Friday, October 29, 2010

Update Friday: Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo

Monsters for Halloween, no? (Get ready for some hyperbole.) This book has been in my possession for a few years (after perpetually checking it out at the library) in its nicely repackaged Gingham Dog 2002 reprint form. Which was totally awesome up until about five days ago when I stumbled upon a copy of the original Golden Book printing, and I have to say... WOW. I love that publisher's take the time to do the reprints at all, but changing from an over sized, art-to-the-end-of-the-page format to a more dignified, dust-jacketed and proper-sized book really didn't do the illustrations justice. The wraparound cover art alone is worth the price of admission. This book is nothing less than a visual stunner. My son was in the love with it before, but now... it's like his favorite book EVER! EVER!

Having this treasure in our library has literally changed my life and made me totally reevaluate all the things an excellent children's book can offer. So... for your mouthwatering Update Friday pleasure, I offer up the new and improved visual extravaganza that is Mercer Mayer's Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo.

And yes. I am going to marry it. Expect nuptial announcements shortly.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Pecan Tree

The Pecan Tree
Matt Robinson ~ Robert Velde
Random House, 1971

Today seems like a good day to pull out some of my old Sesame Street book and records... the most famous of these being the Carroll Spinney penned and illustrated How to be a Grouch... not to mention the one I'm still looking to replace but can't find, The Sesame Street Pet Show... and these, by the late, great Matt Robinson (Sesame's original Gordon and father to actress Holly Robinson), that for some reason scared me in a fun way when I was little. I remember having the whole "Gordon of Sesame Street Tells a Story" series and all of them gave me a delightful sense of the willies: The Six-Button Dragon, Giveaway Gibson and mostly A Lot of Hot Water. Here, it was the knowing that the tree was going to fall and the not knowing exactly when I think that freaked me out... in the best way, mind you.

Soooo, Agricultural Carter plants a pecan tree.

And that tree grew... and grew... and grew... until is grew so large that it spread all over the village. Not only that, but the pecans were so big that when they fell off the tree, they were like big rocks from the sky, and they crashed down on the tops of the little houses, and not a man, not a woman, not a child in the village was safe from the giant pecan tree.

All these books taught a positive morality lesson, and after the entire town takes a whack at cutting the tree down, it ends up that working together is what finally conquers the beast. Ahhh, the memories. If the boy's love of these books is any indication, they still make for a pretty good read.

(Anyone know anything about the artist?)

Other Old Sesame Street Titles:
Sherlock Hemlock and the Great Twiddlebug Mystery
Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum
The In and Out and All About Sesame Street Coloring Book
The Together Book
The Many Faces of Ernie
The Great Cookie Thief
Sesame Street 1,2,3 Story Book
The Amazing Mumford and His Amazing Subtracting Trick
The Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook


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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Zoo, Where Are You?

Zoo, Where Are You?
Ann McGovern ~ Ezra Jack Keats
Harper & Row, 1964

I picked this up originally because it's Keats and you have to give all Keats a look, every time. While the pictures are (as always) endearing, after the third or fourth read, I found it wasn't so much the illustrations that stood out as it was McGovern's story. Here, we meet a little boy who is frustrated with the lack of a zoo in his town, so he goes out in search of animals to collect, and finds something even more fabulous.

His own imagination.

He looked in the weeds for a wild goose. He didn't find a wild goose, but he found an acorn with its cap on. He looked in the mud for a mud turtle. He didn't find a mud turtle, but he found an old picture. He walked all around the pond, looking for zoo animals. He found a rusty key and a branch shaped like an arrow. Then he was hungry, so he went home for lunch.

"Well," said his mother, "what did you find?"

"Junk," said Josh, emptying his bag on the kitchen table for his mother to see. "Isn't it beautiful?"

"Beautiful," said his mother.

And it was.

The whole tale takes place in the woods and in this child's mind and is littered with all sorts of beautiful things, both in ideas and knick knacks... until his zooful of junk become more wild and exotic and wonderful than the biggest bear or most ferocious lion. All depicted in that glorious Keats style. (Ten bucks says that photo is Keats and some relatives. Anyone care to guesstimate?)

Also by:
Whistle for Willie
In a Spring Garden
How To Be A Nature Detective
Maggie and the Pirate


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Little Old Man

A Little Old Man
Natalie Norton ~ Will Huntington
Rand McNally, 1959

I wish I had childhood memories of this book. It seems like the type that would stick with you. Growing up in hurricane country, I always had dreams as a child about the beach and tidal waves and storms, so this really would've hit home.

Once there was a little old man who lived in a little house on a little island in the middle of the great big ocean. He lived all by himself. He was a smiling little old man with no hair at all on the top of his head. But he did have a nice white beard. Every day after he had washed himself and dressed himself, he cooked his own breakfast. He thought it would be fun if he has someone to eat with.

