Thursday, October 29, 2009

Susan Perl's Color Wheel

Susan Perl's Color Wheel
Peter Robinson ~ Susan Perl ~ Platt & Munk, 1979

OK, this one at least has a two-page Halloween spread. Sue me.

After my blog post the other day and a great comment by reader Ann about where to get an eyeful of one of Susan Perl's old Health-Tex ads, I scrambled around the shelves to dig up more of her books and came across this beauty, a Farris wheel of rainbow dreams to set any childhood alight with color.

Come take a spin on the color-go-round. Open up your eyes and look around you! Everything in the world has color--from the smallest red ladybug to the biggest brown dog. Some things like a rainbow or a map, have many colors. Other things, like milk or the sun, have only one. Balloons can be any color; a lump of coal can be only one. All this color, changing and churning, makes the world a beautiful, beautiful place. Even the eyes you see with have color. Do you know the color of your eyes?

Though I do not totally agree with the logic (the sun as only one color? what? that mother changes all the time... and coal being only black? what about gray when burnt? anyways...), the revelation of wonder is evident on every page of this delightful picture prism. When I read this one to my son he usually answers that last eye color question with.... "My eyes are blue and white and black and sometimes when I pull my face down like this (insert visual of cheeks pulled down here), they are red." Nicely put little guy. Hate to effuse yet again about the adorability of Perl's children and animals but geez... those squirrel toes... those ruddy baby cheeks. It's almost more than I can stand.

Happy Thursday, you guys. I promise I will find at least one wicked book for tomorrow. In the meantime, isn't that tiger costume just divine?

Also by:
More Easy Answers
A Flower Pot Is Not a Hat

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Long Ago a Moonboat

Long Ago a Moonboat
Christopher Carroll ~ Silverdog Press, 1974

I know I promised Halloween inspired picks this week, but I keep getting distracted. First off, I know absolutely nothing about this book or the author/illustrator. It's totally 70s though with gorgeous black and white ink drawings and matching quirky text. I have vague memories of it on my parent's bookshelf when I was young and suspect it's one of those books that can technically be called a children's book, but is, in fact, not for children at all.

The title houses three tales: The Message of Queen Clausetta (a bizarre little story of an AWOL queen and the chaos of kingdom that ensues), Stories for Little Elmo (a selection of three tales and a drawing of recent likeness) ~ Ennui in the Nursery, At Court, and L'Amour, and finally, the namesake, Long Ago a Moonboat. The story actually begins on the cover.

Long Ago a Moonboat was blown through the dark night toward a range of razor-sharp mountains. The ship crashed on the highest pinnacle and over the years was transformed into a lofty city known as the Kingdom of Roon. In this kingdom lived the group of very strange people known as Macaroons.

The tale goes on and we meet the king, who likes to throw parties and send out "movable-toe-and-finger-counting machines" to search for other life forms. When the strange Macaroons are discovered by a group of anthropologists from The New World (who happen to be on a scouting mission looking for the missing bones of the ape-man), the anthropologists announce their discovery and the royal family of Macaroons are paraded around for all The New World to see. This totally freaks the king et al out and they return to their moonboat city and set sail away in a giant storm, relocating on another peak, leaving The New World to believe the civilization is lost forever.

Yes, it is a mouthful.

If anyone knows anything about this book or its maker or has memories of it, please drop me a note. It's kinda like a mystery within a mystery within a mystery. Which is kinda spooky, right? BOO!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Haunted Forest

The Haunted Forest
G. Warren Schloat Jr. ~ Alfred A. Knopf, 1961

Most of the time in children's books, a warning is given ~ "Don't go into the woods/haunted forest/forbidden place, or you'll be sorry" ~ and some curious kid doesn't heed the words and ends up in heaps of trouble. Morality tales for the ages meant to scare children into listening to their parents. In this case, you have a story of a path always assumed as horrible that ends up being the most magical, mystical place in the whole universe... making me think the moral is, if your parents think it's bad for you, it probably involves ice cream and toys and awesome stuff and fun talking trees. A logic I can't say I completely disagree with.

The path straight ahead went through the Haunted Forest. This was the short-cut to Grandfather's house. The path to the left went around the forest. This was the long way to Grandfather's house. Andy had stood at this fork in the path many times. And he always decided to go the long way around. Today, he hummed to himself as he wondered which path to take. Then he said, "I'll go the long way, again!"

