Friday, May 21, 2010

The Day the Cow Sneezed

I'm never leaving, right?... thanks to one awesome reader and illustrator, I was clued in to the impending reprint of Jim Flora's classic The Day the Cow Sneezed by the incredible-and-why-haven't-I-heard-of-them-before-I'm-such-a-loser Enchanted Lion Books. Awesome awesome awesome read. I'm so glad someone is bringing it to a new generation of children... and just in time for the holidays. I'm simply giddy with anticipation!

PS: Please don't tell every kid we know what they are getting for Christmas.
PSS: I'm sure Ward is giddy, too!
PSSS: Don't forget to enter the Great Monday Give for a reprint copy of Flora's The Fabulous Firework Family.
PSSSS: OK, I'm really leaving now.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Merry Little Breezes

I thought I could do it all this week, but alas, there is a last day of school to plan for and all sorts of other family diversions. I'm handing over the keys to my life shortly to the house sitters, and thoughts on books and bookish things will have to wait. Maybe you'll hear from me on the road. Maybe you won't. Rest assured I will be back on June 1st to start the summer off right.

For all those interested, the fate of my grandmother is still yet to be determined, but I will say this. At 96-years-young, the fact that she was referring to death as "the Merry Little Breezes are outside the window, waiting for me to play" brings an incredible amount of solace and joy to my heart. I suppose we all return to where we began. How delightful for her to see the end of life as the pages from a book she loved as a child.

Happy end of the school year everyone. And happy life!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tenggren's Pirates, Ships and Sailors

Tenggren's Pirates, Ships and Sailors
Kathryn and Byron Jackson
with pictures by Gustaf Tenggren
Simon and Schuster, 1950

Found a minute to myself after a full day already and scooped up this Giant Golden Book that's been sitting around my mother's house, lifted from her best friend. I took it outside and cracked it open only to be bombarded with spectacular images of pirates, ships and sailors. (Imagine that.) Detailed paintings of bright boys who dream and dark rascals who capture and the things that swim in the sea. Tomorrow, I'll be back in Texas with a full review of a book from one of the many my mother has hoarded away for me, but in the meantime...

Sometimes at night when I'm in bed
I pull the covers round my head,
For fog horns on the big dark lake
Cry out and keep me wide awake.
They take a breath and then they cry,
With voices shrill or deep or high,
And "W-H-E-R-E AM I?"

Also by:
The Lively Little Rabbit
The Around the Year Storybook
Little Galoshes

Monday, May 17, 2010

Great Monday Give: The Fabulous Firework Family

I'm going to be out of commission for a few days going to visit my ailing grandmother on the East Coast, so I'll keep this short and sweet. I recently found a vintage copy of The Fabulous Firework Family by the equally fabulous James Flora, so I am giving away our 1994 reprint. They changed some of the text and pictures from the original version, but it still retains its utter awesome. I have the end of the school year coming up and vacation and taking care of ailing loved ones, so I am extending the give for a few weeks. To be entered to this very nice exlibrary hardcover, please leave a comment on this post by June 6, Sunday, at 11:59 PM. A winner will be selected and posted here the next day.

As for who won last week's give of Lobel's masterpiece Fables, let's give it up for Conuly. Send me your shipping info to webe(at)soon(dot)com, and I'll ship it out sometime in the very near future.

So long and farewell.

Friday, May 14, 2010

a rose, a bridge, and a wild black horse

a rose, a bridge, and a wild black horse
Charlotte Zolotow ~ Uri Shulevitz
Harper & Row, 1964

And speaking of Shulevitz... Though the illustrations are vaguely similar to the Sendak/Krauss series and the story will be familiar to those who've read Zolotow's other book, you could definitely add this to the "cutest books ever" list. The ideal story for a rainy Friday morning here is good 'ole San Antone, and if the boy only had a sister, it would be perfection.

Guess what I'll do, said the little boy to his sister. When I'm grown up, I'll break rocks in half for you with my bare hands. I'll capture a wild black horse and tame him for you to ride. I'll climb mountains and bring you a stone from the top. I'll swim across oceans and bring you coral from the bottom of the sea.

