Friday, July 31, 2009

So Long Farewell

Happy Friday all. That wraps up my second anniversary celebration. I just wanted to thank everyone who comes and reads and shares... and thank everyone who left awesome/inspiring/sweet comments and said nice things and passed on a nudge of kindness. Special gratitude goes out to Gillian, Niklas, Dave, Meg and Katie for sharing lovely thoughts on lovely books.

This week of tweeting has been an eye-opener. I hope you'll follow me so I can pass along the extra goodness. Remember, anyone who signs up to follow before midnight on Sunday gets thrown into the drawing for a $25 shopping spree in the Etsy shop... where everything is still 50% off til Sunday.

Caryn the Designer is the winner of the Sendak giveaway. E-mail we at webe(at)soon(dot)com and I'll hook you up. Come back Monday for a new Great Monday Give (for those who don't know, I give away a vintage kids' book every Monday from my own collection to one lucky reader), and to check out the posts from Roy Freeman. Don't miss it.

So long, kids.

Where the Forest Meets the Sea ~ Guest Post by weheartbooks

Last but certainly not least, are my favorite Australians, Katie and Lou. Now, that's not totally fair considering they are the only people I know (kinda) from Australia. I know someone in New Zealand but she says they are sort of like "the other Canada" so I don't think it counts. Regardless, these mommies/small business owners/bloggers/read outlouders are excellent at highlighting great children's picture books both new and old on their adorable blog, weheartbooks. They started up around the same time I did, so I guess you can say we are nurserymates! For this reason, they will always hold a soft spot in my heart. Spotlighting books and book-related goodness, all their reviews are sorted by age appropriateness, so it's a great resource for not just the book connoisseur but the literary parent as well. Plus, they have a super cute shop. Today, let's welcome Katie who is giving us a glimpse onto the childhood bookshelves of thousands of Aussie 20-somethings. ~ Scribbler

The invitation from Scribbler to write a guest post was a little paralysing. On the one hand, I was nervous - Lou and I are continually so inspired by Scribbler’s dedication to daily blogging, her AWESOME taste in vintage books, and incredible knowledge… On the other hand, I was restricted, having written about many of my favourite books of childhood on our own blog through a regular feature we call ‘When We Were Little’. The solution, I figured, was to find something not just Australian, but a book that we have missed so far on We Heart Books.

I finally found the perfect book: Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker. Jeannie was born in the UK, but is a long-time resident of Sydney and published her first book in Australia in 1975. Where the Forest Meets the Sea (1987) is a tribute to her love of Australian wilderness and fierce commitment to protecting it from destruction.

The story follows a father and son, who know a special piece of rainforest. The father says it has been there for over a hundred million years. The boy goes for a walk into the forest, imagining its past, discovering its secrets. He finds an ancient hollow tree and climbs inside, and wonders if aboriginal forest children once played there, too. The book cleverly combines a real world and an imagined world; Jeannie incorporates elements of the imaginary through hidden details or just-discernible overlays to the illustrations.

I have always loved Jeannie’s illustrations – she is an absolute master of the medium of relief collage. Her illustrations are constructed from a mixture of natural and artificial materials and the result is an incredible rich and detailed 3D effect. You really feel like you could reach out and touch the tree bark, the moss, the sand.

Jeannie says about her collages:
Whenever I can I use the real material … because for me that gives the result I am wanting. For example, if I want to show an area of sand in my picture I’ll use real sand, my birds will have real feathers stuck on them. For tree trunks I will often use paperbark tree bark or thin slices of other types of tree bark from a dead tree trunk.

What I find most amazing in this book is Jeannie’s ability to capture the light and shadow of the exposed beach and forest hinterland. Apparently, she worked for three years on this book. On field trips to the Daintree Rainforest, she was disappointed with the photos she took for reference material. You can imagine why – the windows of light and dark like those in the contrasting environments of beach and forest always seem to be better captured by the eye than the camera. Which makes Jeannie’s ability to do this with collage even more amazing.

