Friday, February 27, 2009

The Golden Book of 365 Stories

The Golden Book of 365 Stories
Kathryn Jackson ~ pictures Richard Scarry ~ Golden Press, 1955

As I mentioned before, one Goodwill that was trashing books has forgotten about it two weeks later. Lucky for me because I scored this fat tome of loveliness along with a handful of other treasures. I was just thinking this morning about what I'm gonna do when my son starts to outgrow these stories and my book thrifting days are over. Oh, the horror!

Now, I will admit a terrible parenting habit here. My son has always been small. He was only six pounds at birth, and I breastfed him until his was 21 months, but doctors were always stressing me out about his weight gain (even though he's almost always been in the 50th percentile).

Anyway, as soon as he started eating solid food, I began reading to him while he ate. And unfortunately... now, almost four years later, you have to read to him or he won't eat anything. Horrible habit, I know. His future wife is gonna have her hands full. At dinner, I expect to read at least five to ten books to get him through. And this can make for a very full dinner table space-wise. So, I was totally psyched to get this treasury as it is full of stories and poems for every day of the year. For a week plus, this is the only book I've kept at the dinner table, and it will be a while before we get through the whole thing. Now that my parenting skeleton has been trotted out of the closet, here's a choice bit.

To the Barber's Shop
Once a month
With a hop, hop, hop,
Off I go to the
Barber's shop.
Once a month
With a snip, snip, snip,
He cuts my hair
And home I skip.

It's true, there's a seasonally appropriate story for every day. Granted, some stories/rhymes are better than others, but for pulling together 365, Ms. Jackson did a fine job of keeping each fresh. And really, it's hard to find fault with Mr. Scarry. My copy is the 1982 edition, and I think there was a newer one from 1998 called Richard Scarry's A Story A Day. Another very talented blogger wrote a fitting and detailed ode to loving this book here. So fun to know it's been spreading joy for so many years.

Also by:
The Around the Year Storybook
I Am a Bunny
Chipmunk's ABC
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rabbit and His Friends
Great Big Air Book
The Bunny Book

Vintage Kids' Books Need Your Help

The Goodwill I visited previously that was tearing all the pre-85 books off the shelf two weeks ago has thankfully gone slack and I found a few new vintage books on my last visit. I really can't imagine how the government is going to enforce these crazy laws but one reader was nice enough to send me some info about what's happening with the bill to amend now.

There may be help.
There are bills in committee in Congress to amend this ridiculous law.


The related bills are listed below.

When you get to the website, click on each law as shown below and contact the officials listed and tell them to move these bills forward.

H.R. 968: To amend the Consumer Product Safety Act to provide regulatory relief to small and...

H.R. 1046: To ensure the effective implementation of children's product safety standards under...

H.R. 1027: To exempt second-hand sellers of certain products from the lead content

These bills are in committee and must be moved forward NOW.

Now, all of you Xers who watched School House Rock growing up KNOW that most bills never get out of committee, so the more noise we make, the more likely something is to give. SO PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE e-mail these guys and stop the madness!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Muppets at Sea

Muppets at Sea
Jocelyn Stevenson ~ illustrated by Graham Thompson
Random House, 1980

I should probably just quit my empty promises of no licensed characters considering I am a mother who uses the Rainbow Connection to sing her son to sleep at night (though he sometimes requests the other Muppet Movie classics Moving Right Along, I'm Going to Go Back There Someday and Can You Picture That... though occasionally he does opt for non-Muppet selections like Dream a Little Dream, You Are My Sunshine, Blackbird, American Pie or the theme song to the Beverly Hillbillies... I have my husband to thank for that last one.) Anyway, my childhood copy of Muppets at Sea found its way onto my son's bookshelf early, and even though the comic book format and mild adult humor can sometimes befuddle the boy, he loves it all the same.

So the Muppets are in dire need of a vacation and Kermit decides an ocean cruise is just the thing the cast needs. But when they arrive at the shipyard to find a dump, they'll need more than elbow grease to get out of this one.

What's the idea, Frog? Is this some kind of joke? There's not even a decent place to play shuffle-board on that wreck!

As usual, the Muppet spunk and grit get the place spiffied up, but that ends up being the least of their problems. Swedish Chef can't seem to make anything edible. Gonzo gets lost at sea chasing a pirate fantasy. Miss Piggy fumes when she doesn't get the attention from Mon Petit Green Capitain that she deserves. And Beauregard almost kills them all when he pulls the boat's "plug" and sinks the ship. In true Muppet fashion, it takes an Albatross and a Gonzo-swallowing whale to save the day.