Oh, there's nothing this dear boy won't do for the love of his sister (including win the race in my Bugatti and take you for a ride a hundred miles an hour). The small ink lines and light watercolor scenes remind me of something delicate and sweet like saltwater taffy or sugar smoke on a gingerbread house. What a wonderful world this would be if we all had someone willing to build a bridge to the moon for us... or do our arithmetic.

Also by:
I Have a Horse of My Own
The Hating Book
Flocks of Birds
Do You Know What I'll Do?
One Monday Morning

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ms Glee Was Waiting

Ms Glee Was Waiting
Donna Hill - Diane Dawson
Atheneum, 1978

There is so much talent in the world. All of it floating around and fabulous. So much so that sometimes I feel overwhelmed trying to put a finger on what all of it means. Vintage books to me feel like little time capsules tucked away on junk store shelves waiting to be opened and enjoyed. Sad, in a way, as out-of-print books also remind me of ghosts... and that by bringing them home and sharing them with my son I am breathing them back to life. Finding that talent and nurturing it and keeping it safe so that nothing ever hurts it... (Jeez, if I was that Greyson kid's mother I would weep nonstop worrying about how to safeguard his creative spirit.) Not sure why I'm feeling all nostalgic and protective of my son's books at the moment. Perhaps it is because he is five now, and slowing drifting away from the comfort and magic of his burgeoning picturebook shelves. Like all things, they too will be left behind. Probably boxed and put in the attic until and in case he has children of his own someday. Looking at this book this morning, tucked beneath my son's blanky in a makeshift fort on the floor of his room, made me wonder about all the illustrators and writers in the world and all the talent realized and forgotten.

Oh, well. Silly me.

Of course, when I Googled this artist's name this morning, a Muppet connection came up, and I was happy to see that she was still alive and well and creating (and tweeting). So, without further waxing of the poetics...

Laura was late and Ms Glee was waiting, so Laura put on her roller skates but a skate strap broke, so she brought out her wagon but a wheel came loose, so she borrowed a bike but a tire went flat. Laura whistled for a cab but the cab ran out of gas, so she got on a bus...

It goes on like this through various forms of transportation... tugboat, hot air balloon, gondola... until at last we find out it was an elaborate excuse to explain why the dear girl never did get to her piano lesson. Funny, funny. The illustrations remind me a bit of Lore Segal or Uri Shulevitz and there's some of Eloise in Laura's saggy-baggy jumper.

Although Ms Glee is pretty much the opposite of what her name might imply, the drawings make me envious that my son isn't growing up in the big city, roller skating off his front stoop to see the world in full color. We can't all live on Sesame Street I'm afraid, even if the idea of 123 does feel like home.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mr. Miller the Dog

Mr. Miller the Dog
Helme Heine ~ Atheneum, 1980

We've been reading so many longer novels nowadays, that our picture booking has slacked off, but over the last week, we've returned with a vengeance. There's even been a Beatrix Potter renaissance at meal times. In keeping with that, we hit a library sale the other morning and sniffed out this strange little German import. A funny tale where a dog and his owner become so much alike that they decide to trade places. If you've ever been to a dog/owner look-a-like contest (and who hasn't!), you'd know that sometimes even furry apples don't fall that far from the tree.

Every morning, when Mr. Miller came home from work, his dog Murphy met him at the door. "Murphy, I'm dog tired. Please bring me my slippers." "Right away," Murphy growled, knowing that he would get nothing to eat until his master had his slippers...... So the days, weeks, months and years went by. Each morning was very like the one before. The two of them had grown so used to each other that Murphy began to look more and more like Mr. Miller, and Mr. Miller began to look more and more like Murphy. Perhaps this happened because they lived together, or perhaps because they envied each other's lives.

Eventually, Murphy suits up and heads to work and Mr. Miller curls up on the floor, falls asleep and all is right with the world. Nutty and eerily bizarre, but heartwarming none-the-less. The delicate lines and gentle washes here remind me of one of my all time favorite illustrators, Sempé (oh please, oh please, oh please will someone go ahead and make Mr. Summer's Story into an animated movie already!?! If you were itching to know what my all time favorite book EVER is, ahem.)