A powerful set of double-page spreads on the last two pages of the book show first the stretch of beach where father and son cook their freshly caught fish and then the same stretch of beach as it could be imagined overrun by development and tourism. The second image is one that is all too recognisable – and delivers the message that the rainforest is unique and precious. And that we have just one chance to protect it.

A short film was also made of this book, and you can view a short clip of it on Jeannie’s website.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Fantastic Mr. Fox Trailer

In the Night Kitchen ~ Guest Post by Sweet Pea and Beans

Next up in this week of awesomeness is my NUMBER ONE fan. Meg is a Colorado girl who blogs about her family, her sons, and most recently, her incredible choice to move away from big city life to her rural, childhood home. She is the reader who sends heartfelt asides when my blogging reflects a particularly exhausting day. The girl who sends gifts and invites me into her world as much as I've invited readers into my own. Seriously, she often gives me more love than my own family does. Every blogger should have a cheerleader and a friend as enthusiastic as her. That said, offer up a big welcome as she opens up about one of her family's favorite reads. She's a keeper, that one. Comment on this post before midnight tonight and be entered to win your very own slightly-loved copies of Pierre: A Cautionary Tale and Where the Wild Things Are. Will announce a winner tomorrow. The winner of yesterday's give is Dan Pinto. E-mail me at web(at)soon(dot)com. Bye. ~ ScribblerIn the Night Kitchen
Maurice Sendak ~ Harper & Row, 1979

I am so thrilled to be included in this second anniversary celebration for one of my favorite blogs authored by one of my favorite bloggers. I found Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves some time ago on a new-to-me blog… Design Mom (obviously I was new to blogging). I became simply smitten when I read Scribbler’s guest posts, here, here, and here, talking about something that I adore almost more than my own children… their books. I could spend hours, if not days, searching through VKBMKLs for little nuggets to share with them. I consider this blog my gateway, not only to the magic of children’s literature, but also to so many of Scribbler’s talented friends who are writers, illustrators and book enthusiasts. Thank you so much for sharing your passion with us every day, and inspiring my family to read and discover so many amazing books.

If I can stop myself from gushing for just a bit, Scribbler asked if I would like to share a smidge about one of our favorite vintage kids' books, In The Night Kitchen. In many ways, I see the spirit of Mickey in my two boys. He is an inventive, strong-willed child who saves the day by being a problem solver. Like my boys, Mickey struggles to sleep. He eventually drifts away into dreams of the night kitchen where bakers mix and stir cake batter while chanting catchy phrases. As the bakers try to stir Mickey into their cake, he announces “I’m not Milk and the Milk’s not me. I’m Mickey.” Then he fashions himself an airplane out of bread dough and zooms off into the Milky Way. Mickey flies past tall buildings that are made of boxes and bottles and cooking utensils straight out of his mother’s pantry. He completes the cake by pouring milk from the lip of a giant milk bottle into the batter below. Then he slides from the night kitchen back into bed where he wakes up warm and snug. The perfect ending to a long night of adventurous dreaming!

I try very hard to look at the books my boys read from the perspective of their age and development level, and only in rare instances do I try to see them from an adult point of view. I try not to let my jaded views of the world taint their creativity and imagination. As I was researching a bit about In the Night Kitchen for this post, I will say that my childlike perspective got a little spoiled. Over the years adults have taken issue with Sendak’s illustrations of Mickey’s “privacy area”, as my 4-year-old calls it. Looking back I realized that I never read In the Night Kitchen as a child, and I now know that is a result of a rather large movement to ban it from our schools and libraries. In fact, according to the American Library Association it is still one of the most challenged books and frequently appears in the top 100 list of banned books. From my childlike perspective, Sendak’s creative world is magically illustrated with unique typography and loved by our family, not feared. I think to myself shame on adults for muddying the waters of children’s literature.