I know, I know... I'm probably damning my child to dorkdom for life by letting him love the Muppets this young, but hey... there are worse things in life.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let's Grow a Garden

Let's Grow a Garden
Gyo Fujikawa ~ Zokeisha, 1978

Though my son has long since outgrown board books, since we are out at our farm this morning awaiting a soil delivery for our vegetable garden, I felt the post apropos. Plus I will never, ever, ever tire of indulging myself with Fukikawa illustration. What an instant sight memory for my childhood. The multicultural kids with their tiny dot eyes and adorable round faces. The little overalls and outfits and animals sniffing around. Her pages are filled with frolicking and joy and nature, truly a picture of what life was meant to be.

That drawing of the children looking through the seed packets at the feed store? Shoot, that's something I still love doing. The innocence and excitement of looking at all the different pictures and imagining what you can grow and do. The packaging perfect for little hands. So simple and idealistic... the moments we all hope our children will have to remember in years to come!

It looks like spring is here!
Let's grow a garden,
full of good and tasty vegetables.
We start by
getting little packets of seeds,
and tiny, leafy
seedlings all ready
to plant.
Then we put then in
the earth in
neat and tidy rows.
And there it is...
our garden!

Like Our Best Friends, the back of the book informs that there were a number of these square board books in this series, some of which I remember... some I've never had the pleasure of perusing: Puppies, Pussycats and Other Friends, Let's Play, Let's Eat, Sleepy Time, Can You Count?, Babes of the Wild, Betty Bear's Birthday, Surprise! Surprise!, Millie's Secret and My Favorite Thing. What an amazing legacy to have created so many wonderful memories for so many children. It is knowing there are more books out there like this to discover that makes my baby's fleeting childhood all the more devastating. Truly brings meaning to the phrase "so many books, so little time".

Also by:
A Child's Garden of Verses
A Child's Book of Poems
Baby Animals
Oh, What a Busy Day!
Our Best Friends
Come Follow me
Fairy Tales and Fables


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Big Orange Splot

The Big Orange Splot
Daniel Manus Pinkwater ~ Scholastic, 1977

Another new vintage purchase on a trip to story time at The Red Balloon. I'd never seen this book, but as is always the case with the serendipitous nature of children's books, that same day, We Heart Books posted a link to a Design Sponge story on blogger's favorite childhood books and someone mentioned The Wuggle Norple Story (also by Pinkwater) and Splot as well in the comments. I'm not sure how I missed this 70s classic by the infamous NPR commentator, but here it is... the book my son now refers to as "the one about the crazy house."

Mr. Plumbean lived on a street where all the houses were the same. He liked it that way. So did everybody else on Mr. Plumbean's street. "This is a neat street," they would say. Then one day... A seagull flew over Mr. Plumbean's house. He was carrying a can of bright orange paint. (No one knows why.) And he dropped the can (no one knows why) right over Mr. Plumbean's house.

Well, said bucket leaves said big orange splot, and we all know how well something like a big orange splot would go over on a "neat street". The splot inspires Mr. Plumbean and overnight he transforms his home into something of his dreams. Though they balk at first, eventually, the whole street sees the appeal of living your own life and letting your freak flag fly. A wonderful message in a world all too often consumed with appearances.

Also by:
The Wuggie Norple Story

Monday, February 23, 2009

Great Monday Give: Stop Stop

Hey, hey everyone. Off to a late start today because we found the previously mentioned cat under the house and it took most of the morning to lure the thing back into our loving arms. Apparently, he'd gotten in a rumble with the neighbor's male and was shivering to come out. Poor dear. So, without further yack yack, today's Great Monday Give is an excellent, ex-library copy of Stop Stop by Clement and Edith Hurd. All you have to do to be entered to win is leave a comment right here on this very post before midnight ~ Sunday ~ March 1st. (Ack, is it March already!?!) I will pick a winner at random and announce the following day.

So, now to the winner of last week's give, Pardon My French... a new reader who came to us via the very cool Book-A-Rama. The Funny Thing is yours and all you have to do is send me your info to webe(at)soon(dot)com.

That's it for now!

