Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seeds and More Seeds

Seeds and More Seeds
Millicent E. Selsam ~ Tomi Ungerer ~ Harper & Row, 1959

I am so, so, so in love with the "An I Can Read Science Book" series, and here is the third one I've reviewed by Ms. Millicent, awesomely illustrated by Mr. Ungerer. It is very similar in theme to the other two in that there is a child who is curious and looks and asks for answers. I just LOVE this! Meet Benny (yes, another Benny) who wonders, quite simply, will a stone grow?

"Plant them and see," said his father. "Plant them in these pots. If a stone can grow, if a pebble can grow, you will know."

So he does and it doesn't, yet he learns that seeds are everywhere and so he begins to plant and plant and plant until finally ...

He waited until the green thing was as big as he thought it would get to be. Then he picked it off the plant. He split it open. Those bumps were beans! "These are bean seeds," cried Benny. "I made my own seeds! I made my own seeds! Now I have more to plant!"

So totally thrilling. I see these moments in my son, that flash of discovery that is so exciting, that rush of learning on your own... figuring it out. In the era of Google and instant information, we as parents should nurture curiosity in everything we do with our kids. Most definitely.

Plan on more of these science ditties in the future... I really can't get enough! Might be doing a week of just Ungerer soon too since he is our new obsession. I just love it when the boy and I agree. After all, one can't live on Berenstain Bears alone.

Also by:
Benny's Animals
Plenty of Fish
The Hat
The Mellops Strike Oil
How To Be A Nature Detective
Zarelda's Ogre
Orlando The Brave Vulture
The Three Robbers
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

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pancakes for Breakfast

Pancakes for Breakfast
Tomie DePaola ~ Harcourt Brace, 1978

Again, sorry for my absence yesterday but birthday party duties call. After all, you only turn four once. I've been super focused on the boy this week leading up to his birthday on Saturday, which means we are reading twice as many books as usual. I spent all morning Monday reorganizing his bookshelves and pulling all the titles in the back up to the front. He must have spent a good two hours lounged on his beanbag getting reacquainted with long lost friends. One of which happens to be about his favorite breakfast food..... PANCAKES. I love wordless books and Tomie DePaola and this is one of my faves...

So there's this old woman, see. One morning she wakes with a hankering for pancakes and as she begins the prep for making them, she discovers, ingredient by ingredient, that she is out of just about everything and must go in search of. The story is funny and super well-drawn and ends in a silly twist that gives my son the giggles. Tomie's drawings remind me of marzipan figures, meaning they are almost edible looking.

While I worked at The Jim Henson Company, my boss was his ex-publicist and she hooked him up to create what ended up being a very, very short lived and little seen show on the Hallmark Channel called Telling Stories with Tomie dePaola. The puppets were gorgeous and looked just like Tomie's characters, and it is a true shame it never saw more of the light of day. I couldn't find a video anywhere online, but the few shots on the Wiki show what I am talking about. Lovely, lovely.

Also by:
The Wuggie Norple Story

Monday, April 27, 2009

Great Monday Give: Many Moons

Howdy. On a rainy day like this here in Texas, nothing would cheer me up more than a Great Monday Give of a nice, vintage paperback of the book Many Moons.... oh, such a wonderful story. To be entered to win, just comment on this post before midnight, Sunday, May 3. A winner will be announced the next day and all's well that ends well.

That said, the winner of last week's give, an awesome copy of Be Nice To Spiders, is Grace. Just e-mail me at webe(at)soon(dot)com and all will be good sister. Adios amigos.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Rotten Island

Rotten Island
William Steig ~ Godine, 1984

On our recent trip to New York, my son was allowed to select one title from Books of Wonder and this was it. Readers had mentioned this Steig before, but I'd never run across it before in my thrift stores travels. This copy is a new edition (it was previously titled Bad Island) with a great forward by the always delightful Quentin Blake. And quite honestly, Rotten Island is one of those rare books that stops you in your tracks and makes you reevaluate the idea of what a children's book is supposed to be in the first place.

You know, I'd originally steered away from Steig because at first glance I'd incorrectly assumed his work was vulgar and too quirky for kids, but the more and more I read, the more I understand that his is an art of the highest order. His humor and vision are so original and such a delight... but now I just sound like a brown-noser... The point is, his books are amazing and hysterical and my son just can't get enough... So nasty, so dastardly, so absolutely yum.

