Friday, May 29, 2009

MacGoose's Grocery

MacGooses' Grocery
Frank Asch ~ pictures by James Marshall
The Dial Press, 1978

I know I always bring up books that scared me when I was little, and James Marshall was one of those illustrators I didn't click with as a child. At the time, he seemed to me to be writing for adults... but now that I'm an adult, I can see the childish humor and appreciate it more. Is it One Fine Day where Martha scares George in the tunnel of love? *SHUTTER...* I've never been a huge fan of Frank Asch either, though since I began this vintage children's obsession, his book Starbaby has found its way on my Holy Grail list. Regardless of water under the bridge, being the mother of a bird lover, I couldn't pass up a goose collaboration by two legendary author/illustrators. And so glad I didn't turn my nose up at this story of a goose family of merchants.

A classic tale of pass the buck, it all starts when...

One day, Mrs. MacGoose got tired of sitting on her egg, so she put Mr. MacGoose in charge and went for a walk. Soon Mr. MacGoose got tired of sitting on the egg, so he put Junior in charge and he went for a walk.

Well, you see where it goes from there. Through the whole family until the blame gets cast on the pour little gosling in the egg. Funny, funny.

The word that most comes to mind when I look at Mr. Marshall's illustrations is deadpan. The funny little eyes of his characters with their blank stares and angry downturns. For drawings that are pretty crude, they carry tremendous expression. My son fell in love with the Miss Nelson series at preschool. Apparently, as a San Antonio native, Marshall's books are required reading in this town. After my son's love grew on his own, I quickly became a convert. In my youth, I think I was too unsophisticated to get it, but obviously, junior is out-classing me. Figures.

Also by:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Golden Book of Camping

The Golden Book of Camping
by William Hillcourt ~ pictures by Ernest Kurt Barth
Western Publishing Company, 1959

Obviously, this book skews a wee bit older than my just-turned-four-year-old, but I do keep it hanging around for laughs. As a matter of fact, I love everything about it. The idealized version of masculinity. The amazingly detailed how-to on all things outdoors. The retro illustrations and world views that scream 50s. Really, it couldn't be more awesome. I am counting the minutes until my son stumbles across it on his shelf and gets it. Will he learn how to build a campfire using only two sticks? Will be sew his own tent? Will he ever need to make an emergency backpack from a pair of old pants and a few pieces of rope? Stay tuned, but it the meantime, check out a few examples of the pure boyhood awesomeness.

If you want to "get away from it all" with one or more friends, there are wilderness areas--reached only by foot or horseback, or by canoe-- where you can live a life as free as that lived by the Indians centuries ago.

(Ah, was that before or after we raped, murdered and pillaged them? JK.)

The whole country lies open to you. You can choose seashore or forest, mountain or desert for all kinds of camping trips.

Sarcasm aside, I hope my little Ranger Rick is man enough to someday take on these outdoorsmanly tasks with the gusto these pages illustrate.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Eve Titus ~ Paul Galdone ~ MacGraw-Hill, 1956

The Goodwill this holiday weekend brought me two more classics I'd never seen before: Anatole and Anatole and the Cat. On our first reading, even my four-year-old made the Ratatouille connection. I know not whether this book actually inspired the film, but it hardly matters... I imagine in a city like Paris there is room for more than one culinary connoisseur of the rodent kind.

Sooo, there's this adorably French daddy mouse, replete with beret and smoking jacket. When he discovers how human beings hate mice because of their thieving ways, he is aghast and devastated.

Doucette comforted him. "You are so right, Anatole," she said sadly. "If only we could give people something in return-- But alas, that is impossible!"

Anatole jumped up and danced Doucette around the room "Impossible? Perhaps not ma petite! You have given me an idea."

His idea is to sneak into a cheese factory and leave little notes atop cheeses with helpful hints on how to make the flavors better. To which he wins kudos of praise and is invited to eat freely from the factory's stock for the rest of his life-- a common thief no more.

I know there are at least 10 books about the little mouse Anatole but this was the first time I'd ever run into any of them. Some of Paul Galdone's other titles scare the crap out of my son (don't even mention the book Henny Penny in my house... seriously). I think it's just his illustration style, but my son gets the creeps from a few of his characters. (I, too, can admit Puss and Boots used to scare me when I was little.) However, Anatole is just lovely. The tri-color pictures are dainty and sweet. Definitely my favorite. Particularly the drawings of the mice riding their bikes through the city in the blue of the night. I also love any book that fashions animals communicating with people through the keys of a typewriter. How cool would that be?

