Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dear Mili

Dear Mili
Wilhelm Grimm ~ Maurice Sendak
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988

This is one of those Sendak books that catches a good deal of flack. The first time I read it to my son I cried buckets. If you are uncomfortable with talking to your child about themes like war and sadness, heaven and death, then read no further. From Publisher's Weekly: "Preserved in a letter written to a young girl, Mili, in 1816 and not discovered until 1983, the Grimm story is prefaced by a tender address in which he underscores the story's message: although there are many obstacles that can prevent people from being together, 'one human heart can go out to another, undeterred by what lies between.' The story that follows implies that love transcends even death."

The text is very heavy and filled with talk of religion and God, but my five-year-old is totally entranced by it, the pictures in particular. The story of a young girl who is sent into the woods by her mother to escape a war, it is pure fantasy with ideas of what heaven is and the job of the guardian angel.

You can imagine how the child felt at being left all alone. She went deeper and deeper into the forest, the wind blew wildly in the tops of the fir trees, and when thorns took hold of her dress, she was terrified, for she thought that wild beasts had seized her in their jaws and would tear her to pieces. The woodpeckers, crows, and hawks screamed furiously, and at every step sharp stones cut her feet. She trembled with fear, and the farther she went, the heavier her heart grew. The sky clouded over, every trace of blue disappeared, and the storm wind buffeted the branches so hard that they cracked. In the end the dread in her heart grew so great that she could go no further, and she had to sit down. She said to herself: "Oh, dear God, help your child to go on."

Gloomy, no? Fear not, there's a good deal of uplift of the human spirit in these pages, but ultimately the story is about love and death and the profoundly deep connection between parent and child that extends far past what is real and known... punctuated with gorgeous illustrations, of course.

I'm all about my son understanding this. I have a feeling that at five, he's more open than he will ever be to believing in the unbelievable. I feel like as we grow older, the farther we move away from the cosmic and the unfathomable. Sure, both of the main characters in the book die at the end, but what happens then is a dialogue between parent and child about what love means, and the ultimate safety that comes from knowing that no matter what happens... love never dies. It stays within each of us long after the people we care about have gone. That maybe love can even perform miracles. At the end of the day, who wouldn't want their child to believe that, despite the gory details?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
Outside Over There
I'll Be You and You Be Me
The Juniper Tree
Where the Wild Things Are
Seven Little Monsters
Open House For Butterflies
The Giant Story

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Update Wednesday: Funny Bunny

As promised, I am going to take Wednesday to update posts from back in the days when I used to only show one scan. So, feast your eyes on the Provenson's Funny Bunny. Glorious! (Excuse the nasty cover. This book was well-loved by my sisters and me when I was little.)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Child's Garden of Verses

A Child's Garden of Verses
Robert Lewis Stevenson
pictures by Alice and Martin Provensen
Simon and Schuster, 195

I could wax poetic forever (and have) about Stevenson's classic verses (not to mention Treasure Island... man, oh, man is the boy digging that), but this time I'll just give a solemn nod to the genius and be on about other things... namely the always wonderful Provensen pair.

They represent everything cool about the illustration of the 50s and 60s. I've mentioned that one of my all time favorite books as a child was Funny Bunny (fear not, the bunny is slated for Update Wednesday tomorrow, so I'm sure to add a ton of scans), and although I didn't have this one, it's a wonderful version of a book every child MUST have on their bookshelves in one form or another.

I have a copy of the original in terrible shape as well as the latest 1999 reprint. As with so many facsimiles, the drawings do not translate as well into the reprint, and some of the more dated pictures have been cut... And I'm always despondent when a book goes from matte to glossy. Still, whatever the form, it's a lovely treasure to have...The pictures are a delight. So many things to say about their darling perfection. Simple lines and geometric shapes... wonderful colors and background textures.Page after page of knockout eye candy. Whew. Before I pass out from awesome, I'll leave you with this...The Land of Nod

From breakfast on through all the day
At home among my friends I stay,
But every night I go abroad
Afar into the land of Nod.

All by myself I have to go,
With none to tell me what to do,
All alone beside the streams
And up the mountain-sides of dreams.

The strangest things are there for me,
Both things to eat and things to see,
And many frightening sights abroad
Till morning in the land of Nod.

Try as I like to find the way,
I never can get back by day,
Nor can remember plain and clear
The curious music that I hear.

