Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mystery Week

I just wanted to remind everyone that if you haven't signed up for the Great Monday Give this week, do so before midnight tonight. I also wanted to give a little crumb about the very cool thing that will be happening not this coming week, but the following. I've been working on something, both outside of this blog and within it... something about one of our favorite vintage children's books authors who will remain nameless for the next eight days, but know this... There will insider information. Lots of giveaways. Pictures. Reviews. An entire week of awesome devoted to this very special person. So stay tuned. And be here February 8th and beyond so as not to miss one minute of the action!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Rabbit Who Lost His Fur and The Naughty Badger

I've chosen to highlight these two books at the same time for obvious reasons. They are both so equally awesome, I couldn't choose one over the other to focus on. Like some wacked-out Japanese Provensen, the illustrations by Suzuki are stunning! And the stories so endearing and interesting, they make me want to know more about Asian legends.

The Rabbit Who Lost His Fur: A Favorite Story From Japan
Illustrations by Toshio Suzuki
English version by Ralph Friedrich
Kodansha, 1957 ~ Charles E. Tuttle, 1960

Based on the story of the White Rabbit of Inaba (one of the oldest legends in Japan), once I give you the gist, you'll recognize it as a story retold time and again in a dozen different books you've read, though our American versions tend to use a monkey and some alligators. It begins...

White Rabbit lived on an island in the sea. It was a pretty island, but he wasn't happy there. To tell the truth, he was very lonely because he was the only rabbit on the island. What he wanted more than anything else was to go to the mainland country that he could see across the wide stretch of water. Every day White Rabbit would stand on the shore, looking across at the mainland and wondering: How can I get there? Are there any rabbits there?

How to get across indeed. The rabbit meets a shark and tricks the shark into gathering all of his shark friends so that he may count them, thus tricking the sharks into letting him cross to the mainland across their backs. When the sharks realize they have been duped, they shave the rabbit of his fur in disgust. The bare rabbit is quickly spotted by some chieftains who tell him to take a bath in the sea, thus tricking the rabbit into burning the bejesus out of his skin. Pitiful and crying, he meets another (gentle) chieftain who helps him camouflage his nakedness with cattail fur... Thus the lesson, those who fool others, only make fools of themselves.

*** NEXT UP ***

The Naughty Badger: A Favorite Story from Japan
Illustrations by Toshio Suzuki
English version by Ralph Friedrich
Kodansha, 1957 ~ Charles E. Tuttle, 1960

Here we meet a naughty badger who, after attempting to steal a rooster and conking an old farmer over the head with a wooden mallet, is taught a lesson by his friend the White Rabbit. The last page has a super cool section called NOTES ON THINGS JAPANESE where they explain details of the book like...

The badger himself is what the Janasese call tanuki, an animal they have long admired for its cleverness and its comical qualities. Since the tanuki is easily tamed, it has from ancient times been favored as a pet and has been the subject of numerous children's stories. It is traditionally believed capable of bewitching human beings and of taking human form in order to do mischief.

This theme is the subject of the eco-film Pom Poko by Isao Takahata about raccoons who try to stop developers from turning their forest into suburbs. (My son loved this movie as the animal characters change from crude drawings to more modern realistic creatures throughout the film.) If anyone knows, help me out here, but the illustrator has the same name as the president and one of the founders of the Studio Ghibli, Japan's leading animation production house where Pom Poko, Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and more recently, Ponyo were created. I don't think they are the same person as the Wiki says the filmmaker was born in 1948, and that would make him anywhere between 9 and 12 when he illustrated these books. Seems unlikely, but who knows. Maybe it's his Dad. Anyone?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Bearenstain Bears' Nature Guide

The Berenstain Bears' Nature Guide
Stan and Jan Berenstain
First published as The Bears' Nature Guide
Random House, 1975

You all know my son is a Berenstain Bears fan... often, much to my chagrin. I love the older books but find the newer "moral" paperbacks to be boorish and tedious... and still we have (and have read over and over and over again) EVERY SINGLE ONE. Kids love them. Go figure. However... I do feel the three books from the "Bear Facts Library" are a must-have for everyone, whether they appreciate the BBs or not: The Berenstain Bears' Almanac, The Berenstain Bears' Science Fair, and this one... all big, bulky and full of awesome. Considering all the lackluster Bear books in circulation at the moment, it's a huge shame that the only copies of these three languish in used book bins... dead until resurrected by the powers that be.

That said, here we take a nature walk with Actual Factual, Great Natural Bear and the whole Bear clan through 64 busy pages of fun facts and outdoor information. Some of the nature illustrations are just brilliant, and each page is filled with so many little wonderful drawings and curiosities, that I can't think of a book that introduces the natural world to children in such an entertaining and complete way, Bears or no Bears.