I appreciate the fact that Sendak views his own creative mind as a dark and scary place for children. Much of his work is underscored by the horrific events of the holocaust and an uneasy childhood. Each night we read stories to our children in hopes that they will drift off into their own night kitchens. We hope that magical doors will open for them and their dreamy imaginations will flourish. This doesn’t always happen as smoothly as we would like. Sendak said: "You cannot write for children. They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them." At the end of the day, I often sneak into their rooms and watch them as they dream their own adventurous dreams and I think of Mickey.

Sendak is a master.

Also by:
A Very Special House
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
Moon Jumpers
What Do You Say, Dear?
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale
Some Swell Pup
Let's Be Enemies
Chicken Soup with Rice
Lullabies and Night Songs
I'll Be You and You Be Me
Outside Over There
The Juniper Tree
Where the Wild Things Are
The Giant Story

Updates and things to come

So inspired by Ward's posts this month on Abner Graboff, I decided I'd try my hand and include a guest post this week by Don Freeman's son Roy. But when I received the final post yesterday, it was such a touching tribute, I realised it was just too special to waste on a one shot. So tune in next week, for a three part series by the son of the man who brought us Space Witch, Quiet! There's a Canary in the Library, Fly High Fly Low, Mop Top, The Guard Mouse, and of course, Corduroy. Roy is a really great guy who is working hard to keep his father's legacy alive. All our children should be thankful for that.

And remember, if you sign up to follow us on Twitter before Sunday, you'll be entered to win a $25 shopping spree in my Etsy shop... which, by the way, is still running the 50% off sale til Sunday.

That is all.

(Picture courtesy of

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Le Vaillant Petit Tailleur (The Valiant Little Tailor) ~ Guest Post by Dave Cuzner

The two other people who instantly sprang to mind to guest post were Ward Jenkins and Dave Cuzner. Unfortunately (or fortunately for him) Ward was off vacationing at that place where the giant mouse lives, but thankfully, Dave kindly accepted my offer. Now, let me just say this, when I asked Dave, I seriously thought there was no chance in hell that he would say yes (much less write me back even.) You see, us little wee bloggers who love books and Mid-Century design and old "dusty things" look upon Dave as a God-like figure. Really, I bow at his feet in awe of his awesomness. His blog grain edit is my all time favorite blog EVER, and he has such immaculate taste. If you've ever visited, you know that his children's book collection is exquisite. (His house is pretty fabulous, too.) So without further blah blah and before I go all fan-girl freaky, welcome Dave and his tale of the tailor. And, comment on this post today to win a copy of the rare Dolli The Valiant Little Tailor. Winner will be announced tomorrow. Yesterday's give? The winner is celi.a. E-mail me, webe(at)soon(dot)com. ~ Scribbler

1963 by Desclee De Brouwer ~ Illustrations by E Probst

The Valiant Little Tailor is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. The story opens with a tailor who is preparing to eat some bread and jam. Seven flies try to land on the jam and he kills all the flies with one blow. Inspired by his accomplishment, he creates a belt describing his deed, "Seven with one blow" and sets out into the world to seek his fortune. Along the way the tailor runs into a host of characters who assume his belt refers to seven men (not flies). One of those characters is the King of the land who challenges the tailor to a series of tasks including the capture of a wild unicorn. In return for completion of these tasks, the King offers the tailor half his kingdom and his daughter's hand in marriage. From here the story gets wild! I don't want to give away all the details, so you'll just have read it for yourself.

The illustrations are credited to E. Probst. Unfortunately, I couldn't find much information on Mr. Probst. Is it possible that E. Probst is a pseudonym for Pierre Probst? If anyone knows, please leave a note in the comments. It's too bad, because the images are absolutely stunning!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mouse Tales ~ Guest Post by Nikalas Catlow