Also by:
A Child's Garden of Verses - Ruhman edition
A Child's Garden of Verses - Wildsmith edition
A Child's Garden of Verses - Duvoisin edition
Roses are Red. Are Violets Blue??
Funny Bunny
Fireside Book of Folk Songs
The Mother Goose Book
Animal Fair
My Little Hen
Our Friends at Maple Hill Farm


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Thieves and the Raven

The Thieves and the Raven
Janosch ~ translated from the German by Elizabeth Shub
Macmillian, 1969

With each book I discover, this German illustrator grows on me. His themes are larger and more cosmic than in your average children's book, almost always with a certain angle of real-life fear or anxiety coupled with human wonder. Of course here, our hero is a raven, making it all the more popular with my son.

Once there were three thieves. The first was called Fobrokel, the second, Spobrokel, and the third, Lefty. Fobrokel was the worst of the lot. They lived in the forest and were a menace to the surrounding farms and villages. They were wild rascals and wore beards. They attacked the peasant women who had to pass through the forest to take their eggs to market, and frightened away the mushroom pickers. They threw their eggs in the air, juggling them until they broke, and scattered the carefully collected mushrooms over the peat bog.

Mushrooms and eggs aren't the only things they like to ruin. They eat the forest animals, sing terrible, out-of-tune songs and rob the world blind. The police could not nab them, and though they tried, the villages could not foil their evil schemes. But when the thieves take to eating raven's eggs (and even raven chicks, aghast!), things get personal... and the king of the ravens comes up with the ultimate plan to rid the forest of their ugly forever.Wonderful storytelling with Janosch's always delightful though somewhat crude illustrations. (The color is positively alive!) Take note of the photograph used for the face of the farmer with the rake. Self portrait perhaps? It's the only one in the whole book which makes it particularly striking. (Ungerer does this sometimes too.)

Also by:
The Lazy Blackbird and Other Verses

Great Monday Give: Mr. Gumpy's Outing

A beautiful morning here in San Antonio, plus the boy is sleeping in which always makes the a.m. especially nice. As you know, today is the Great Monday Give, wherein I pluck a vintage (or reprint of a vintage) children's book from my own collection and share it with one lucky reader. This morning I have a sweet Weekly Reader hardcover edition of the John Burningham classic, Mr. Gumpy's Outing. Not sure why I've never reviewed this one before. It was one of the first library sale books I ever bought for my son. Regardless, it's a fine story, particularly if your child likes barnyard animals and to laugh. To be entered to win this tiny tale, simply comment on this post between now and 11:59 P.M. on Sunday night, May 2. A winner will be selected at random and announced the next day.

Speaking of which, the winner of the give from last week... a vintage hard copy of Petunia is..... john and catherine. Congrats and send me a note with your mailing info to webe(at)soon(dot)com. That's all for now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Secret Three

The Secret Three
Mildred Myrick
drawings by Arnold Lobel
Harper & Row, 1963

Have I given the love lately to the "An I Can Read Book" series? Such literary bliss. Opening a new one is always a treat, and the size (perfect for preschool and kinder hands) and spines of these titles, I always keep an eye out for when book shopping. Barring stories about birds, dragons or Harry Potter, this one might've had more influence on my son's make-believe play than any other book he's loved. It's about a lighthouse and boats and a secret club and writing things in code and messages in a bottle... really, all the little things little boys love. Even the title thrills him. The Secret Three. So mysterious and important. Total Huck Finn storyline here... bringing out the best of old-school child's play.

And so it begins that Mark and Billy are hanging at the beach when they come across a bottle with a message tucked inside and written in code by the lighthouse keeper's son, Tom. The three boys strike up a coded conversation back and forth using the bottle and the waves and decide to form a secret club. When they finally meet, all that is wonderful about being a boy on the brim of adventure comes to life. Though written in simple text for an early reader, the sentiment is heartfelt and true.The boys walked over the island. They found shells. They saw sea gulls. They saw sand dunes. "These dunes would be a good place to camp all night," said Tom. "Could we do that?" asked Mark. "Let's find out if we can bring a picnic supper next Tuesday and camp out," Tom said. "We can cook our food the next morning," said Billy. "I wish next Tuesday would come now," said Mark. "I wish every day would be Tuesday," said Tom.Kudos to Mildred and Arnold for creating a story with no wild mishaps or drastic endings, just simple discovery of the world and its secrets among friends. My son finds the whole thing wildly romantic and uses the club name again and again and again... building elaborate forts out of bedspreads and creating secret places all his own. If they could just stay little...