What Is Nature?
It's everybody and everything --
a peacock's tail, a butterfly's wing.
It's snails and stones and dinosaur bones.
Volcanoes! Earthquakes... Cousin Liz!
That's just a PART of what nature is.
from the biggest whale... to the smallest flea.
from the tiniest weed... to the tallest tree.
IT'S THE EARTH ITSELF -- the rocks... the soil.
And from under the earth come coal and oil.
Nature is every person, thing, and place
here on earth and out in space.
Nature's the sun, the moon, the stars.
It's faraway planets like Venus and Mars.
It's the mountains, the valleys, the shore, the sea.
Nature is you! Nature is me!
It's all that IS or WAS or EVER WILL BE!

The rhymes are bouncy and give a nice walking flow to the narrative: the Sense of Nature about sights and sounds; animals, birds, reptiles, insects, fish and plants; right up to what the Earth itself is made up of. Very cool. It really is "Almost everything small bears and kids need to know about the wonderful world of Nature." If you hunt down only one out-of-print Berenstain book, like, EVER, this should be it!

Also by:
Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree
The Big Honey Hunt
The Bears' Activity Book
The Bears' Almanac

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Home For A Bunny

Home for a Bunny
Margaret Wise Brown ~ Garth Williams ~ Golden Press, 1956

Staying home with a sick child for a few days does have its advantages. Somehow we've managed to trash my son's room playing games and running humidifiers, and in the process, we unleashed a bunch of oldies but goodies from the back of the bookshelf. This was one of my son's favorite books when he was a baby. His first few years were spent loving a Little Golden Book version I'd bought him, but my childhood Big Little Golden Book was returned to us when I spent that summer plundering my mother's attic. Though its spine is flaking and the cover has seen better days, I can still imagine my infant hands shuffling through the pages and delighting in the sounds of spring the same way my son did just a few years ago. Giving it the blog love is a long time coming.

Now, of course all collaborations between Williams and Brown are awesome, and here we see Garth's signature bunnies as well as some of the most fun rhythms Margaret ever penned. Some of my all time favorite lines to read aloud...

In the Spring a bunny
came down the road.
He was going to find
a home of his own.
A home for a bunny,
A home of his own,
Under a rock,
Under a stone,
Under a log,
Or under the ground.
Where would a bunny find a home?

Our bunny asks around, looking to the trees, the water and on land for a place to call home.

"Where is your home?" he asked the frog. "Wog, wog, wog," sang the frog. "Wog, wog, wog, Under the water, Down in the bog."

Not until he meets another bunny does he realise his home is underground, right along side his friend. A perfect story for little bunnies who want nothing more than to snuggle in and feel safe. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

Also by:
Wait Til the Moon is Full
Do You Know What I'll Do?
The Sky Was BlueThe Rabbit's Wedding
The Quiet Noisy Book
On Christmas Eve
Christmas in the Barn
The Dead Bird
Little Chicken
The Little Island
The Friendly Book
Little Fir Family
The Sailor Dog

Monday, January 25, 2010

Great Monday Give: The Lorax

Good morning kids. I've basically spent the weekend in bed with my fever-addled son reading books, watching movies and cajoling him to drink chocolate milkshakes in vain. (That's how I know he's REALLY sick.) We are a hour away from the doctor's appointment, so I wanted to get to the Great Monday Give quick before the remainder of my day is taken up waiting in the pharmacy lounge.

The Unless sign I mentioned a few months ago is on our almost daily walk to the coffee shop, and my son always stops and points it out then goes through all the things he remembers about The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. So, to celebrate this new tradition, I'm giving away an almost brand spanking new copy to one lucky reader. I only paid 49 cents for it, but except for the fact that I bought it at a thrift shop, you would never know it was loved (or not) before. To be entered to win, all you have to do is comment on this post before Sunday at midnight, January 31. A winner will be announced the next morning... in exactly the same fashion as I'm about to do now.

Last week's give, as you'll recall, was a copy of Blueberries for Sal. I used my patented and highly-scientific "Blind Scroll and Point Method" to select the winner. Let's give it up for Aparnature. Many thanks for reading and playing and congrats! Simply e-mail me your mailing info to webe(at)soon(dot)com. I'll ship it out as soon as the fever breaks. That's it for now. Bye-bye!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Seven Little Elephants

The Seven Little Elephants
William Hall with pictures by Fini ~ Thomas Y. Crowell, 1947

Been so mired in the 60s and 70s, I'd almost forgotten people created books before then. My son was in his room listening to the Fantasia soundtrack on LP, when he plucked this from the shelf and brought it back out into the world for me to read this morning. With the music and the book, it's been far too long since I gave the 40s some love. Sadly, I know nothing about this title. There is no information online about it or seemingly the authors (unless Fini is a "code" name for something else), and I can't even remember where or how it came into our possession. If anyone can help, please chime in.

The roundness of these characters with their soft green, pinks and blues is tremendously charming, and the days of the week theme the story incorporates certainly makes you wish for simpler times. Back before circuses became a cultural taboo in the Western world. Back when we thought animals loved to do nothing more than entertain us in rings of hot lights. So, for a moment, let's just focus on how darn cute these little buggers are.