More specifically, a cat. He dreams of cats and fixes his roof and tends his garden until one day a giant storm rolls along and sweeps his house out into the ocean. Thankfully it sweeps in a nice little boat all clean and neat and stocked and inhabited by, you guessed it, a cat! And kittens!!! Nobody ever does come looking for the boat, and the man and his feline brood live happily ever after.

Sweet, sweet story with these wonderfully-fuzzy, color pencil drawings. Here is when a simple story works best, with strong illustrations and an uncomplicated narrative.

Gotta love a story book that ends... And the little old man was never sad or lonely again. Here, here.


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Monday, October 25, 2010

Great Monday Give: Dwindling Party Winner

I'm taking a break from the give this week because most of last week was spent sick and Halloween is just around the corner and there are parties and all kinds of things to be done around the house. Whew. I'm feeling dizzy just thinking about it. That said, randomly selected out of a whopping 90 entries.... drum roll.... the give from the last two weeks of Edward Gorey's The Dwindling Party goes to Ellie. Congrats! Send me an e-mail to webe(at)soon(dot)com and I'll get it out as soon as I find my brain. {Where did I put that darn thing?}

I'll be back later on today with a review (to make up for my lack of them last week) and next Monday with a new give. Until then my comrades in old...


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Friday, October 22, 2010

Update Friday: Little Boy Brown

I'm lifting my head out of the illness muck long enough for Update Friday. I've been meaning to update this '08 post for a while as it's still in my personal top ten favorites. On this mildly stormy morning in San Antonio, please enjoy Little Boy Brown by Isobel Harris with pictures by André François, updated with all new scans and love.


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Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm Sick, Enjoy... wheeze

I am sick as a dog... not sure why though, do dogs get sick a lot? That said, I was MIA yesterday and will remain to be so today. In lieu of a new review, here are some wonderful vintage children's book posts of old from around the Web. Enjoy.

See and Say by Antonio Frasconi posted by Ward-O-Matic

This is the United Nations by Miroslav Sasek posted by grainedit

Chichibo and the Crane by Lele Luzzati posted by The Apple and the Egg

The Happy Owls by Celestino Piatti posted by My Own Barn

What a Fine Day For... by Remy Charlip posted by stopping off place

Songs of Innocence by William Blake posted by Kickcan & Conkers


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Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Peter Spier's Rain
Peter Spier ~ Doubleday, 1982

Something extra for you this morning. My son pulled Rain off the shelf last night, and I'd almost forgotten all about it. Definitely my favorite Peter Spier book. I was one of those kids who would dance in the rain every chance I got. Build huge canals in our dirt driveway and frolic in all the mud and fun that comes with a torrential downpour. I don't know what it is about letting yourself go in a rainstorm, but this elegant book captures that freedom perfectly without uttering a single sound. Lovely so many times over. As always with Mr. Spier, a snapshot speaks a thousand words, so enjoy your morning and join me in crossing fingers for an early fall shower.

Also by:
The Fox Went Out On a Chilly Evening
The Star-Spangled Banner
Noah's Ark
Peter Spier's Christmas
Gobble Growl Grunt
Little Bible Storybooks
Bored -- Nothing To Do!


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Leander Lion

Leander Lion
Gary and Vesta Smith
illustrations by Fred Crump, Jr.
Steck-Vaughn, 1966

When I first thrifted this book, the drawings immediately made me think of Don Martin, the famed Mad Magazine cartoonist. Digging a bid deeper, I came to find out the artist was a local Texas boy, children's book author and high school art teacher who made a name for himself toward the end of his career by penning wildly-vibrant fairy tales and princess stories with an African American slant. I have to imagine this was one of his earlier books, as it --and a few others by the same authors-- were published by a small house out of Austin, Texas.

Meet Leander. A lion with a bit of a hair issue...

Leander, like all lions, was a strong, fierce, ROARING lion. But... he had a little problem... CURLS! Lots of curls! His curly mane made him the joke of the jungle.

The other lions called him Goldilocks. The giraffes giggled at him. The monkeys tugged at his locks, and even the stinky old rhino had a good laugh at his expense. It isn't until his friend (and hair stylist) Philbert Parrot tries a mud wrap on his head that leaves him soaked and sad, that he steps on some electrical wires, shocks himself silly and falls into the life of a Hollywood movie star. Not a ton of realism here, but the funny peach cartoons make up for it.

I didn't find much online in my search for the illustrator, but I did find a rather heartfelt blog post by a former student of his. (I am particularly tickled by his description of Mr. Crump's I heart Madonna pin.) All I can say is, no matter what he did in his life professionally, to have someone remember him as fondly as this says a lot about what an awesome guy and teacher he must have been. Makes me hopefully that there are people out their mentoring a new generation of artists at this very moment. Exciting to think about.