One of my favorite bloggers (the apple and the egg) is the multi-talented Niklas Catlow, illustrator, designer, children's book author, and overseer of the design of the young fiction list at Random House Children's Books in the UK. Here he shares with us a sweet, little memory of one of his favorite vintage children's books; one that is out-of-print in the UK, but a classic still available in the US. Let's make him at home and be sure to check out his blog. He's a super talented guy. Oh, and comment on this post before midnight tonight and be eligible to win nice vintage paperback copies of Lobel's Mouse Soup and Frog and Toad are Friends. I'll announce a winner in the morning. Oh too, the winner of yesterday's gimme of Flat Stanley is wmmahaney! Contact webe(at)soon(dot)com... you know the drill. ~ Scribbler

Mouse Tales
Arnold Lobel ~ (UK) World's Work & (US) Harper & Row, 1972

I thought the perfect book to do a guest post on a retro kids book blog would be the only children's book I still own that actually was my book when I was a kid. The book is called Mouse Tales by Arnold Lobel and is a collection of short stories involving mice. It was "An I Can Read Book", published by World's Work Ltd 1972 (costing a total of 60p).

The book is even more special to me because it was bought for me by my father who is no longer alive. My dad had a knack of buying books for me which was a pretty tough job being that I was an incredibly reluctant reader.

I love Arnold Lobel's illustrations. I've seen some of his other books and his style can change slightly. I don't think that the illustrations have really dated and apart from the rather strange page layouts of the book I think it could be reprinted with very few updates.

About six years ago I took the text from one of these stories and re-illustrated it as part of my application work onto a children's book illustration MA course. It was a really interesting exercise to take a text from a book, dismantle it and put it back together with your own illustrations. It gave me a great insight into the workings of a good story.

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
Ice Cream Cone Coot


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Because I obviously live under a rock, it took a reader (thanks Michael!) to alert me to the amazing-incredibleness that is Wes Anderson creating a stop motion version of my son's current favorite read, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I simply can not wait. With George Clooney in place as the voice of Mr. Fox, I almost think I might cease to exist today out of sheer joy and anticipation. Really, I could poof away at any moment if someone was to so much as nudge me. Gasp, gasp. Sput.

Moon Man ~ Guest Post by Gillian Fassel

When I started to think about people to write guest posts, as always, the first person who came to mind was Gillian Fassel... the friend and writer who inspires me to be a better thrifter and, as a fellow ex-East Coaster, often keeps me from going insane in this Texas heat. (Hey what can I say, she has talent, incredible taste and she has a pool.) Here she writes about one of my all time favorite children's book authors... though, this book in particular, I don't yet possess. You see, Gillian has this nasty habit of getting to our local library sales five minutes before me, but I digress. Comment on this post before midnight tonight, and I might select your name to win a vintage paperback of the Ungerer-illustrated Flat Stanley. A winner will be posted first thing tomorrow. ~ Scribbler

Moon Man
Tomi Ungerer ~ Harper & Row, 1967

So when Scribbler—the mastermind behind this blog, my friend and (friendly) competition in the pursuit of all the lovely discarded vintage children’s books in our neck of the Lone Star State—asked me to write up my favorite children's book for her second anniversary, I told her she was nuts. Maybe I could narrow it down to a top ten list, but even that would be a challenge. I thought about asking my daughters (ages 2 and 6) for their picks but that's just another exercise in futility since they change every day (right now the 2-year-old is fixated—and you know how only a two-year-old can fixate—on old-school Berenstain Bears and Richard Scarry while the 6-year-old adores Ursula Leguin's remarkable Catwings series and anything by Esther Averill). I’ve celebrated a few of our most beloved volumes here already (Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor by Mervyn Peake is very high on the list), and Scribbler has given props to plenty more of our family favorites: all Sendak/Krauss collaborations, anything by Wanda Ga'g, William Steig, Margaret Wise Brown, C.W. Anderson, Lois Lenski. Oh, and Ray Bradbury's Switch on the Night..that might be my all-time favorite—but no, I will not be held to just one!