Also by:
Hare and the Tortoise
Three Fox Fables
The Mouse and the Lion

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Great Monday Give: Rabbit and His Friends

Welcome to the Great Tuesday Give... ur.. um, I mean the Great Monday Give. Oops. Where does the time go when your child is out of school, you husband is out of town and you are out of your mind? Ha!

That said, sorry about the holiday delay. To make up for it I have a rather special treat to share. An excellent copy of Rabbit and His Friends by one Mr. Richard Scarry. Quite possibly the cutest Little Golden Book of all time. To be entered to win, just say something nice in a comment on this post by (since this is already Tuesday, I am gonna drag it out for an extra week) midnight, Sunday ~ June 7. A winner will be selected at random and announced the following day.

And now, a day late and possibly a dollar short, the winner of last week's give which was supposed to be Millions of Cats but seeing as I've left my brain elsewhere and only had one copy when I thought I had two and ended up selling the one I had... so sorry... anyway, because I am such a dunce, our winner Karinya will be able to select one book of her choosing from my Etsy shop, regardless of price. Just e-mail me your pick and mailing info to webe(at)soon(dot)com, and I'll get it off to you ASAP.

Again, my apologizes for being such a dingle dong. Have a good one kiddos.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Guard Mouse

Guard Mouse
Don Freeman ~ The Viking Press ~ 1967

The Friday before Memorial Day weekend... will anyone even be listening? One can only hope. As we all begin to prepare our summer faces... As we feel the first flush of sun on our pale and lifeless limbs... As we reach out to friends we haven't seen all year as our kids have been too consumed with school, pre- or otherwise... Let us give thanks for the summer vacation.

The first major vacation I ever took sans my family where I went alone and paid for the whole thing myself was a trip to England/Ireland and France in the mid-90s, taking advantage of a $200 RT special Virgin was running. I met my cousin there while atop one of the lions in Trafalgar Square, and he instantly became my favorite person ever. Because of this meeting, I fell forever in love with London.

Very much like Freeman's ode to San Francisco, The Guard Mouse is a must-read story for any child going to the city for the first time. Though it is seemly a story about a little mouse who works as a Grenadier Guard at Buckingham Palace, the book is really a love letter of place. When the mouse gets a surprise visit from distant cousins, it is up to him to show them the sites... from a double decker bus to the hands of big Ben...Leaping from one umbrella to another, they traveled all the way down Whitehall to where Big Ben stands. "That's the most famous clock in the world," remarked Clyde. "It's a stiff climb up, but we can do it."

This book tickles me to no end, but I imagine it's gonna get packed up here soon and shipped off to that favorite cousin in New York who just had a baby of his own last year. Mice cousins meeting for the first time in London, almost seems too good to be true. Almost.

Also by:
Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library
Fly High Fly Low
Mop Top
Space Witch

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes

My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes
written by Eve Sutton
illustrated by Lynley Dodd
Parent's Magazine Press, 1973

I know it seems like all the books I've reviewed lately are Parent's Magazine Press, but it is purely by accident. Perhaps it is that I know how to look for them now and am just spotting more. Perhaps it is because they are from the era of people that are starting to clean out their attics and throw all their grown kids' stuff away so they are showing up more. Who knows, but if it says PMP on the spine, there is a pretty good likelihood my son is gonna love it. As is the case here...

The cat from Berlin
Played the violin.
The cat from Brazil
Caught a very bad chill.
The cat from Greece
Joined the police.
The cat from Norway
Got stuck in the doorway.
The cat from Spain
Flew an aeroplane.
The cat from France
Liked to sing and dance.
But MY cat likes to hide in boxes.

On and on like this around the world, one line adding to the next. I know I overuse the word, but CUTE is it. Sweet sweet rhythm, wonderful retro illustrations, and a fun hero cat that likes to hide in hat boxes and toy boxes and jewelry boxes. Two paws up.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Ice-Cream Cone Coot and Other Rare Birds

The Ice-Cream Cone Coot and Other Rare Birds
Arnold Lobel ~ Parent's Magazine Press, 1971

Finally discovered my son's all time favorite book. We've always been Frog & Toad fans. The boy is obsessed with the audio book collection and sometimes makes me repeat the story "A Swim" (from Frog and Toad Are Friends) some five times before moving on. It totally cracks him up.

Anyway, I was absolutely delighted when I stumbled across a never-before-seen-by-my-eyes Lobel classic that is all about birds (kind of). That is to say, it is all about imaginary birds... and it's only been in my possession since 11 o'clock this morning and already we've read it nine times. HE LOVES IT. This book and my son belong together. It was as if Arnold reached from the grave and created this book just for my son to enjoy. He tried to sleep with it tonight, but once he dosed off, I went back in and snatched it up. Make no mistake however, it will be the first thing I hear when he wakes up tomorrow, "WHERE IS MY ICE CREAM CONE COOT!?!" So, without further delay...