Always one to do what's right, Andy heads on the straight and narrow only to get waylaid by a shiny new basketball bouncing from the deep, dark and spooky forest. What boy can resist a shiny new ball, right? Well, he soon discovers that within the canopy of gloom there are trees to play ball with and telephone calls to receive and ice cream cones growing from branches and others that sprout marbles and musical instruments and bubbles that soar you high into the air and talking birds and gifts, gifts and more gifts. Makes me think perhaps taking a short cut every now and again isn't such a bad idea.

Schloat was an animator for Disney back in the day on both Snow White and Dumbo, and though the drawings in this book are rather crude, they shows a real eye for cinematic whimsy and the fantastical. Makes me once again wish for a time machine. All those creative minds from that era must've really had some stories to tell.

I know I promised spooky stuff this week, but shoot, it's already started off as a happy fun time. Just when you think you are headed one place, you end up someplace else entirely. Interesting.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Great Monday Give: Birds

Pouring here in San Antonio with flooding on the way. And I feel a cold coming on. Awesome. I thought I'd lived through the boy and his swine flu, but who knows... That said. Today for the Great Monday Give, I'll be giving away a vintage copy of the sweet Golden Guide: Birds. It's really my son's favorite book ever, so if you love birds as we do, make sure you comment on this post between now and midnight, Sunday ~ November 1. A winner will be selected at random and posted the following day.

And the winner of last week's give, the 3-book Three Tales of My Father's Dragon series is MoziEsme. Congrats and e-mail me your info to webe(at)soon(dot)com to come face to face with My Father's Dragon and its two followup adventures! Stay dry or get wet, whichever applies. (And stay tuned this week for some spooky book picks to celebrate pumpkin day!)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Reluctant Dragon

The Reluctant Dragon
Kenneth Grahame and Ernest H. Shepard
Holiday House, 1938

Written and illustrated by two of the more important figures in children's literature (Grahame of The Wind and the Willows and Shepard of Winnie the Pooh), I never read this book as a child, but I did grow up loving the 1941 Disney short version. Good thing for me, my son (being the peaceable creature that he is) loves the story immensely. For those of you not familiar, it's really the most imaginative idea-- one full of old time legend infused with a contemporary spark. Originally published as a chapter in Greene's book Dream Days, the tale begins when we meet a shepherd and his wife and hear about their son, a devourer of books and an authority on fairy tales and myths. But it's not until the shepherd comes home one evening with a tale of his own that the story really begins.

"He was sticking half-way out of a cave, and seemed to be enjoying of the cool of the evening in a poetical sort of way. He was as big as four horse-carts, and all covered with shiny scales--deep-blue scales at the top of him, shading off to a tender sort 'o green below. As he breathed, there was that sort of flicker over his nostrils that you see over our chalk roads on a baking windless day in summer. He had his chin in his paws, and I should say he was meditating about things. Oh, yes, a peaceable sort 'o beast enough, and not ramping or carrying on or doing anything but what quite right and proper. I admit all that. And yet, what am I to do? Scales, you know, and claws, and a tail for certain, though I didn't see that end of him--I ain't used to 'em, and I don't hold with 'em, and that's a fact!"

The boy sets his father straight about the supposed fierceness of dragons and heads out the next morning to meet the monster for himself. Here enters the delightful poetry-writing creature who is refined and elegant in his manner and most certainly not out to terrorize anyone. He's simply looking for a place to settle down and contemplate the beauty of the hills... but no sooner than we fall in love... a knight appears on the scene with an idea to slay the sweet dear. Sensing a sure tragedy, the boy gets in cahoots with St. George and the dragon and they hatch a plan to put on a show for the townspeople that will make everyone happy in the end.

