Friday, June 12, 2009

Best in Children's Books

various authors and illustrators
Nelson Doubleday, Inc., various years


I'm probably way behind the curve on this, but here goes. It all started a few weeks ago when my friend gef snaked me by 15 minutes at a library sale and walked away with what she described as this "series of really cool old books." A week later, I am thrifting and I come across two coverless books from a Doubleday series I've seen before but never cracked open and what was inside was a collection of the most vivid and wonderful stories, all illustrated by different artists.

As I was flipping through one of them later that night, I happened across a story called The Magic Porridge Pot and noticed the author was Andy Warhol. And I thought to myself, "THE Andy Warhol". It took about two seconds of Internet searching to find this blog post explaining the Warhol/ Nelson Doubleday connection and in an instant, I was hooked to find more. Not just the Warhol volumes, but the collection includes early works (some commissioned just for this) from everyone: Leonard Weisgard, Feodor Rojankovsky, Ezra Jack Keats, Paul Galdone, Adrienne Adams, Peter Spier, Richard Scarry, Barbara Cooney, Ruth Ives, Don Freeman, Garth Williams, Leonard Kessler... I could go on but my wrist is cramping. Really, it is a nauseatingly fabulous array.... like a yearbook of illustration from my favorite era and beyond.

In the last week, I've been buying them wherever I can. (Needless to say, these were the books "my friend" snaked me on. Blah.) I think there are more than 40 volumes, but I don't know for sure. Anyone have anymore history? I won't go into every story, but they include folk tales and fairy tales and silly stories and historic reenactments and even some photo travel essay. Way, way, way beyond cool. Here is a sampling of just some of the awesome illustration you will find. Really, don't be fooled by the high pricing on some of the volumes when you start sniffing around. The less expensive volumes are just as good. Every book has something that will blow your flipping mind. (I've added some of Sendak's Velveteen Rabbit drawings at the end.)

26 comments:

Antmusic said...

I grew up with the Maurice Sendak drawn Velveteen Rabbit from this series (not published anywhere else). Great books to be read to kids, and for kids to read to themselves.

It always weirds me out when I see a familiar story in an anthology with brand new illustrations. I buy anthologies/school readers all the time for my son for our long car trips.

I recently purchased one that had the original Marjorie Weinman Sharmat "Nate the Great" story in it (unabridged), but it was totally illustrated by someone else (not Marc Simont).

Another anothology had Robert L. Crowe's "Clyde Monster" in it, but it wasn't illustrated by Kay Chorao. The different illustrator gave this story a totally different feel (big green ugly monsters, as opposed to Kay's cuddly elf-like monsters).

nath said...

swoon, i've GOT to have them. how easy will they be to get hold of here i Blighty? i always seem to be asking you that. sorry. what an incredible stream of illustrations. my pulse rate just doubled.

Claire said...

ok, I'm hooked. Now officially searching for some for me! thanks for posting.
Claire

Dave said...

My mother subscribed to these when I was a kid. I think we received one every month.

I still vividly remember the story of the young woman who was cursed to wax and wane with the moon. When the moon was full she was beautiful and young. When it was new, she was so old and frail that she couldn't even walk. The curse could only be lifted by being kissed under the new moon.

scribbler said...

So it does go beyond 40 because the volume with MS's Velveteen Rabbit is in Volume 35 but there were two more stories as well...

Volume 31: Windy Wash Day and Other Poems by Dorothy Aldis with illustrations by Maurice Sendak

Volume 35: Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams with illustrations by Maurice Sendak

Volume 41: What the Good-Man Does Is Always Right by Hans Christian Andersen with illustrations by Maurice Sendak

I just bought the VR on e-bay today... i can't wait! I'll scan pictures and as them too when I get it.

there are a ton of volumes available on ebay in lots of different price ranges.

mommy4life said...

Those are some great illustrations!

Chandra said...

Oh, what a fantastic find! I am insanely jealous!

Christine said...

There are 42 original volumes to this set. I am having a devil of a time pricing them as a set as no one seems to have a full set, and some of the books you cannot locate at all. I have a very rare full set or original books with dust covers, no A's either, all original. If anyone knows of a good buyer, please let me know. They are fairly up in price just for certain editions that are difficult to find, but you can still find them. The ones you can't find, I seem to have them too.

Anonymous said...

^^Try listing them on ebay. I followed these before and saw the full set going for about $170. I was lucky enough to snatch 44 books (the full set and 2 'A' editions, most with dustjackets)for $38 shipped!!

Best Homeschool Buys said...

Thanks for your post. I grew up with these books and have about 12 of them from when I was a child. I have since bought about 12 more on ebay for less than $1.00 each plus shipping. These are what I call living books. They feed the minds and imagination of children. A great find!!
Julie

MK said...

These books are terrific - my mom got them as a kid, and my brother and I grew up reading them.

Overall they're awesome, but sometimes their antiquity is just funny - I remember one of them had a story in it about what space was like in the form of a Q&A, and one of the questions was "what is it like on the moon?" The answer was something like "Don't worry your little head about it! No one has ever visited the moon, and since people cannot live in space, no one will ever know what the moon is like."