There was once a very unbeautiful, very rocky, rotten island. It had acres of sharp gravel and volcanoes that belched fire and smoke, spewed hot lava, and spat poison arrows and double-headed toads. The spiny, thorny, twisted plants that grew there had never a flower of any kind. There was an earthquake an hour, black tornadoes, lightning sprees with racking thunder, squalls, cyclones, and dust storms.

At night it froze; all the living things stopped moving and turned to ice. But the volcanoes kept exploding, and the lightest breeze was a hurricane. At sunrise everything thawed out and moved again.

Deliciously rotten, no? The drawing of the two-headed toads spewing is especially diabolical. Have no fear, evil devours evil and it ends in birds which makes it all the better.

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


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Attic of the Wind

Attic of the Wind
Doris Herold Lund ~ Ati Forberg ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1966

A month or so back I promised to track down more Doris Lund titles and I believe this might be her most remembered... quite a dream really. The sort of girly, wistful book that I'm so glad my son is still willing to sit through. It gives me hope for his spirit in the coming years that his life won't all be Star Wars and violence and killing and war. (Not that Chewbaccas are bad mind you, but you get my drift.) Yet again, Parents' Magazine Press hits a home run with glorious rhyme and illustrations... one word, magic.

What happens to things that blow away,
Like bubbles you blew one sunny day?
Where did they all go anyway?
To the Attic of the Wind.
It's not an Attic you reach by stair--
It's past the clouds
and the stars somewhere!
And what will we find if we play up there
In the Attic of the Wind?

Well, one doesn't have to imagine for too too long...

There are autumn leaves
that the wind has swirled
From the far-off corners of all the world
And piled up high in a red-gold heap
So hundreds of children can play and leap.

Yes friends, here is the magical, wondrous place snowflakes and dandelion puffs and butterflies and birds and balloons and kites go when they float away toward the sky. Again, a tear jerker (at least for me) at the end...

Yes, the Attic of the Wind can store
All the world's lost treasure and even more...
The handkerchief you forgot to hold,
The spelling paper with the star of gold,
The picture you drew for Mother's Day,
All the things you somehow let drift away
Aren't exactly lost....

That part gets me every time. I have a reoccurring dream of being at an estate sale in my old elementary school and finding all the treasures of my youth there... Like that movie Amelie with the little found tin of someone's forgotten youth. If all our memories were so safe somewhere. So dear. So sweet. Nothing like staving off childhood's end with a depository for all that is good and true.

Also by:
You Ought To See Herbert's House
I Wonder What's Under

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nothing Ever Happens On My Block

Nothing Ever Happens on My Block
Ellen Raskin ~ Macmillan, 1966

Feels good to be back, though I have to admit this is the first moment I've had to myself in two days. My son's birthday is a mere week and a half away, and there is planning aplenty afoot. You all should know by now that the only time I buy new books or new hardcovers of classics for the most part is to celebrate the random birthday/holiday. I'd mentioned before that I want my son to have at least a few books in his collection that don't have the words "To Billy from Aunt Marge, Christmas 1974" written on the inside cover. That said, in case you were wondering, I stopped by The Red Balloon today and plopped down the dough for a shiny new copy of Birds (for obvious reasons) by Kevin Henkes with illustrations by his wife Laura Dronzek. The boy is a bird nut. What can I say.

And, I did promise a return to daily reviews sooooo... here is a book that is so totally rad in its execution that it is easy to see why the vintage hardcover version sells for a pretty penny. Ellen certainly had the eye of a designer, blending color, modern typeface and sharp lines (not to mention a clever story) to create a book that is massively fun to look at. The UW Web site states... "Raskin always selected the typeface and designed the title page and each other page, as well, for each of her books. She designed the jacket and did the necessary color separations." That attention to detail is reflected on every page of this book in such a neat way, that you can't help but feel good looking at it. Anywho...

So there's this kid, see.

My name is Chester Filbert.
I live at 5264 West One Hundred and seventy-seventh Street.
Some places have marching bands
or haunted houses,
courageous hunters hunting,
ferocious lions and tigers,
pirates and buried treasure...

It goes on like this until we realize that Chester is complaining about how boring his street is... that when he grows up he'll move to escape the tedium, yet, all the while, behind him chaos ensues in a huge way. A thief lurks. A fire rages. Kids pull stunts. A hapless postmen is dowsed in water. A parachute lands. An ambulance is called. Money is blown. All while Chester sits like a toad on a log lamenting his block's lameness. Too cute. The dedication page ~ especially ~ gives me an extra tickle.

