck
Ice Cream Cone Coot


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fill up at Phil's

Sorry I was MIA today kids... spent the better part of the day fighting traffic to get my sister to SXSW in Austin and was rewarded with lunch at my favorite kid-friendly eatery in the universe. Will be back tomorrow with bells on! On that note, I'll leave you with this...

Did you ever stop to think and forget to start again?
~ Winnie the Pooh

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sam and Emma

Sam and Emma.
Donald Nelsen ~ Edward Gorey ~ Parent's Magazine Press, 1971

Who didn't grow up loving the dark and whimsical drawings and stories of Edward Gorey, really? I have a few of his books, but they always seemed more suited to adults than children. However, under the Parent's Magazine Press imprint, this one is most definitely for the young 'uns. Having been a bookseller in New York at the old Doubleday Bookshop, and particularly one in the Fifth Avenue area during the 90s right before high rents and the changing landscape of the city ran them all out of business... I was always down the street at The Gotham Book Mart, browsing its vast Gorey collection and snapping up signed titles whenever I had an extra six bucks to spend. Gorey was truly a great American artist who created a world completely new to all those lucky enough to stumble across a copy of The Unstrung Harp or look on aghast at The Beastly Baby. Growing up in small town America, his books were like a window on a creative world I could only imagine. But anywho, without further yackity...

Sam and Emma lived quite content
in a house
with a garden
where they didn't pay rent.
Sam was a dog, very gentle and kind.
Emma, a cat, seldom troubled her mind
about much of anything -- except herself.

A day trip leads the two on an adventure where beavers share a meal, porcupines offer a good survival lesson, and the moral is you must understand others before you can hope to understand yourself. That and friendship rules! Ten thumbs way up. I couldn't find anything on the author, Mr. Nelsen, so if anyone has any details, let me know.

Also by:
The Dwindling Party

Monday, March 16, 2009

Great Monday Give: Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Musuem

Hello and welcome to the Great Monday Give, the moment when VKBMKL gives away one vintage kids' book to one lucky reader. After I posted on this book I got so many e-mails from people remembering it fondly.... and since I bought a replacement copy for the one my son lost only to find the original a few weeks later, I'll be parting with one so you guys can share the love. Therefore, the give for today is a good paperback copy of the out-of-print 1974 Sesame Street classic.... Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum. All you have to do to be entered to win is comment on this post before midnight ~ March 22 ~ Sunday. I will post a winner the following morning.

The winner of last week's much-sought-after give, by the highly-technical blind scroll and point method is none other than longtime reader ali. I'm so psyched my finger was so serendipitously functioning this morning! Ali, e-mail me at webe(at)soon(dot)com and you'll be that much closer to having your copy of Too Many Mittens in hand. Later skaters.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sir Toby Jingle's Beastly Journey

Sir Toby Jingle's Beastly Journey
Wallace Tripp ~ Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1976

Really, I don't know how many of you out there are mired in the last day of Spring Break with two inches of rain on the ground, but TGIF, totally! A 49 cent find, I bought this book because it reminds me of Bill Peet and my son does like knights and anytime he sees a bird head (see griffin on cover) on anything, he has to have it. (Many a thrift store shopper has been annoyed at my son and me... two peas in a pod spread out in front of the book rack, generally laughing and looking and reading and making a nuisance of ourselves, blocking the way of the world.) I'm not usually prone to like anything that includes a little hairy ogre, but hey... I'm learning to like boy things. Still praising the heavens I don't have to spend a million hours a day reading princess books. So... moving on...

There's this knight, see...

Sir Toby Jingle was a knight who had done every brave thing from jabbing giants to trouncing trolls. Year and after year ghastly creatures would slink out of Grimghast Forest and terrorize the peaceful villages. And year after year Sir Toby would send them howling and limping back.

In time the creatures came to think he had magical powers. When he heard of these preposterous imaginings, Sir Toby would laugh, for he knew his success was due to the skill of long practice and his sharp wits, nothing more.

...but the dude is getting old, old, old! Too old, in fact, so he sits down at his desk to plan his last adventure. In the pages that follow, he outsmarts the aforementioned griffin and ogre as well as a bear, a one-eyed tiger and a dragon.... and in turn, sets up a rather ingenious retirement plan for himself.

The perfect adventure book for a rainy day. Sigh.

Also by:
"Stand Back," Said the Elephant. "I'm Going to Sneeze!"

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Margery Sharp ~ Roy McKie ~ Little, Brown and Company, 1960

Though it would be limiting to call this one just a children's book, it was concepted and illustrated by two children's literature icons ~ Sharp (the writer of The Rescuers) and McKie (my previously gushed over children's book crush)~ therefore making it enough of a kids' story to keep on my son's shelf. Really, if you haven't fallen in love with Roy McKie yet, this one should put you over the top.

A "pictorial memoir" of an opera-singing dog, the story was conceived by Ms. Sharpe and brought to black and white life by McKie in page after page of wordless, melancholy whimsy. From Sharp's forward...

To speak with any assumption of intimacy concerning the great artist known as Mélisande is, alas, impossible. A most loyal and unselfish comrade -- a "perfect pet" in the rehearsal room -- she nonetheless hedged every private thought and emotion with delicate reticence which none would fail to respect and beyond which only a cad would attempt to pry. Many of her relations are still living -- it is known she was one of a numerous family -- but they too have preserved the same dignified and, (may one say it?), rare discretion. What follows is thus no more than a brief sketch of the great diva's dazzling, all-to-brief public career.

A rags to riches tale of talent, taste and philanthropy, the uncommon canine wins your love from page one and sweeps you into her life, engaged fully until the final illustration. My son digs her, hard... her sweet smile and happy story of fame and fortune. This book takes the seriousness out of opera and the silliness out of a simple children's story. All heart, really. Two paws up indeed.

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