(As always, if anyone has the original cover art, hook us up!)


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Monday, October 18, 2010

Great Monday Give: The Dwindling Party (cont.)

Still rocking the Great Monday Give of Edward Gorey's Pop-Up classic The Dwindling Party. If you haven't entered to win yet, you have a week to do so here. Good luck!


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Friday, October 15, 2010

Update Friday: The Man Who Lost His Head

This March 2008 post is long overdue for an update as, since the original post, it's been lovingly resurrected by the always awesome New York Review Children's Collection. I pulled it out last night to read to my son's best friend during dinner and I never EVER tire of surprising a child with this story for the first time. The way their eyes light up in disbelief. My son, still, after a hundred plus reads, gets whipped into a frenzy of awesome by the end. Classic.

It's definitely in my top five favorite children's books of all time. The drawings are so fabulous and detailed and quirky, that three years later, my husband and I still find new things on every read. I love Make Way for Ducklings, One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal, but I'm of the personal belief that, as an artist, this one is McCloskey's masterpiece. So welcome to Update Friday, the day when I take an old post and dust it off and make it new again with all new scans and fancy commentary. For your viewing pleasure... here is The Man Who Lost His Head by Claire Huchet Bishop with pictures by Robert McCloskey; updated for a new decade from my ratty old ex-library addition. Have at it.


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Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Very Young Circus Flyer

A Very Young Circus Flyer
Jill Krementz ~ Borzoi, 1979

And since we are on circuses... yesterday reminded me of something I found a few weeks back. Those children of the 70s and those who've been reading this blog for awhile know all about the Jill Krementz classic A Very Young Dancer. It wasn't until recently that I discovered there was a whole series of these books: A Very Young Rider, A Very Young Actress, A Very Young Skater, A Very Young Gymnast, A Very Young Skier, A Very Young Gardener, A Very Young Musician, A Very Young TV Star... are there more? Whew! Great little time capsules of youth and life that beg for a "where are they now" look. On my dancer post, I had an Anon write in that they knew the dancer all grown up but that she kept a low profile as far as the book was concerned. Seeing as our friend Armando "Tato" Farfan here is still flying, he was easier to track down.

I really love the circus. I've lived with it ever since I was born, but I've only been working for two years. I'm a trapeze artist with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. I learned to fly when I was four. I'm nine now. My official name is Armando Farfan, Jr., but everyone calls me Tato.

My whole family flies together and we're called the Flying Farfans.

If you ever wanted to know the inner workings of a circus family, this is a pretty in-depth look, all illustrated with Jill's wonderfully rich photography. I find it incredibly moving that Jill was inspired to chronicle the lives of these vastly different little people, here creating a picture in time of a normal little boy living an extraordinarily unique life. I can't imagine what it must be like for a small child to be a trapeze artist. The freedom and exhilaration that must come from being able to fly.

If everyone thought each wee life was as precious and important as this, the world would be a glorious place indeed.

Also by:
A Very Young Dancer


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Nock Family Circus

The Nock Family Circus
Celestino Piatti and Ursla Huber
translated from German by Barbara Kowel Gollob
Atheneum, 1968

Always intrigued by the circus book, this one is particularly interesting, not only because of the fabulous illustrations by Swiss book designer and graphic artist Piatti, but because it's about a real family and a real circus that was formed in Switzerland in the 18th century. Big Apple Circus star Bello Nock is one descendant from a clan whose roots are still deep in the art form. Now fully out of Switzerland and a few generations in the circus culture of Sarasota, Florida, the Nock family and name is still prevalent throughout. (Though I am no circus historian, merely a children's book lover with the gift of the Google.) I've always found circus families intriguing. A lifestyle and a passion that you're born into. Always moving. Always performing. Though this is a children's book --and by that I mean short and simple-- it does do a good job of painting a picture of the gypsy lives of one circus family, from the makeshift school house to the mobile kitchen.

In the tent where the animals are kept, it is cool and dim and very quiet. The horses are all out in the meadow grazing. That is why school is being held under their green tent. Manuela and Monika are bending over their books doing their spelling. Eric and Sonja are doing their arithmetic. Every now and then the black pony trots by to peek in at them. When the teacher is not looking, Sonja tried to balance her pencil on the tip of her nose.

A wonderful fly-eye view on as tradition that is as mysterious as it is beguiling, and one that is rapidly becoming extinct. In these pages, you can almost smell the sawdust and it's easy to imagine what life would have been like under the big top.

Do yourself a favor and see more of Piatti's lovely work here, here and here. Guaranteed you'll fall in love. I, for one, am setting out right now in search of The Happy Owls book. How have I missed this one!?! Wow!


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