When Tom the circus man finds that his two show elephants have outgrown their youthful charm, he sends them to his "nice green farm", and gets a heap of new babies who are aptly named Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for the days on which they were born. Each calf carries a blanket on its back reminding it of the day it was named after. But the first time the babies hit the ring...

All the boys and girls shouted with glee when they saw the funny seven little elephants all in a line. And then Crash went the cymbals and Boom went the drum. Crash! Crash! Boom! Boom! And the seven little elephants ran out of the tent as fast as they could, for they had never heard so much noise before. They ran so fast that they dropped their blankets and got all out of line.Needless to say, chaos ensues and no one knows which baby is which. A few lessons of the weekly wise, and soon the babes are back on top, celebrating respective birthdays and making children shout with glee. Innocent, sweet and full of smiles and happiness. Gotta love a book jammed packed with this much joy, even if it is only an outdated fantasy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Animal Manners

Animal Manners
Barbara Hazen ~ Leonard Shortall ~ Golden Press, 1974

Anyone who ever read Encyclopedia Brown when they were wee, without realizing it, is probably very well acquainted with Mr. Shortall. He did the original illustrations in the series, and his work on other books pops up here and there in my thrift travels. No matter what it is, I always snatch up vintage oversized Golden Books because 99 times out of a hundred, it's gonna be good. Was not disappointed here.

Very much like Richard Scarry's My Little Golden Book of Manners, whenever there are animals (the most ill-mannered bunch of all!) teaching polite behavior, it always cracks me up. As if animals run around sporting ascots and twirling parasols and saying please and thank you all the time. Wonderfully ridiculous! So enter a world where pigs curtsy, the ox always knocks, elephants remember to wipe their feet, but monkeys still act like lunatics."May I help you?
Asks the kinkajou.
May I take your bag?
May I tie your shoe?
May I push your wagon
Or pour your tea
Or help you with
Your ABC?
What pleases you
Is what pleases me.
Helpful is what
I like to be."

For those of us in constant battle with the please, may I and thank yous, tales like "Don't be Grabby, Gorilla" and "Fair and Square, Says the Hare" told in catchy rhyme will help drive the point home. Lots of fun detail in the illustrations from a seal flying a glider plane (and riding a motorcycle, go figure) to a giraffe in plaid shorts to a pair of song birds playing rummy, there's lots of animal kingdom hilarity to take in, enough for endless reads and then some.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Red Wool Man

The Red Wool Man
Edna Luginbuhl ~ Caroline Sharpe ~ Abelard-Schuman, 1971

I'd never seen this title until a few days ago, but I'd be interested to see how many others remember it. It seems like one of those books that would stick in the memory of a child. I love how when I read it to my son, he's so willing to suspend disbelief, as if a scrap of wool gets transformed into a man everyday.It was a beautiful, sunny day.
The wind was teaching little breezes
how to blow and one little breeze
went skipping through an open window.
In the room was a knitting bag
filled with purple wool and yellow wool,
orange wool and blue wool, green wool and red wool.
The little breeze scooped up the red wool
and took it dancing out the window
over the lawn and into the meadow.

As if by magic, the bit of stray wool transforms into a little wool man and comes to rest beside a running stream. He then meets a series of animals and has a few adventures where through a tricky play of words he becomes as strong as a horse, as brave as a lion, as quick as a fox, as wise as an owl, as busy as a bee and as quiet as a mouse before falling asleep in the pocket of a scarecrow. Published originally in Britain, I'm not sure if it ever had an American publisher. The dear, little illustrations have a sweet softness that remind me of something you might see in a dream. The flow of the drawings really pass along the sense of motion and breezes and of a world where something as fragile as a little wool man might walk among the earth's creatures and prove himself.

I often fear the world has gotten so big and bold and crass, that stories as innocent as this might ultimately get lost in the shuffle. Here's to fighting the good fight.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Animobile Book

Jack Kent ~ Scholastic, 1976

Technically, this isn't a book. But seeing as today is a holiday and I'm taking it easy and I wanted to share something, this seemed as good a pick as any. A book that is really a DIY, pop-out mobile, it consists of lots of perforated shapes (as seen on the cover) with an animal on one side and their corresponding offspring on the other. I can't find it anywhere listed or for sale on-line due to the fact (I'm sure) that all the original copies were long ago popped-out and hung in some lucky child's room. Sorry for you. All the same, classic Jack Kent here, funny and hugely adorable. (Can you tell I'm all about Kent and Ungerer of late?)

Also by:
Jack Kent's Twelve Days of Christmas
I Was Walking Down the Road
The Grown-Up Day
The Fox and the Crow
The Biggest Shadow in the Zoo
The Animobile Book
Jack Kent's Book of Nursery Tales
Dooly and the Snortsnoot
Mr. Meebles
Cindy Lou and the Witch's Dog
The Blah
Jack Kent's Valentine Sticker Book
The Bremen-town Musicians
Round Robin
Just Only John
Fly Away Home
Fat Cat
Piggy Bank Gonzales
Socks for Supper


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...