It's a great book for boys who are very much boys and love knights and fights and stories and things, but who have a soft spot for the animals like my little wee one at home. Shepard's illustrations are pure magic and though When We Were Very Young was his first, he illustrated dozens of titles during his 97 years on this earth. It makes me want to start digging up more of them. In this one alone, the little boy's tiny expressions and pageboy hair cut just make me melt. Don't even get me started on Christopher Robin. Swoon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Little Prince

The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
translation from French by Katherine Woods
Harcourt Brace & World, 1943

Though it might seem too obvious (as it is one of the most read books in the world), considering the thing has been looping on audio book in this house for a good month (including at this very moment... the boy is curled in his bed... his little imagination hanging on every word), I figured I'd better give 'ole Antoine a shout out today. And cliché as it might be, I am gonna mention the dedication page, as The Little Prince famously features what might well be the all time best EVER dedication in a book. (I actually dare you not to cry over this one.)


I ask the indulgence of the children who may read this book for dedicating it to a grown-up. I have a serious reason: he is the best friend I have in the world. I have another reason: this grown-up understands everything, even books about children. I have a third reason: he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs cheering up. If all these reasons are not enough, I will dedicate the book to the child from whom this grown-up grew. All grown-ups were once children-- although few of them remember it. And so I correct my dedication:


And so begins one of the most timeless and wonderful stories for children ever set down on paper. Inspired partially by a real crash in the Sahara experienced by the pilot Saint-Exupery, the book begins with the narrator explaining why he became a pilot and a geographer instead of an artist.

Once when I was six years old, I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing. In the book it said: "Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to move, and they sleep through the six months that they need for digestion." I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle. And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in making my first drawing. My Drawing Number One. It looked like this:I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them. But they answered: "Frightened? Why should any one be frightened by a hat?"

Thus the man's career as an artist is over, his mistrust of adults is born and the tale begins. After crashing in the desert, the man meets a strange little boy, and when he shows the boy the picture, the boy immediately knows that it's a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. From there, the man finds out more and more about the mysterious little prince who fell from an asteroid. The prince tells him of his own world and his love affair with a rose and his travels to other asteroids and the people he meets along the way. Each experience philosophic and telling - hitting all the big themes like death, life, childhood and love. Perhaps the most poignant being the conversation the prince has with a fox he has tamed.

"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

I wish I could tell you guys the many ways this book is special, but really, it is so unique and honest and beloved by millions, the actual tale can mean many different things depending on who the reader is and at what point in their lives they are reading it. I will tell you this though, at four and a half, my boy always cries at the end when the little prince finally leaves the man. It seems the sadness we know from losing someone we love is an emotion we're born with.

Within a year of the book being published, Saint Exupéry disappeared in his fighter plane over the ocean and was never seen again. Too bad some of us don't get to hang around long enough to see the love we've made.

(Two more things, my husband came home the other day while I was showing the boy the 1974 film version that came out when I was little. I don't know how many of you remember it, but he came in during the Bob Fosse-as-the-snake-in-the-grass dance number and screamed, "What are you doing to my son?!?" Ha! And weheartbooks turned me on to this fabulous pop-up version last week. Isn't it divine!?!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Miss Lollypop's Lion

Miss Lollipop's Lion
Judy Varga ~ William Morrow and Company, 1963

I know I am sweet on 60s children's books, but I can't help it. There's something so wonderful about the lines and the colors, not to mention the stories... it was a time when you the social winds were beginning to change... children's books took more chances. I imagine it was a super cool time to be young and seeing things anew. That said... I would've loved to have had this little something in my library when I was wee.

Miss Lola Lollipop paced the floor in her kitchen. She was terribly worried. There was very little food in the house, practically no money and she had a great many mouths to feed. Living with her were fourteen cats, nine dogs, three rabbits, seven canaries, four parakeets, two guinea pigs, and five hamsters, not to mention the donkey in the back yard. Miss Lollipop couldn't look at a stray animal without bringing it home. She couldn't say "No," when someone asked, "Please give my pet a home, I can no longer keep it!" And homeless animals somehow knew they would find a place to stay if they came and sat on Miss Lollipop's doorstep.

Very much like my own mother, Lola is the consummate "crazy pet lady" without the crazy. She's what my grandmother would call a "dear heart." A lover of animals. A sister of mother nature. But anyone who's ever had a house pet knows, the little things can add up. The future looks so dire that sweet Lola is actually dishing out her own dinner to her plentiful pets. That is until one day, a ferocious lion finds its way to her house. Once she scolds the beast for trying to devour one of her rabbits, she gives it a good washing and a lesson in moral conscious and the wild becomes as tame as a pussy cat.