Thus I'm choosing to highlight Tomi Ungerer's Moon Man, mostly because... Scribbler hasn't done it yet? And in honor of the anniversary of the Moon landing? And because this book was love at first sight for my elder daughter (she was 3 or 4 when we scored a nice copy at a local library sale) and because I'm always so excited to learn the backstory of yet another out-of-print genius author/artist I'd never heard of—in this case Ungerer, whose books fell into disfavor—and were even apparently banned by some librarians—because of his subversive politics (his harsh iconic images for anti-Vietnam war posters are well worth Googling) and for his forays into the world of erotica. You can get the lowdown on Ungerer's fascinating career here in a New York Times article published last year when British art-book publisher Phaidon announced it would be reissuing some of Ungerer's books, including Moon Man, which is an excellent introduction to his unsentimental view of the world.

My daughter, like most small children, has an intense personal relationship with the moon, so this story was a bit wrenching at first, as it's in the vein of Frankenstein, E.T., Edward Scissorhands, and countless other tales in which a magical outsider arrives peacefully (more or less) and is beset by mobs of pitchfork-wielding yahoos, shameless profiteers and of course, nefarious government scientists. In this case, the innocent creature is the Man in the Moon, who on “clear, starry nights can be seen curled up in his shimmering seat in space.”

The Man in the Moon is a gentle, marshmallow-like fellow who spends his nights enviously watching the people of Earth dancing. "If only I could join the fun," he thinks. "Life up here is such a bore." So he decides to hitch a ride on a shooting star and pay Earth a visit. The noisy conflagration of his crash landing draws a crowd of soldiers, firemen, and sundry spectators who don't know what to make of "the pale soft creature lying in the crater." Naturally, government officials are alerted and in the ensuing panic the Moon Man is declared an invader and tossed in the clink.

The moon man was thrown in jail while a special court conducted a criminal investigation. Poor Moon Man...his hopes of dancing among the gay crowds and bright lanterns were crushed.

Luckily, at this point, the moon's ability to wax and wane comes in handy—as he wanes he's able to squeeze through the bars of his window. His captors are furious but the Moon Man is thrilled with the opportunity to explore Earth, to smell the flowers, marvel over the birds, etc.

He came upon a garden party where people in gorgeous costumes were dancing. "Look! Someone has come as the man in the moon," a lady cried. The Moon Man danced blissfully for hours.

When the party breaks up because of a neighbor's complaints about the noise, the Moon Man is discovered and pursued through dark woods by the cops. He stumbles upon "an ancient castle" where me meets a Dr. Strangelove-esque scientist named Doktor Bunsen van der Dunkel who's been perfecting a moon-bound spacecraft (I wasn't surprised to learn that Ungerer worked with Stanley Kubrick on posters for the film Dr. Strangelove, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb).

Now finished, the intricate machine rested on its launching pad on a castle turret. Doktor van der Dunkel had grown too old and too fat to fit into the capsule. He asked his guest to be his first passenger. The Moon Man, who had realized that he could never live peacefully on this planet, agreed to go.

The ending is happy enough—after a teary farewell, the Moon Man returns to "his shimmering seat in space" (love that image) and the good Doktor is "elected chairman of an important scientific committee." Ungerer, who lives in a kind of self-imposed exile in a tiny village on the Irish coast, said in the Times interview, “I think children have to be respected. They understand the world, in their way." I am down with that. Books like this one are a bracing alternative to some of the patronizing treacle that passes for children's fiction. I can't think of a better way to acquaint my daughter with some of the pitfalls of humanity—fear of the unknown, mistrust of difference, the willful embrace of ignorance—than with the story of the Moon Man.

(Reissued by Phaidon in 2009.)

Also by:
The Hat
The Mellops Strike Oil
Seeds and More Seeds
The Three Robbers
Zarelda's Ogre
Christmas Eve at the Mellops'
I Am Papa Snap and These Are My Favorite No Such Stories
The Beast of Monsieur Ravine
Book of Various Owls

Great Monday Give: Two Year Anniversary Edition

Welcome to Monday kids! This week we are celebrating the two year anniversary of Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves here in the blogosphere. (Though technically, I've been shilling my soul for three years over here.) To spread the love, each day there will be a new guest post and a new, slightly-corresponding giveaway. You won't want to miss even a minute.