Welcome Home, Henry

Welcome Home, Henry
Bill Martin Jr. ~ pics Muriel Batherman ~ Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970

I'm not sure if my son quite gets the subtle humor in this book, but word/design junkies like myself will enjoy. As the subtitle describes, it truly is A Monkeying Around with Print Book.

A boy arrives home and his mother calls downstairs. The book illustrates the conversation that takes place up and down the stairs, calling back and forth. Words go down, over, sideways, backwards and upside down. Bubbles pop out whenever one talks to the other.

Said Mother in a loud voice that carried downstairs to the front door, "Is that you Henry?" Said Henry in a quiet voice that didn't carry upstairs, "Yeah, I'm home."

The conversation gets misunderstood, and like all Moms, this one can somehow see through the floor and bust the boy doing things he shouldn't be. Though one can't help but worry why Mom doesn't get her butt downstairs and give her son a proper hug rather than parenting through the floor, me thinks that's not really the point. The pocket size is perfect for the purse and seeing the words all a-jumble is a great showstopper for the little ones. I imagine when my son learns to read, he'll have a time unpuzzling this one. I love the small paper cutouts, especially the few-page appearance the cat makes, sticking its head in and out between legs and such. (A tear jerker for me as our house cat slipped out the door last night around six and hasn't been seen since. Sigh.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Amazing Bone

The Amazing Bone
William Steig ~ Farrar Straus Giroux, 1976

As you know, we've been jamming to William Steig on audio book, and really, the more I see and hear and read, the more I love this man's edgy humor. My son (almost four now) really digs that all his stories have some level of peril. I can almost see the hair beginning to rise on the back of his neck as each story gets deeper and more involved. On the audio book, the lovely Meryl Streep reads this story, and as the CD is on constant rotation in the car, I can recite it in its entirety, complete with her specific inflections. (Don't tell the audio book makers this, but I rent audio books from the library and burn them on my Macbook, so we can listen to them again and again and ~sigh~ again.) Though I do have Shrek to thank for introducing the endearing phrases "jabbering jackass" and "I smite your stupid scabby head" into my son's vocal lexicon, but hey.

So yea, um, there's this pig named Pearl, see, and she goes for a walk in the woods one day and stumbles across a bone that can talk and sing and imitate sounds. Though this meeting might seem fortuitous when the bone helps the girl escape a gang of evil dudes, it soon turns bad when a sly fox discovers the bone and decides to take it home and cook the pig for dinner while he's at it...

"You must let this beautiful young creature go on living," the bone yelled. "Have you no shame, sir!" The fox laughed. "Why should I be ashamed? I can't help being the way I am. I didn't make the world." The bone commenced to revile the fox. "You coward!" it sneered. "You worm, you odoriferous wretch!" These expletives were annoying. "Shut up, or I'll eat you," the fox snarled. "It would be amusing to gnaw on a bone that talks... and screams with pain." The bone kept quite the rest of the way, and so did Pearl.

Steig is a wonder with words, and The Amazing Bone contains stunning language like...

Later she sat on the ground in the forest between school and home, and spring was so bright and beautiful, the warm air touched her so tenderly, she could almost feel herself changing into a flower. Her dress felt light as petals. "I love everything," she heard herself say.

Even though the peril is there, Steig is a sucker for the happy ending, and all his stories are rife with awe and wonder. I find his drawings to be artfully crude, yet thoroughly delightful... but it is the language that brings me back. He writes assuming that children have a high level of intelligence for understanding the world, which, of course they do. Then again, he might just be trying to scare the crap out of kids, and I guess that's OK too.

Also by:
Amos & Boris
Rotten Island
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, February 19, 2009

Sherwood Walks Home

Sherwood Walks Home
James Flora ~ Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966

It is so gorgeous outside that I decided to fling open the doors of my office and flip open a copy of another Flora and dream of taking a walk myself... only without the fish attached to my butt.

Let us imagine for a moment that you are a wind-up bear in love with a certain boy... and that certain boy accidentally abandons you in the park during a rain storm and all you want to do is walk home to said boy except that there is nobody there to wind you up. Well then, you would be in the exact same predicament as our hero, Sherwood.

All night long Sherwood sat in the park. It was cold and lonely. Once, in the middle of the night, he saw two eyes staring at him. "Please come and wind me so I can walk home," Sherwood begged. But the eyes just blinked and disappeared. Sherwood never did see who owned them. In the morning the rain stopped and the sun peeked through the trees. Sherwood felt much better. "It won't be long until someone will come and wind me up," he said to himself. And sure enough someone did.