Anonymous said...

I have also found these books on Amazon and Alibris. I have one almost complete set of the original 42 books (the last two that I need to complete the set should be here withing a week) and I've been working on building a complete second set so that I have a set to hand down to each of my two girls. I remember reading these when I was little. My grandmother was a subscriber and my mother still had quite a few copies. I loved these books when I was a child and I am looking forward to sharing them with my own daughters. Too bad we can't talk Random House/ Nelson Doubleday Inc into re-releasing them all. They are such an excellent collection of books.

Jacalyn said...

My mom started buying these books in 1957, when I was four. I spent hours pouring over the pictures. I have 28 books (1957-61) with most still in jackets. The spines have pictures that correlate to the stories so a child can easily find favorites on a bookshelf. In the 1980s I dusted them off and read them with my own children, and soon I'll be sharing them with my grandchildren--poems with wonderful rhythm like "The Raggedy Man," and wild tales like "The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes" who let things go so long he had to eat out of his ashtray (both of my parents smoked, so that one freaked me out for years.) The good memories will refresh again...

Jan said...

As I recall, they were released in a 'book club', which my Grandma enrolled me in when I was small. The oldest book I have is from 1959, and the newest from 1963.
I remember that I really didn't like them as a kid, but the stories from different places around the world were great fodder for 'show and tell'.
When my daughter was born, I started reading the books to her and absolutely fell in love with them. Her favorite stories have the character "Kiki" in them, and even at the ripe old age of 24, she still remembers the books.
I own 12 of them and would love to have more. I used to peruse Half Price Books years ago and would sometimes get lucky finding one I didn't have.

Mama Librarian said...

There's an index of the entire set online:
http://www.lib.usm.edu/~degrum/html/research/re-bestindex.shtml

Jan said...

I've visited that site before. The author doesn't include the later volumes however.

Amy said...

I love these books. We had them at my house when I was growing up in the 80s, not sure where they came from. We never had a complete set. And no covers. I'll never forget going into an antique store when I was a teenager and finding one of these books with a dustjacket-I had no idea! I have most of the set now and replaced the ones without dustjackets for ones with. I love looking through library sales and used book stores for these books.

Anonymous said...

I had ALL of these books when I was a child back in the 1950's!

My mother loved ordering books from book clubs which were popular then. I adored these books, and my mother would read them to me before bed, or I'd read them to myself. I credit them with helping me to be a good reader and writer. I got rid of them when I was in my 30's because I thought they were too childish. Now, I wish I had them again.

I agree, they were wonderful little books.

Erin said...

Saw 40 of these books on Craigslist and google turned up this blog post... certainly convinced me to buy the books. I have another collection from my mother's childhood, The Children's Hour, Spencer Press, 1950s. Makes me wonder what the equivalent is today, if there even is one. Anyone?

Kim said...

I have a set of 11 of these books vintage 1955 - 1960, Plus 2 add'l. books from the series titled separately as "The Arabian Knights" and "The Peterkin Papers". They are in fair condition due to a little moisture in storage which turned the outside edges of the pages a little black. Otherwise, they are in very good condition as far as the binding, covers, pages, etc.

I had these books as a kid and remember loving them. They have wonderfully light fantasy and fictional characters which also teach a character lesson. The simple illustrations are very whimsical.

I am wondering what these books are worth? I am interested in selling them on ebay. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Kim 910.463.4441 rebelranch99@gmail.com

cece said...

I have 10 volumes of these books if anyone is interested in adding to their collection. All in really good condition with dustjackets. The dustjackets are in fair condition, worn and some have some tears in them. Overall good condition considering the age. They were mine as a child. I have volumes 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 38, 41, and 42. You can find them listed for sale at: www.bonanza.com/pennys_closet

Anonymous said...

i found a isbn input site where the books may be bought back includeing old school or text books. this site showed two of my finds from an estate sale. the 1959 was valued at 75.00 and the 1960 was valued at 65.00 but due to scarcety and condition this is a rough novice appraisal.
chris
q-bertomeara@mail.com

camelia canepa-zipprich said...

i love those books - read them to my kids and now they are boxed up in the attic waiting for the grandhcildren that will probably never come - one of my favorite stories - the oldest, youngest and one in the middle - and that each book had a story about a different country

irana5kat50 said...

This fall I found these books in a basement at an estate sale. I have 26 some including many if the fine illustrators. That being said, I was deeply enamored by the books. I had no idea that they may be collectible. All I know is that I am hooked and I will try to complete my collection over the years and share them with my not yet conceived grandchildren. I bought these as well as a huge box of books including John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" first edition with a rare misprint spelling of a word on page 281...all for $15.00. This type of thing never ever happens to me.

Anonymous said...

Love your site and thank you so much for this post. I got a bit carried away and compiled the full set from a combo of Etsy and Ebay. They really are great and I love that they have the real endings to classic stories versus the watered-down versions.

MommaofMany said...

I've walked past these books in thrift stores and library sales for far too long. Today I bought the lot of 13 that were at the library sale. I came here to research them. Mama Librarian's link is excellent! Thank you!

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