That said, thanks so much for reading. Nothing makes me happier than cracking open an out-of-print wonder and sharing it with my son. Nothing makes me happier than to read the comments and come face-to-face with my own long lost memory. Nothing makes me happier than to dive into a bin of books at a junk shop and find some brightly-colored treasure peeking out at me from under a stack of dead Make-A-Sound board books. Nothing makes me happier than finding a book for 25 cents that just two days earlier I almost bought for $50 on eBay. (By the way, the only book I have ever dropped $50 on was The Day the Cow Sneezed by James Flora, and it was worth every freaking penny!)

I just opened a Twitter account so I will have someplace to share links and thrift store freak outs with you guys, and one lucky reader who signs up to follow before midnight ~ Sunday ~ August 2 will win a $25 shopping spree in my Etsy shop. I'll announce the winner on Monday, August 3rd. That, and don't forget, everything in the Etsy store will be HALF off until Sunday. Don't miss out on the deals. Please buy some. I am literally drowning in the stuff! Happy Anniversary gang. So many books, so little time.

(In case you were wondering, the winner of the last Great Monday Give is Antmusic. Congrats! E-mail me at webe(at) with your info and I'll be shipping Birds Do the Strangest Things out to you asap.)

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Story of Paul Bunyan

Story of Paul Bunyan
Barbara Emberley ~ Ed Emberley ~ Prentice Hall, 1963

Geez, the last few weeks have been so taken up by my son listening to EB White reading Charlotte's Web unabridged on CD over and over again (eight times as of today) that I hardly feel like I've read to him at all. Averaging barely a dozen books a day to our usual countless amount, you would know the first book I tired to read him this morning freaked him out totally... for reasons completely baffling to me. Perhaps it is the title character's giant size and his reckless ax-welding. Maybe it is the giant, blue ox. Sure, it is pretty weird to see Paul gape and gobble down 231 flapjacks at once, but still... that is no reason to run screaming from the couch, yelping like a maniac. I mean, they're just woodcuts dude. Chill out.

As I said, the loggers were mighty men.
But the mightiest, the biggest, and the strongest
of them all was Paul Bunyan.
A man so big, he used to comb his long beard
with an old pine tree
he yanked right out of the ground.

So the tall tale goes that Paul dug the Mississippi River, cleared the plains of the West and washed Boston all the way from Maine to Massachusetts just by taking a bath (and that was when he was a wee baby!) Along with Babe the mighty ox, his presence in folk lore allowed untold mysteries to be explained and exaggerating storytellers to wow many a crowd. The famous Emberley husband and wife team managed a nice retelling of these timeless stories with wonderful two-tone woodcuts illustrating Paul's handicap of scale in perfect comic timing. Won't be putting this one in the shop anytime soon, even it it does give the boy the willies. He'll grow into it.

Also by:
Klippity Klop
The Wing on a Flea

Happy Anniversary

Sooo it begins. Two years ago tomorrow, I posted my first two reviews... Space Witch and Why I Built the Boogle House. I wanted this to be a place where I could talk about and share my new-found enthusiasm for finding vintage children's books for my son. To show pictures and give descriptions so that other people could fall in love as I have. In that time, it has certainly evolved. It's become a place where former children reunite with long lost favorites. Where moms and dads find library recommendations. Where illustrators gain inspiration for their own work. Where children's book writers come to see who they are following in the footsteps of. Really, this site is a massive hobby and a huge labor of love.

One of my friends often says... "Won't you run out of things to write about?" and the truth is... I doubt even if I wrote this blog until the day I die that I would ever run out of books to effuse about and adore. Seriously, there are so many classics that everyone loves as well as forgotten gems that are just waiting to be found at your local garage sale.