Ends up, the chance meeting between over-sized feline and teenie tiny granny creates a fortune for everyone and no one goes hungry by the close of the tale. The blue and yellows here are so delicious, I could imagine designing an entire nursery around that color palette. Though I have to admit, I do like the look of the lion far better "pre" the granny makeover. Something about lions and bows doesn't sit right with me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Great Monday Give: 3 Tales of My Father's Dragon

Hello Monday morning. It was a gorgeous weekend here in San Antonio, so I hope yours was likewise. A few orders of business. First Up, the Great Monday Give. Just a reminder for all of you out there who don't know, on Mondays I give away books I've bought for song at thrift/junk/used book shops. It's my way of sharing the wealth with you guys. If you haven't been to a Goodwill lately, all these wonderful books and more are waiting for you. Get out there and upcycle people. Your children will thank you and the earth will thank you.

For your reading pleasure this morning, I am offering up this set of three pretty much brand spanking new paperbacks... three books that make up one of my son's favorite series, Three Tales of My Father's Dragon: My Father's Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland. Now you all know when it comes to longer readers, Dahl is king around here, but Ruth Stiles Gannett's 1940s/50s trio of titles about a boy and his dragon would win in a read off at this house, no question about it. Her books are pure heaven, so even if you don't win these lovelies, make sure you get out there and find some copies for yourself.

To be entered to win, all you have to do is comment on this post between now and Sunday, October 25 at midnight. A winner will be selected via the highly-technical blind-scroll-and-point method and announced the following day.

Next up, we have the winner from the special-weekend edition-Where the Wild Things Are give. Ali wins the gently-lovely hard copy of Where the Wild Things Are! Congrats sister and e-mail me your info asap to webe(at)soon(dot)com.

Finally, the give from two weeks ago... The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me... goes to Staci... Again, e-mail me your info asap to webe(at)soon(dot)com and I'll get it off to you as soon as humanly possible.

That's all for now!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Great SATURDAY Give: Where the Wild Things Are

Hey guys! Happy SATURDAY. So, yes, I did take my almost five-year-old son to see Where the Wild Things Are, despite the warnings. I don't regret taking him, but I will say this, if I knew then what I know now, I don't think I would've. I really loved the movie on so many different levels, but there were some distressing elements for the little guy.


The boy did get upset and weepy when KW swallowed Max to save him from Carol, and would not be consoled until Max was out again... and the scene with the two owls was a little horrifying. I personally really didn't like the overall sense of dread in the film, where at any moment the wild things could've eaten Max up. If I wasn't a mother, I would've adored this film even more, but the one-two punch of fearing for sweet little Max and worrying that my own son was OK was too much for me. Let's just say, this wasn't a movie for small children despite what the coloring book tie-in might lead you to believe. Eight to 10 years of age is fine I think, but for the little guys, not so much.

That said, I have a wonderful hard copy of Where the Wild Things Are to give away this weekend, just for fun. It is in great condition except for a sweet Merry Christmas inscription from 1998 in the front cover. To be entered to win this gently-loved classic, comment on this post between now and tomorrow night ~ Sunday at midnight. A winner will be selected at random and announced the next day along with the normal Great Monday Give.

Thanks for stopping by and do go see Where the Wild Things Are. It's truly heartfelt and stunning. Just leave the preschoolers at home. :)

POSTSCRIPT: I will say this... the boy has had nothing but warm fuzzies about the movie all day, remembering fun things the wild things said, and he danced like a wild man himself to the soundtrack before dinner and then asked to read the book twice.

POSTSCRIPT - POSTSCRIPT: When the boy woke this morning (Sunday), I asked him what his favorite part was and he said, "When Max got home to his Mommy." Well said.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are, Finally

Well, the reviews are in. Los Angeles Times says nay. New York Times says yay. My expectations are so high at this point... it almost can't do anything but stink. I guess I'll know come tomorrow morning. In the meantime, if you happen to see the movie today, drop me a note and give me one last chance to decide if it's indeed age appropriate for a five-year-old. Anyways, have a wild weekend you guys! (PS. I am so excited my stomach actually hurts.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Etsy Stuff Up

Hey guys. I put a few new things in the Etsy store. Remember, still running the $3 flat rate for shipping in the Continental U.S. Highlights...