All the birds inside this book are very strange and rare, and if you travel to the zoo you will not find them there. Don't look for them in nature books, in parks or pet shop cages, The Drippet, Piffle and the rest live only on these pages.

Goodness. The awesomeness of this book is hard to put into words. Probably easier to put into names as we are introduced to the likes of The Milkbottle Midge, The Garbage Canary, The Jackknife Niffy, The Steampresser Sparrow, The Dollarbill Dodo, The Wetweather Wren, The Waterglass Goose, The Glove Dove and...

The Ten O'clock Tit Trush takes to the skies.
He soars high above us, and time really flies.

Needless to say, my son is hugely biased as this one is full of birds, but even still... The rhymes are impeccable. The bird illustrations imaginative and colorful. Really, you don't have to love birds to like it. Everything Mr. Lobel touched is gold in my book... Consider this 24 carat.Also by:
The Terrible Tiger
Red Tag Comes Back
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


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy

Monday, May 18, 2009

Great Monday Give: Millions of Cats

Ha. You guys thought I wasn't gonna show, didn't you? My son swam today for the first time unassisted, so I've been too proud to settle down and write, but hey, one small swim for man... The Great Monday Give for today is a great 10-year-old paperback copy of a perennial fave, Millions of Cats. To be entered to win a most-loved Gag classic, simply comment on this post before midnight ~ Sunday ~ May 24. A winner will be selected at random and posted here the next day.

And so, the winner of last week's give of the Berenstain Bears collection is... TA DA... Vivi. Congrats and send me your info to webe(at)soon(dot)com. Shortly thereafter, I will send you out the book love. Tootles for now, kids.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Yellow & Pink

Yellow & Pink
William Steig ~ Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984

My son's last day of preschool has arrived, alas... I feel so unprepared for summer vacation. That said, I am off to pick him up here in a minute or two, so this will be short and sweet. William Steig. Love him 100% now. Mainly because he has the gift of weaving hugely adult themes into children's books. Themes like death, ugliness, evil... and - in this case - a sort of Waiting for Godotish tale of the meaning of life. Brilliant.

Two small figures of wood were lying out in the sun one day, on an old newspaper. One was short, fat, and painted pink; the other was straight, thin, and painted yellow. It was hot and quiet, and they were both wondering.

What follows is the hilarious and enlightening tale of two dolls contemplating their own existence. What are we doing here? Who are we? Where did we come from?

Pink looked Yellow over. He found Yellow's color, his well-chiseled head, his whole form admirable. "Someone must have made us," he said.

"How could anyone make something like me, so intricate, so perfect?" Yellow asked. "Or, for that matter, like you. And wouldn't we know who made us, since we had to be there when we got made?" "And why," Yellow added, "would he leave us like this--with no explanation. I say we're an accident, somehow or other we just happened.

Pink couldn't believe what he heard; he started laughing. "You mean these arms I can move this way and that, this head I can turn in any direction, this breathing nose, these walking feet, all of this just happened, by some kind of fluke? That's preposterous!"

Believe me, my four-year-old son and I have some form of this conversation every day. Gotta love the cosmic nature of youth's questions. Really, two thumbs up and a standing bravo on this one. (Oh too, Y&P is highly collectible and expensive to buy online... a great find if you can score at a Goodwill.)

Also by:
The Amazing Bone
Amos & Boris
Rotten Island
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, May 14, 2009

The Giant Jam Sandwich

The Giant Jam Sandwich
story and pictures by John Vernon Lord
verses by Janet Burroway
Houghton Mifflin, 1975

If your library doesn't have an online "on hold" mechanism, you should really drop them a line and tell them to get with the program. I love browsing the shelves at our gorgeous Landa Library, but when you are in want of something specific, I hate looking it up only to find out it is across town at another branch. The San Antonio Library system allows you to log on and place a book on hold and pick which location you want the book delivered to. It's awesome. CDs... movies... books. When I hear about a book that intrigues me that I have to see right now, I used to log on and buy it no matter what the cost, but far too many times I ended up with books my son didn't really like. Since times are tight and the economy is in a shambles, I've been more selective about my online purchases, and have been using the library hold system whenever I can. Then, once we've had a chance to get to know each other better, I can make my purchase.Which brings me to the review today, one of a handful I ordered online this week. Probably more than any other book, The Giant Jam Sandwich gets suggested to me the most. It seems everyone has fond memories of the town that build a huge "and J" to control its wasp population. I didn't recognize it from the title, but once I saw the drawings, I do have vague memories of reading this book at the library when I was wee. And all I can say is, wow.