That said, this coming week, I am gonna ask everyone who reads this blog to comment. Even if you haven't before. To tell us what your favorite old children's book is. And why you love it. Every word we write on here spills into the collective Google memory, and provides one more stepping stone to help people find the long lost treasures they've been looking for.

The search is a good one gang. So until the day comes that I grow sick of this, I'll be here.

To celebrate this anniversary, there will be daily giveaways all next week, guests post, special editions and more. Plus, beginning Monday at 9:30 am, everything in the Etsy shop with be marked down 50% through Sunday. So, tune in kids and thank you for making this blog awesome.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Three Fox Fables

Three Fox Fables
Paul Galdone ~ Seabury Press, 1971

My son will tell you he is afraid of only two things, sharks and storms... but seeing as he is a friend of the fowl, his nemesis in children's books is usually the fox. After all, the wylie bad boy steals chickens or kidnaps geese... almost always acts shady, threatening pigs and trying to outsmart everyone with his sly charm. Simply said, my boy HATES foxes, or at least the sort of foxes that end up in children's books. The only one he will embrace as a hero is Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox, but we can't let the reputation of an entire animal race depend one fictional character, can we? Sadly, the only reason he tolerates this one at all is because two of these three fox tales based on Aesop's Fables contain birds; a stork and a crow to be precise.

We begin with the story of the sour grapes (of course each ends with a moral)...

It is easy to scorn what you can not get.

... then onto the stork...

Tricksters can not complain when they in turn are tricked.

... and finally the crow.

Never trust a flatterer.

Here the fox wins some and loses some, as it is in real life with most of our endeavors as non-fox creatures. The Aesop stories have always been some of my favorites and although the fox is mildly sinister with his snake-like eyes and sleazy grin, he will endear after a page or two. One can't hoodwink and bamboozle all the time without winning a few admirers. We all have a little of the fox in us every now and again.

Also by:
Hare and the Tortoise

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Star Thief

The Star Thief
Andrea DiNoto ~ Arnold Lobel
MacMillian, 1967

Goodness gracious, does Mr. Lobel pop up just about everywhere. He's one of those illustrators that I often take for granted. His Frog & Toad titles so permeate the children's book landscape, that sometimes I am shocked when I find something new. The legacy is everywhere in the thrift world: Mouse Soup, Owl at Home, Fables, Uncle Elephant. But here is the first and only time I've seen this particular book. My copy is a battered old library edition I bought at a used book shop for $1.98. Though he didn't write it, the illustrations are now some of my favorites of his (The Ice-Cream Cone Coot aside, of course) for no other reason than I'm in the love with the way he portrays the stars. Each drawing is unique and their round shapes remind me of sparkling Christmas ornaments. Some with swirls, some with stars, a flower, a spiral.... simply wonderful. It doesn't hurt that my son is enchanted with this book and carried it around with him for a full day after the first read.

So goes the tale of the thief who longed to touch the stars. One day he hatches a plan to touch some, and when he sees how easy it is to pick one from the sky, he smuggles the whole lot of them. The villagers are devastated over the loss of their twinkling neighbors, so they trap the thief and demand he return the stars to the sky. The thief tries and tries, but can't seem to get the stars back up. That is until a wise little boy discovers the only thing that will restore the stars to their rightful places are wishes, so everyone gets to make one... well, almost everyone.

Finally, the thief said:
"There are no more left."
"That's alright," said one of the villagers. "We've all had a wish."
"No. Not all," said the boy. "The thief hasn't had a wish."
"But the thief doesn't deserve a wish," said one of the villagers. "It doesn't matter that there isn't a star left for him."
Everyone agreed. The sky began to lighten and the people knew dawn was near. They yawned and started back to their cottages. The boy and the thief were left alone.
"You should have had a wish too," said the boy. "I'm sorry there were no stars left."
"My wish," said the thief, as he gathered up his sack and his ladder, "was to touch the stars. And I did."

Pure magic, this one.

Also by:
The Terrible Tiger
Red Tag Comes Back
Oscar Otter
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
Ice Cream Cone Coot


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy
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