This book is dedicated to Susan, Patty, Steve and Larry, Mike and Helene, Nelle, Gina and children everywhere, except Chester Filbert. He's just too dull.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Great Monday Give: Be Nice To Spiders

Welcoming myself back from a long 10 days away. Whew. That said, this week's Great Monday Give is a vintage hard copy of Be Nice To Spiders. All you have to do to be entered to win this rad, rad book is leave a comment on this post before midnight ~ Sunday, April 26. A winner will be selected and posted the following day, then we start all over again, and so on and so forth.

The winner of The Country Bunny from two weeks ago? Cecily!!! E-mail me at webe(at)soon(dot)com and I'll get the book out sooner or later. Ta ta for now.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Deegie and The Fairy Princess

Still in NYC, so again, welcome my friend gef over at Lost In Texas and The Kindergarten Diaries with one more choice and obscure find...Deegie and the Fairy Princess
Ruth W. Rempel ~ Illustrated by Dietrich G. Rempel and James A. Wiley ~ 1949 Rempel Manufacturing Incorporated

This is the disconcerting story of a little boy who lives in a castle all by himself. Well, not completely by himself — he has a bunch of barnyard pals, including Perky the Pup, Cuddly the Cat, Yippy the Chick, Squawky the Duck, Hoppy the Rabbit, Chubby the Pig, Fleecy the Lamb, Milky the Cow, Frisky the Horse, and my personal favorite, Balky the Mule. They spend a lot of time “scampering” together. Despite his lack of a human family or friends, Deegie appears to lead a life of bliss, until one day, a mean old buzzkilling North Wind comes along, and…

He blew so hard it seemed his cheeks must burst. And burst they did just as he reached the beautiful castle and blew it all to pieces. Poor little Deegie! He rubbed his eyes and looked again. He just could not believe his castle and all his loved ones were gone.

Deegie is understandably devastated, but as he weeps, a fairy princess arrives on a fluffy pink cloud and sings him a song that summons him “to a wonderful land far over the sea where everyone is happy and gay.” Deegie rides moonbeams across the heavens and lands at a charming little white cottage with the words “Welcome to Sunny Slopes” emblazoned across it. The fairy is gone, but a magic wand lies glowing at his feet. Inside the house, he finds a fire burning in the fireplace and a “table laden with food.”

There’s something creepy and sad about this; it reminds me of the Kubrick/Spielberg movie AI, when the robot boy ends up in his fantasy cottage with his mom and teddy bear after being granted a wish by Pinocchio’s blue fairy (hmm…).

Anyway, the next morning, Deegie runs out to the barnyard to see if his friends have also been saved, but alas, the pastures are empty. Bereft, he sits by a creek and starts rolling some mud between his fingers. He has an epiphany — if he can’t get his real friends back, he will make just new ones out of clay!

He placed them in a row on the table. All were there except Frisky the Horse, Balky the Mule, and Milky the Cow. His eager fingers shaped the clay, a little more here, a little less there and just as the clock was striking twelve, the last one was finished.

He then remembers the magic wand and waves it over his clay models, and — voila! — his little friends are resurrected.

Deegie’s happiness was now complete. Tomorrow he would once again race through the fields with his beloved little playmates scampering along beside him. He would never be lonely again. Never!

Quite an odd tale, but maybe a little less so when you learn the back story: The Rempels were a husband and wife team, and the book appears to be Ruth’s homage to her husband. Dietrich was a Russian Mennonite who fled the Revolution in 1917, so this story can be read allegorically — the U.S.A. is the “wonderful land far over the sea where everyone is happy and gay.” He ended up in Akron, Ohio (“the Rubber Capital of the World”), where he eventually started Rempel Enterprises, which manufactured squeaky animal toys as well as ceramic and porcelain versions. The toys are quite collectible; you can find a lot of them on eBay — “Froggie the Gremlin,” based on a character from a 1940s children’s TV show, seems to be the most sought-after. (Fun fact: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dietrich Rempel designed a Mickey Mouse gas mask for American children, approved by the military and Walt Disney himself. Wowsie.)