Also by:
The Terrible Tiger
Red Tag Comes Back
Oscar Otter
The Star Thief
Mouse Tales
Prince Bertram the Bad
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

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Update Wednesday

With summer vacation looming and a house full of five-year-old imminent and the fact that my son lives for less picture books and more longer readers, I'm instituting Update Wednesdays here at VKBMKLs. Way back when I started this blog, it was more anecdotal and less about book visuals, and since this site has really evolved into a catalogue of vintage things, I thought it only right to head back to the backlist and scan and update some of my more famous and favorite titles.

So behold, the new and improved post on Billions of Quacks with four new visuals.

Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Once Upon a Time...

Once Upon a Time...Reading is Fundamental ~ G.P. Putnam, 1986

Though technically not a children's book, the other day I stumbled on a funny little paperback and was taken in immediately by all the different illustrators showing force on the cover. Upon deeper examination, I realized it was (as its subtitle states) a book "Celebrating the Magic of Children's Books in honor of the Twentieth Anniversary of Reading is Fundamental". Those of you from my generation might remember RIF coming to schools and civic organizations and giving books away.

Now another two decades have passed and apparently, they are still doing that. As for this book, back in 1986, some folks at RIF got together with some folks at G.P. Putnam... and they got together some famous children's book authors to create a book about how books, reading and writing enlightened those artists when they were little. The contents are heartwarming and inspiring to say the least. Filled with loads of touching illustrations and passages (Maurice, Shel, Kellogg, Tudor, Lobel, Marshall)... here are some excerpts:

Natalie Babbitt (author of Tuck Everlasting) ~ Each of us has to live, finally, in her own little piece of the world, doing many things in the same way day after day, seeing the same old face in the mirror. But with books added to the day, you can be quiet content. With books, your inner world has no walls. And in reading--and writing-- stories, you can be many different people in many different places, doing things you would never have a chance to do in ordinary life.

Trina Schart Hyman (author of Little Red Riding Hood) ~ My mother is a beautiful woman with red hair and the piercing blue gaze of a hawk. She never seemed afraid of anyone or anything. It was she who gave me the courage to draw and a love of books. She read to me from the time I was a baby, and once, when I was three or four and she was reading my favorite story, the words on the page, her spoken words, and the scenes in my head fell together in a blinding flash. I could read! The story was "Little Red Riding Hood, and it was so much a part of me that I actually became Little Red Riding Hood. My mother sewed me a red satin cape with a hood that I wore almost every day, and on those days, she would make me a "basket of goodies" to take to my grandmother's house. (My grandmother lived in Rhode Island, three hundred miles away, but that didn't matter.)

Jack Prelutsky ~ I Met a Dragon Face to Face

I met a dragon face to face
The year when I was ten,
I took a trip to outer space,
I braved a pirate’s den,
I wrestled with a wicked troll,
And fought a great white shark,
I trailed a rabbit down a hole,
I hunted for a snark.
I stowed aboard a submarine,
I opened magic doors,
I traveled in a time machine,
And search for dinosaurs,
I climbed atop a giant’s head,
I found a pot of gold,
I did all this in books I read
When I was ten years old.

Dr. Seuss ~ The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.

A marvelous collection of stories and memories to commemorate a priceless organization. If you want to be inspired as an artist or a writer or a parent who reads, look no further. Simply magic! Two thumbs up for RIF and four decades of reading!!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Great Monday Give: Petunia

Lovely Monday morning here in San Antonio... My nasturtiums are flourishing in the front yard, and the boy's birthday is just around the corner. (As you long time readers know, I mostly only buy new books on special occasions, and this year the birthday purchases are Uncle, The Wonderful O and the most definitely not vintage third book in the Hiccup series, How to Speak Dragonese.) That said, today is a great day to give away this vintage copy of Petunia by Roger Duvoisin that's been staring me in the face all weekend. I know I've given it away before, but it's one of those books I can't say no to when I find it. To be entered to win this gently-loved but still awesome hardcover, simply comment on this post before 11:59 PM on Sunday night, April 25. A winner will be selected at random and announced the next morning.

As for last week's give of Sir Toby Jingle's Beastly Journey... the winner is Tracysweetangl. E-mail me at webe(at)soon(dot)com with your info and the book will be yours. Thanks for reading gang. See you in a bit.
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