Burt Dow Deep-Water Man by Robert McCloskey:
Reviewed here. Sold here.

Jack Kent's Twelve Days of Christmas:
Reviewed here. Sold here.

Golden Guide Birds:
Reviewed here. Sold here.

Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak:
Reviewed here. Sold here.

A Flower Pot Is Not A Hat

A Flower Pot Is Not A Hat
Martha Moffett ~ illustrations, Susan Perl
E.P. Dutton, 1972

I've written about Susan Perl before and how if you were a child in the 70s, her doll-faced children permeated the book world. Their happy eyes and Vienna sausage fingers still tickle me, and since their landscape is riddled with animals, the boy has more than obliged my sweet spot for them. I found this a while back in a stack of paperbacks at a used book shop and I scooped it up for $1, not realising it is one of her more collectible titles. I never saw it as a child, but the story and concept are so delightful, I'm glad our paths crossed before my son got too much older. And so...

A flower pot is not a hat.
A lamp shape is not a hat.
A frying pan is not a hat.
If I put it on my head it is.

Yes, a typewriter is not a chair and a coffee pot is not a drum, but with a little imagination, anything is possible.

The use of typeface in the pictures really brings each page to life, and Perl's drawings are as darling as ever. Here, children try everything while curious, cute animals look on with inquisitive expressions. Reminding us all that childhood is about trying things out and experimenting because...

If I can sit on it, pound it, ride on it, sleep in it, play with it, and put it on my head, then I can find out what it is by myself.

Not enough of us take this notion into adulthood, but I'm personally making it my mantra. I am three years from forty and you only have one life, right?

Also by:
More Easy Answers
Susan Perl's Color Wheel

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Roald Dahl ~ illustrations by Donald Chaffin
(later reillustrated by Quentin Blake)
Knopf, 1970

So much excitement with the Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox movies right around the corner. Seriously, I can't get enough... whether it be Wes Anderson's directing controversy or the discussion on whether or not Dave Eggers ruined a Spike Jonze masterpiece with his angst ridden writing. Really, you could cut the anticipation with a knife around here. Will be taking my four-year-old son to both no matter what the mommy-critics say. But hey, I'm the mother who played Edgar Allen Poe spoken word for her son today and then found herself having to explain why PERSON A killing PERSON B and hiding him under the floor doesn't constitute as "the circle of life." But I digress...

Since I've reviewed the first book, I figured it was about time I got around to the other. Not hard really, since my son (not to mention his parents) is currently obsessed with all things Dahl. At nights, Dahl's books are basically all we read, and I know you've heard me gush enough on the subject, but if your child is interesting and interested at all, you owe it to them to introduce Dahl to their imagination. Seriously, at this point in my career as a professional reader to an audience of one, if someone came down and said I could only read one author to my son for the rest of his adolescence... Dahl would give Mr. Sendak a run for his money. Big time. Well, then... though we love the Quentin Blake illustrated version at our house, I figured I'd highlight the original if for no other reason than its enticing jacket copy.


An enormously fat man, a chicken farmer...
and a mean man.

A pot-bellied dwarf, a duck-and-goose farmer...
and a nasty man.

A thin man, a turkey-and-apple farmer...
and a beastly man.

The most respectable
and well-behaved animal in the district.

A rude creature and drunkard.

A fine family.


Our hero, a fantastic fellow.

If you're three years old or more you'll love this extraordinary adventure story, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

And that's it in a nutshell folks. These three bad farmers get a hankering to kill poor Mr. Fox and his kin and devise a plan that has fox and his friends digging for their lives. That is until they dig to a wonderfully magical place that basically solves all their problems forever. Like the jacket says, there is adventure, but more than that... there is family love, furry animals and loads and loads of food. To see where Wes Anderson got his childhood inspiration you really need to check out Donald Chaffin's original illustrations. Much more refined and Andersonesque than Blake's, but having both in our collection just sweetens the pot. Even though I am a Blake loyalist, I will not pick a favorite, and rather, say this. No matter who the illustrator is, the story rings so loud and clear and awesome, all you can do is smile.

In the words of the immortal Mrs. Fox:


Read it and find out just how fantastic for yourself.Also by:
Dirty Beasts
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
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