I appreciate Deegie’s many layers — it's an allegorical children’s book that’s both biography and marketing tool. Pretty neat.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Books of Wonder

My son perusing the shelves at Books of Wonder. Where else can you find a huge section of children's classics in hardcover? Interested in pristine gift copies of Robert McCloskey's entire library? A first edition of Where the Wild Things Are? Plus cupcakes!?! Look no further... enter heaven here. Gotta love New York.

Still on vacation and will be back on Monday with daily reviews. In the meantime, if you haven't yet thrown your hat into the ring, forget not that the Great Monday Give has been extended until the 19th... so The Country Bunny remains up for grabs!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tommy’s Trip to the Moon

Am in NYC, so my friend gef over at Lost In Texas and The Kindergarten Diaries has graciously offered to review a few of her more obscure and choice titles. Welcome her and observe...
Illustrated by Elisabeth Halfdaner ~ English text by John Cotton ~ c.1950s (book is not dated) ~ Litor Publishers LTD, Brighton/ Helsingborgs Litografiska AB, Sweden ~ Imported by Block Lito Limited, Richmond, VA

Apparently, this is a pretty obscure children’s book, which I picked up at a Half Price Books here in San Antonio. I was attracted by the vivid, surreal illustrations and by the subject matter. I love boy-wants-to-go-to-moon stories (though it would be nice to read a girl-wants-to-go-to-the-moon story for a change), especially those that were written long before Neil Armstrong set foot on that great big ball of cheese. There’s just something lovely about the naiveté of the pre-space-race books, when the imagination could really run amok about the moon and its secrets. So much more thrilling than reality—like, where are all the moon men anyway?—especially now, in the era of budget cutting and NASA blundering.

The writing, a bit dull and repetitive, isn’t really anything special; it’s the pictures that transport. We open with Tommy, who’s having a marvelous birthday party with “sandwiches and jellies and lots of lemonade” and who gets to stay up way past his bedtime to celebrate. He eventually passes out with his favorite gift—a rocket, of course—on his nightstand. Suddenly, he is awakened by a voice:

Tommy blinked—and blinked again. He just couldn’t believe his eyes. For there, standing beside his bed in the bright moonlight, was a Space-Man.

Tommy rubbed his eyes and looked again. Yes, the Space-Man was still there. And then Tommy saw that he was holding out a space-suit, which was just his size.

“Is that for me?” he gasped.

Turns out, Tommy has been chosen by “the Space Fleet” to be the first boy on the moon, and his escort will be the “Space-Man,” whose name is Captain Dan. After getting a brief explanation on how the suit works and a rundown on the hazards of space travel (it’s all about the gravity, people), Tommy and Captain Dan board the rocket that awaits them in the village square, wave good-bye to the gathering townspeople and take off on their fairly uneventful trip to the moon. Once there, Tommy finds the object of his obsession to be made of “strange yellow rock and there was no grass or trees or any sign of life at all.” Which all sounds pretty accurate… until he notices doors and windows in the rocky hillsides—and a “happy little moon-man” waving at him.

He had wondered what the moon-people would look like and he was so pleased to find that they were very much like the people on earth.

They were much smaller than earth-people, and they wore very old-fashioned clothes made in bright colours. The only real difference that Tommy could see was that they had long noses which were shaped like trumpets.

As it turns out, the moon-folk can play their noses like trumpets, and they form impromptu brass ensembles when the occasion dictates. They also love a good party, and they keep oversized mice as pets. After the moon-folk throw Tommy a soiree, Captain Dan, who visits with them regularly, presents the leprechaun-like creatures with a parting gift: crates filled with the finest fromage from all the countries of Earth. Then they head back home, and as the rocket re-enters the earth’s atmosphere, Tommy is catapulted back to his bedroom. Dazed and wondering if this was all just a dream, he resolves to work for the Space Fleet when he grows up.

Featured in many of the illustrations is an adorable tabby kitten, who, wearing a striped sweater and a space helmet, accompanies Tommy on his lunar journey. The cat is never referenced in the text, which seems odd, and leads me to think this is a lame translation of the original Swedish story. According to the back page, this title is one of four in a series, including The Flying Motor Car, Linda’s Curious Toys, and The Wandering Donkey. If anyone knows about them or about the illustrator, do share, because these books appear to be as rare as a moon-man who doesn’t like cheese.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

321 Contact

Happy Easter all. Will try and check in next week, but in the mean time I just wanted to share some of my Virginia booty with you all. Check out this fun stack of magazines from the 70s that I picked up for a buck... Loads of Sesame Street, Electric Company and 321 Contact! Am particularly loving that man from Ork, the brothers Hardy and the eerily awesome picture of Cookie Monster eating what appears to be the World Trade Center. Freaky.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Tale for Easter

A Tale for Easter
Tasha Tudor ~ Henry Z. Walck, 1941

I may be around next week. I may not. We may have some guest blogging. We may not. We'll have to see how deep the East Coast sucks me in and how busy I am eating in NYC. Until then...