With his wind-up wind flowing, Sherwood makes a mad dash for home. Along the way he gets snuggled by a big momma bear, half eaten by an angry fish, and starts a conga line of madness that doesn't end until at last he is reunited with his certain boy. I will admit, on the first page we see the fish, the thing is sporting some evil eyes, and they scare the willies out of my dear boy.... Still, he loves this book. As do I. I'm only missing four Flora kids' books at this point. I'm just hoping the copies that were meant for me don't end up in a garbage dump somewhere. Poo.

Also by:
Pishtosh Bullwash and Wimple
Kangaroo for Christmas
Stewed Goose
Great Green Turkey Creek Monster
Grandpa's Farm
Leopold the See-Through Crumbpicker
The Day the Cow Sneezed
Grandpa's Ghost Stories
Grandpa's Witched Up Christmas
Little Hatchy Hen
My Friend Charlie
The Fabulous Firework Family

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Pam Adams ~ Traducido por Benigno D'ou, 1974

OK... I speak little to no Spanish (at this point mainly just colors and animal names), but being in Texas, I am constantly confronted with vintage kids' books en Español. If I run across a particularly awesome one, I buy it, regardless of my lacking in language skills. Our public elementary school has a Spanish immersion program that I am hoping my son gets into, and hopefully then, these books will begin to make sense. In the meantime... this is what I mean by AWESOME.

I have no idea what this book is about. It has an elongated shape. One page shows an ordinary scene with a child doing something normal... but there are shaped holes that show through to the next page where something fantastical is going on. I think it is from Venezuela, but really, beats me. Happy Tuesday gang.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I Know a Magic House

I Know a Magic House
Julius Schwartz ~ pics by Marc Simont ~ Whittlesey House, 1956

I swear, science books for kids from the 50s and 60s were the coolest. Children were growing up in an age when amazing things were happening and science and technology were truly being introduced in the home. The idea of looking at your house as a magic place, with all sorts of amazing, functional inventions, is so appealing to me. Shoot, I'm still amazed at all the things people have created to make life easier and better, and the ones set out in this book cover some of the most basic scientific concepts for kids.I know a magic house
where mountain water
comes right into the rooms.

(The faucet, of course.)

I know a magic house
where you spin a wheel
to find a friend.

(A rotary dial telephone.)

I know a magic house
where music comes
from black circles.

(See above picture.)

Taking a look at everything from bubbles to time... televisions to toasters. You'll be amazed at all the magic you can find around the house for your child to explore. My son was really wowed the other day when I followed the telephone land line and took him outside to show him where the telephone lines came into the house. I know it was an a-ha moment for him.... but did I mention that before? I think I must be losing it in my old age. Perhaps in the future when I've really started to fade, the boy will be able to show me a few new things too. (Hey, anyone know if this Julius Schwartz is the famous DC comics Julius Schwartz?)

Also by:
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed
A Tree Is Nice

Great Monday Give: The Funny Thing

A muchly much much more optimistic morning. I have to think the government will do the right thing over the next few months and alter this crazy law to make vintage kids' books legal again, so I don't expect to be out of business too too long. I've posted a ton of stuff in the Etsy store today with plans to post more in the next day or two. Again, the pre-85 books will stay up til midnight Friday and there is $3 flat rate shipping on all orders in the Continental US til then too. Saturday, I'll take all pre-85 books down and add a bunch printed during that golden '85 to '89 era I'll be focusing on just to keep the store up and running. Ha! (Surprising, I actually have more than you might think.)

That said, I have a gorgeous ex-library and like-new hardcover, plastic-covered copy of The Funny Thing by Wanda Gag. The book was printed in 2003, so it is guaranteed cootie-free. (I'm also going to look deeper into the "giving away" rules as if I can't sell the darn things, I'd at least love to be able to give them to you for free!) All you have to do to be entered to win is make a comment on this post before midnight, Feb. 22. A winner will be announced the following morning.

As for last week's give.... the winner is Celeste. Shoot me an e-mail at webe(at)soon(dot)com, and I'll get your awesome copy of Umbrella out to you ASAP.