One hot summer in Itching Down,
Four million wasps flew into town.
They drove the picnickers away,
They chased the farmers from their hay,
They stung Lord Swell on fit fat bald pate,
They dived and hummed and buzzed and ate,
And the noisy, nasty nuisance grew
Till the villagers cried, "What can we do?"

The villagers do the only logical thing they can do and make a giant jam sandwich from scratch with which to lure and ultimately capture the offending creatures. My son thinks the whole thing is hysterical and particular loves the end when the sandwich is carted off by (of course) a flock of hungry birds. I'm not sure why it took me so long to look this one up, but now that I've seen it, I'm off to purchase a copy of my very own, for sure. Having been in print for more than 30 years, it shouldn't be too hard to find.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Judith Viorst ~ Ray Cruz ~ Anteneum, 1972

Though I never personally owned this one, the cover is hugely evocative of my childhood as it was a book you saw everywhere and amazingly has been in print nonstop since it was published in the year of my birth. I guess it was around that time that psychotherapy boomed and books for children that "dealt with things" started popping up (see Judith's The Tenth Good Thing About Barney if you have to deal with pet death). In this case, Alexander is having a pretty crappy day... for example...

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

We've all had days like this, when no matter how hard we try, everything manages to go to hell. And for children, it is that much harder as they have a difficult time grasping the concept of the light at the end of the tunnel. Some gum in the hair can feel like the end of the world rather than a minor hassle easily fixed with olive oil. It tickles me silly all the little things in here that Alexander can't stand... like lima beans and kissing on TV and his railroad pajamas. Ha! Just when I thought I had the fabulous fours conquered, I am reminded of all the stubbornness left to come. Oh joy.

Also by:
Sunday Morning

Monday, May 11, 2009

Great Monday Give: Berenstain Bears

Happy belated mother's day all you moms out there! And since one of the most annoying jobs of being a mom is reading the Berenstain Bears' morality tales, I thought I'd share the joy. (Make no mistake, I love old school B Bears... but come on, these little paperbacks are maddening, no?) My son is obsessed with the B Bears, so without further ya ya, here, for your reading pleasure, is a small collection of eight original, vintage and gently-used, paperback titles from the 80s to get you started on your collection. You don't have to thank me now, just comment on this post before midnight ~ Sunday ~ May 17 and you'll be entered to win this magnificent eight.

Now, so that I can roll over and go back to sleep for 15 more minutes before my son wakes up, here is the winner of last week's give, Plenty of Fish.... momwithacause! Please send me an e-mail to webe(at)soon(dot)com ASAP, and I'll get the book out to you this week. Ta ta for now pilgrims.

Friday, May 8, 2009


I usually don't bounce out of my vintage children's book review formula, but We Heart Books posted today on this program in Australia called Feelix that creates handmade reading kits for children who are blind, and it's just about the coolest thing I have ever seen. Please take a wander over there and check it out.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Suzuki Beane

Suzuki Beane
Sandra Scoppettone ~ Louise Fitzhugh ~ Doubleday, 1961

Again, a reader recommended Suzuki a while back and when Esme mentioned her the other day, I figured I'd better follow suit. The hip downtown alternative to Eloise, Suzuki was actual more of a satire of its namesake's Plaza Hotel doppelganger and 50s Village cool than a flat out picture book for children. Still, the girl's rolled up pants, scruffy hair, crazy turn of phrase and penchant for Jack Kerouac easily won over my boy... not to mention made me chuckle aloud a time or two. Those crazy beatniks.

my name is suzuki beane
i have a pad on bleeker street
with hugh and marcia

this is hugh----
he writes cool poetry
and reads it
in the red dog----
that's a coffee shop

he's my father

this is marcia----
she's a swingin' chick---
she's my mother----

she makes sculptures out
of tin cans----
parts of cars
and other
i find on bleeker street

this is our pad----

we all have a ball here
we don't have much bread but
bread is not really important
when you have good relationships

The book follows Suzuki's travels through New York with her square friend Henry and takes them from that annoying little "convention" called school to subway to cab to the city's dismal docks, all in the name of adventure. Even though it is a parody, there is a great message at the end about the importance of being yourself and not falling into the cult of cool or the school of square. If you do happen to run into a copy on your thrift store travels, make sure you snatch it up as the sale price online usually runs anywhere from $100 to $200 dollars. Luckily, no one has stolen it from our library yet, so we get to check it out at will.

If you find yourself getting lost in Suzuki's language, fear not, there is a glossary. Good thing, too. I always wondered what a "shuck" was.

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