Three days til Easter and you'll be happy to know that tomorrow morning we are handing the keys over to the house sitter and heading to my Mom's house in Virginia... which means thrift shopping in the third world where NOBODY knows the value of a vintage children's book AND maybe I'll raid some of my childhood book stash again AND, better yet, the boy will be getting an eyeful of my mother's rehabilitating bird collection.

I've mentioned before that she does wildlife rescue and specializes in endangered birds and birds of prey. And over the past few weeks she's collected a one-winged pelican, a lame hawk and a baby owl, a mute swan and a bevy of wee little baby mallards just for my son. The boy is gonna be over the moon. To celebrate, here is the most dear little Tudor book all about Easter and the good things it brings.... most especially DUCKLINGS!

If you have been very good the whole year through, the night before Easter you will dream the loveliest dreams. One will be about a wee fawn who makes you light as thistledown and takes you on her back and gallops through the woods and fields.

Also by:
1 is One
A Time to Keep
Pumpkin Moonshine
First Graces
Five Senses

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I am gonna be posting a few more books in the shop shortly, but just wanted to let you know I am on vacation next week... so tonight I'll be shutting the Etsy shop down for a week or so. If there's something you wanted, get it now and it will ship tomorrow. I am trying to get a guest poster nailed down for next week too, so stay tuned.

That's Good, That's Bad

That's good, that's bad
Joan M. Lexau ~ Aliki ~ The Dial Press, 1963

First off, I want to apologize too for being so 60s focused of late. Though that is my favorite era, I do try and keep an even mix on here. I promise some 70s and 80s in the next couple of days and next week while I'm on vacation, I am (hopefully) gonna have some guest posts that will get you back to the 40s and 50s, so stay tuned. In the meantime...

With a theme slightly similar to Fortunately, the dire nature of this story is a hit with my son in that anytime he thinks something bad is going to happen and then it doesn't.... well, he goes mad with laughter. Go figure.

So there is this little boy, see...

Boy was just sitting on a rock in the jungle when along came Tiger. "Run," said Tiger. "And I will run after you. And I will catch you. And I will eat you, Boy. So run from me."

Boy just sat there and looked at Tiger. "Eat me then," said Boy. "I have no more run in me."

Boy goes on to tell Tiger a tale of horror and woe and uplift involving a rhino, a crocodile and a surprise ending that always gets my son screaming, no matter how many times he's heard it. Simple pictures. Simple story. Spot on.

Aliki fans will dig it as here she is at her most primary. I didn't scan the back of the book, but let's just say the drawing of the grumpy rhino with his black/blue skin, white line frown and yellow eyes is about one of the coolest animal illustrations ever. Fun little 49 cent find for sure.

Also by:
Oh Lord I Wish I Was a Buzzard
This is the House Where Jack Lives
Keep Your Mouth Closed, Dear

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Three Saxon Nobles and Other Verses

Three Saxon Nobles
Jack Prelutsky ~ Eva Johanna Rubin ~ MacMillian, 1967

I applaud any effort by a writer of the last 40 years to write serious verse for children, and Jack Prelutsky certainly seems to be the master (second maybe only to Mr. Silverstein, of course). All of the verses here are sharp and catchy and HUGELY fun to read, and the drawings bright and cheerful... the sun illustrations alone are enough to make me happy for weeks... very 60s vibe.

There once was a little bean
A little white bean
Who journeyed to England
To visit the queen.

England was closed
And the queen was in Rome
So the little white bean
Turned around and sailed home.

I don't know about you but that little round bean standing on deck with his chest buffed out is almost too much for me to handle without giggling my head off. I almost feel tempted to silkscreen his little beany butt on some t-shirts and give them to all my son's friends.... but alas. There are plenty of laughs where that came from.

I had two copies of this book before and got rid of them because the boy didn't quite get it, but now that he is Mr. Knock Knock, I think the saxons are here to stay. Anything silly that rhymes is a big hit with the three-going-on-four-year-old set.

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