Bye for now!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Death of Vintage Kids' Books

It with a heavy heart and a very confused soul that I write this post today. So, on February 10, the "Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act" went into effect in America, making it illegal for consumer products intended for children under 12 to have more than 600 parts per million of lead in any accessible part. This is great as it will supposedly help keep creepy China-made evil toys out of the hands of our children. However, this also means that makers of handmade toys and children's clothes (like the Moms and Dads who create things out of their homes to sell on Etsy) will no longer be able to sell their products without spending thousands of dollars on product testing. This much I had known.

But, apparently, all vintage children's products fall under the rule as well. As far as vintage books go, any book printed before 1985 when America's anti-lead laws went into effect... is deemed suspect until tested, therefore unless it undergoes testing to prove it cootie-free, it will become illegal and suspect and must be DESTROYED. Because of complaints, a one year "Stay of Enforcement of Certain Testing and Certification Requirements of CPSIA" was enacted — which means that they are proposing a 1 year suspension of the burden of lead testing and certification while they take more time to review the rules and plan enforcement. All this means is that booksellers wouldn't have to pay to do the certification and testing for another year, but they would still liable if their vintage products are found to have lead.

So it seems smaller, independent booksellers who know the value of these books are boxing their pre-85 product and holding on to them in storage until this madness blows over. Other larger thrift store chains like Goodwill are pulling the books and just dumping them in the garbage. I am sick about the whole thing.

Apparently, there is some exemption for "collectible children's books" that would be for adult collectors and not children, but we all know that is BS. There has not been one case ever of a children's book giving a child lead poisoning, so all this kinda got dumped into the same category.... sadly... I won't even go into how this will effect libraries, but just imagine your neighborhood library... over half of its children's section disappearing overnight... all of its out-of-print titles, vanishing into the dumpster out back.

Question 17: Can I sell vintage children’s books and other children’s products that are collectibles?

Yes. Used vintage children’s books and other children’s products sold as collector’s items would not be primarily intended for children. Because of their value and age, they would not be expected to be used by children. Therefore, they do not fall into the definition of children’s product and do not need to comply with the lead limits.

That said, this blog and ultimately my Etsy store were a super fun hobby for me, but until there is some resolution on this heartbreaking witch hunt, as of Saturday ~ Feb. 21, I will be pulling all pre-85 books from the shelves... and since Etsy only allows sales of books 20 years or older... that will just be a token really.... books printed between '85 and '89.

I will be posting some of my immediate surplus tomorrow, and selling all books with a flat rate shipping of $3 for all orders in the Continental US... with the knowledge that you guys are all adults who collect treasures and know what's best for yourselves and your kids. Saturday morning, all the books unsold with a pre-85 date will go back into my son's collection.

Apparently, you are not allowed to giveaway these books either ("these books" meaning the books your mother and your grandmother and even you were raised on), I will no longer be giving away books on Mondays, at least pre-85 books. I will still try and giveaway reprints and the like when I find them... but let's just say the fun is over for now.

So... a bag of plastic "MADE IN CHINA" animals from Walmart is good and your mother's favorite book from childhood is toxic until proven innocent. If you want to help stop this insanity, check out the Handmade Toy Alliance and contact your congressman.

As for me, I will continue buying, collecting and giving vintage kids' books to my child. I will continue writing about them here every day. And as I sit and watch my son mouth a rubber frog from China that is filled with who knows what, I can't help but think the world has gone slightly mad this week.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Great Readers Write: The Diamond in the Window

Happy day-before-Valentine's Day gang. I am happy to announce a very special Great Readers Write today... One that is especially resonant for the holiday by longtime VKBMKL reader and children's book author Candice Ransom. Though still technically a children's book, it runs a little older than my usual demographic, but once you read, you'll understand why I made the exception. Enjoy.

The Diamond in the Window
Jane Langton ~ pics by Erik Blegvad ~ Harper and Row, 1962

During a sixth grade blizzard, I waited in the school library for my bus to plow through snow-clogged roads and take me home. I pulled a book off the shelf, The Diamond in the Window, and settled down.

It was past supper time when I slogged up the long hill to my house. I lost my loafers in the drifting snow, but kept a firm grip on The Diamond in the Window. That book had cast a spell over me. It had elements I loved: a Victorian house, a hidden treasure and drawings by my favorite illustrator, Erik Blegvad.

Eleanor and Eddie Hall live in Concord, Massachusetts, with their aunt and uncle. Their house is about to be foreclosed. The kids notice a keyhole-shaped window and discover stairs leading up to a small room with two beds. Aunt Lily tells them her younger brother and sister played in that room. Wealthy Prince Krishna, a student of Transcendentalism, lived with them. One day the children disappeared and so did Prince Krishna.