This story makes my son howl, particularly since Miller and Murphy resemble our two goldens a wee bit... unfortunately of late, the boy has taken to impersonating a cat named Pussy Wizzle instead of a dog, but no matter. Person turned animal is good for a laugh regardless the species.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Great Monday Give: Fables

Happy Mother's Day everyone. Short and sweet today. The Great Monday Give (where I give away a vintage or a newish copy of a vintage book to one lucky reader) today is an almost-brand-new-but-with-a-small-inscription-and-a-slight-tear-on-the-dust-jacket copy of the Caldecott winning masterpiece by Arnold Lobel, Fables.

To be entered to win this fine book, simply leave a comment on this post before 11:59 PM on Sunday, May 16. A winner will be selected at random and announced here the next day.

That said, this week's winner of the give for Welcome Home, Henry is... SparkleFarkle. Send me your info to webe(at)soon(dot)com and congrats. Peace out kiddos. (And don't forget the $3 flat rate shipping in the Continental US in the Etsy shop!)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Etsy Shipping Sale

Hey guys. I'm in the midst of a late spring clean-a-thon, making room for all my son's new birthday loot, and I'm trying to get more stuff up in the shop over the next few days, and as an incentive, I am offering $3 flat rate shipping in the Continental U.S. Also, anyone who buy four books or more and mentions my blog in messages during checkout, will get a fifth mystery book FREE! Check it out!

Oliver Button is a Sissy

Oliver Button Is a Sissy
Tomi dePaola ~ Harcourt, 1979

The first year after I moved from NYC to Texas, my husband and I went to the county fair a few towns over. It had been years since I'd spent any real time in small town America, and a lifetime since I'd grown up in it back in South Carolina. When I was little, it was common to hear someone called hurtful names, but my mother was an active human rights advocate and always taught us to do right by people and stand up to our friends when their words were out of line. I'll never forget the cheerleader my mother made walk a mile beside the car after the girl used a racial slur on the way home from an out-of-town game. My mother is an artist, and from the time I was wee all my role models seemed to come from different walks of life and our door was always open to anyone and everyone. But still... I remember what school was like for kids who were different. (Including myself.)

So, on that day a few years back when my husband and I stood on the sidewalk of mainstreet USA, we were surprised to see a rather extravagant and fabulous-looking young man leading the ladies on the high school drill squad. He wore a brightly colored rainbow necklace, and twirled his flag with abandon right along side the good-old-boys in the FFA driving their vintage tractors. I was floored, and later that night at the country fair dance was happy to see that boy not shunned and standing alone, but encircled with a ton of friends, dancing and having the time of his life... as it should be. Though I know this sort of openmindedness doesn't exist everywhere, it is certainly a brave new world we live in... and though in my heart of hearts I hope a book such as this is no longer needed and necessary, I still think it might bring some comfort to at least one little boy or girl out there who feels as if they don't quite fit in.

Oliver Button was called a sissy. He didn't like to do things that boys are supposed to do. Instead, he liked to walk in the woods and play jump rope. He liked to read and draw pictures. He even liked to play with paper dolls. And Oliver Button liked to play dress-up. He would go into the attic and put on costumes. Then he would sing and dance and make believe he was a movie star. "Oliver," said his papa. "Don't be such a sissy!" Go out and play baseball or football or basketball. Any kind of ball!"

Ahhh, now there's the rub. Oliver isn't what everyone expects him to be. His parents, the other kids at school. It's not until the community puts on a talent show that his star really begins to shine. Though he doesn't take home first prize, he gets something even better, acceptance. And to be accepted for who we really are, it's that what everyone wants in the end? A dear, sweet book from a dear, sweet man. Ten thumbs up Tomie.