Eleanor and Eddie discover a huge fake diamond set in the window of the attic room. A riddle leading to “transcendental treasure” is etched in the glass. If they find the jewels, they can pay the taxes! But they really want to find the lost children. The kids sleep in the little room and experience strange dreams based on the riddle.

The Diamond in the Window changed my life. I declared I was a Transcendentalist (that summer I made more declarations than Patrick Henry). I didn’t know Thoreau from Adam’s housecat, but I liked his writing. Emerson encouraged me to “Hitch my wagon to a star” and become a children’s book writer. I learned values and the truth, heady stuff for an eleven-year-old.

My favorite chapter is “The Bride of Snow.” Eleanor, who pines for a Valentine, sees a young Aunt Lily and Prince Krishna in her dream. Krishna gathers snowflakes and fashions them into a wedding dress with the heat from his hands (so romantic!). He pricks his finger and a drop of his blood stains the bodice. He pins a ruby brooch over the spot. When Eleanor wakes up, she runs to the attic and unwraps a sheet covering a dressmaker’s dummy. There is Aunt Lily’s wedding dress, no two hexagonal lace pieces alike. The blood stain is there, but no ruby brooch.

When I met my Prince Krishna, I had to be married on Valentine’s Day. We were, during the blizzard of 1979. My dress came from Montgomery Ward.

In our house, a crystal sketches rainbows on sunny walls. Lace curtains frame the windows, no two patterns alike. On Valentine’s Day, I display a vintage Valentine like the giant one Eleanor steps through in her dream.

Five years ago on our 25th wedding anniversary, I wrote to Jane Langton and told her how her book had influenced my life. She sent an original drawing with her best wishes. We had planned to go away, but my husband had to work. I stenciled "Once Upon a Time" and "They Lived Happily Ever After" in the hall and fixed an elaborate fairy tale dinner that my husband, who had caught the flu, was too sick to eat.

Our 30th anniversary will be this Valentine’s Day. We had planned to go to Scotland. Due to health and economy issues, we will stay home again. It’s our “pearl” anniversary. I am getting a single pink pearl, similar to the one Eleanor finds and wears to the belated wedding of Aunt Lily and Prince Krishna. Of course, my husband and I feel we already have found pearls, in each other.

Also by:
Mud Pies and Other Recipes
A Year is a Window
The Last of the Wizards
Plenty of Fish

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Babar and Zephir

Babar and Zephir
Jean De Brunhoff ~ Random House, 1937

Another find at my new favorite store. It was a hugely damaged ex-library copy (check out the cover!), but I had to throw down the five bucks for this out-of-print wonder. I knew I would otherwise never buy one, and I'd been dying to have a look. Copies in even OK shape go for much more, though it seems that the Dandelion Library version (a flip book with Squirrel Nutkin on the other side) can be had for less if you look around. After taking a peep, I soooo remember it from way back when, and it might very well be the most wonderful of all the Babar books. Babar only makes a rear-facing appearance on the first page, and the book really is all about Zephir, Arthur's (Babar's nephew) monkey sidekick, and specifically, his trip home to Monkeyville for the summer.

So evocative of Paris in the 30s, the whimsy within these pages teeters on bizarre. There are mermaids, a magical Aunt Crustadele, a monster who smells of rotting apples, a mystery, a monkey princess to rescue, and a king's army dressed so swankily, you wished you lived in Monkeyville yourself. (Really makes you lament the pixelated camouflage you see our guys in uniform sporting nowadays.) Really, words can not draw the picture of how cool this story is.

"Who is Polomoche?" asks Zephir.
"He is a monster who lives on his island with his friends the Gogottes. They live on herbs and fruits, and are not savage. But they are bored. From time to time, in order to amuse himself, Polomoche goes off for a trip in a little green cloud. If he meets anyone he likes, he carries him off to his cave. That's what happened to Isabelle. He is capricious, impatient, and has a bad habit of turning to stone those who anger him."

Well, I never. Indeed, it takes Zephir's wily smarts, a violin and a clown suit (don't ask) to save the princess in an imaginative and unlikely tale of one little side kick getting the limelight for a while. Really, really special book. If you like monkeys and you like clowns and you love monkeys dressed as clowns, it is not to be missed.

Also by:
Travels of Babar
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