Also by:
The Wuggie Norple Story
Pancakes for Breakfast

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

King Stork

King Stork
Howard Pyle ~ pictures by Trina Schart Hyman
Little Brown, 1973

Renowned for his artwork and written tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur, this particular story was plucked from a larger collection of Pyle's entitled The Wonder Clock (24 stories for each hour of the day) and reimagined in pictures by Ms. Hyman. The tale is a classic, and I can tell you from experience that little boys go crazy for Trina's style. There is a very masculine feel to her drawings while at the same time maintaining an edge of sensuality that I'm sure children find intriguing. The women are raven-haired and gorgeous and the men brawny and sly, and her pictures feature spooky elements like wild animals and monsters and enchanted creatures. King Stork is no exception.

When a common drummer lad gives a lift across the river to the King of the Storks (in disguise, of course), he is gifted a magic whistle that will help him when he's in need. And so the story goes...

By and by he came to the town over the hill, and there he found great bills stuck all over the walls. They were all of them proclamations. And this is what they said: The princess of that town was as clever as she was pretty; that was saying a great deal, for she was the handsomest in the whole world. ("Phew! But that is a fine lass for sure and certain," said the drummer.) So it was proclaimed that any lad who could answer a question the princess would ask, and would ask a question the princess could not answer, and would catch the bird that she would be wanting, should have her for his wife and half of the kingdom to boot. ("Hi! But here is luck for a clever lad," says the drummer.) But whoever should fail in any of the three tasks should have his head chopped off as sure as he lived. ("Ho! But she is a wicked one for all that," says the drummer.)

Now, never has there been a storybook hero who wasn't up to the challenge of proving his manhood. With the help of the Stork King's whistle, he wins the princess (who is actually a witch) and helps her overcome her evil ways with a switch and a jug of milk (don't ask).

In between, there are old hags and ravens and wolves and dragons and all kinds of magical business and gory slayings. Enchanting and fantastic and a little bit creepy. Exactly the sort of story my son goes wild for. Warning: Some people online have said feminists would go nuts on this story over the switching at the end, but considering Hyman was a pretty vocal feminist herself, I don't see any issue with an evil, murdering witch/shape-shifting wolf getting a wee bit of sense beat into her. But that's just me.

Also by:
How Six Found Christmas

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Tomi Ungerer ~ Harper, 1961

Have you guys seen the brilliant Peter & the Wolf that won the Academy Award for best short film a few years back? My son and I watched it for the first time last night, and I really can't say enough good stuff about it. The images are still floating around in my head, and my son woke up talking about it this morning. I have a feeling it will be to him what The Red Balloon was to me when I was young. But, of course, I'm rambling... that's not really why I'm here. I'm here to, once again, give Ungerer the love. Books float to the surface around this house and stay there for a while before getting lost in the back of the shelf, and Rufus here is getting some much deserved time in the sun. Or, rather, not in the sun... seeing as...

Rufus was a bat. During the day he hung from the ceiling of his cave and slept. At night he left his cave and went hunting. One night he saw an outdoor theater where a technicolor movie was being shown. Rufus had never seen bright colors before--only the gray and black of the night world. He thought it would be nice to see the day with all its beautiful colors. So instead of going to sleep when morning came, he stayed awake. The sun came up, and Rufus watched with enthusiasm.

Rufus the bat sees the world for the first time in color and is mesmerized. Disenchanted with his dark appearance, he scores some paints and decides to spruce up his look.

He painted his ears red, his hooks blue, his feet violet, and drew a big green star on his stomach.Of course, simple townsfolk have never seen a psychedelic bat before and they blast him out of the sky. Mistaken for a rare butterfly, Rufus is adopted by a collector who nurses him back to health... But ultimately, the night is where Rufus belongs. A common theme in Tomi's books of animals and people making good, a heartfelt simpatico between man and nature. Always a treat.

The illustrations here have a deep muted, washed feeling, a little different from his line drawings and sharp paintings. And I love the way Tomi draws words. Someday I'm gonna start a blog with scans of books with hand drawn title pages. Something about seeing the title of the book, the name of the publisher and the copyright date drawn out by the artist makes me giddy. (Oh yeah, Tomi just redesigned his Website by the way. Check it out.)

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