Monday, October 17, 2011

The Tall Book of Make-Believe

The Tall Book of Make-Believe
Selected by Jane Werner ~ Garth Williams ~ Harper, 1950


I have a special treat for you guys today. Way back in 1963, my friend Tonio's mother went to a book signing at our local bookshop here in San Antonio and met one Mr. Garth Williams. She took along a copy of Tonio's favorite book The Tall Book of Make-Believe, thus making this Tonio's most treasured childhood heirloom.

In my five years of buying and looking and learning, no other out-of-print children's book is more loved or more collectible. Not just as a signed first edition in mint condition, but even beat up reprints go for a ton. Not because people want to collect it and put it in plastic on a shelf, but because people want to read it and remember.

Several years ago, I mentioned to Tonio that this book was my thrift shop holy grail, and he said, "Oh, I have that book. And it's signed, too."

Thus how I was finally able to see what all the fuss was about. Now, I did have this book when I was little, but it's long since gone and was long forgotten. But... man.

What I would love to see is Harper reprint this, not is some cheap glossy-paged reprint, but in soft, matte pages exactly like the original. The look. The feel. Everything about this book makes you want to pick it up and pour over it again and again. The stunning pictures and quirky poems and stories. Man. If that happened, I'd buy one for every single person I know. Period.

Every picture has a secret, mysterious feel. And that mermaid. WOW.

It's simply amazing. Every page. Every word. Carl Sandburg's How They Bring Back the Village of Cream Puffs When the Wind Blows It Away. Seriously? Brilliant. There are not enough thumbs in the world to express this book's thumbs up power. Garth Williams was a genius. Nearly 100 pages of absolute joy. I've only included a handful of scans, but you get the idea. If you happen to come across this book, hold onto it for dear life.

It's pure magic.

Also by:
We Like Kindergarten
Wonders of Seasons
Birds
The Golden Bible
Wonders of Nature
Wait Til the Moon is Full
Do You Know What I'll Do?
The Sky Was BlueThe Rabbit's Wedding
Three Bedtime Stories
The Friendly Book
Amigo

—————

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32 comments:

FairiesNest said...

This was one of my favorite books of childhood...my sister's too 'cause she has our copy. ;) It was so magical! I too wish they would reprint it. Every child should have the chance to hold this one!

Nan said...

I lust.

Mary said...

Oh my goodness! I have a copy of this book(not the best condition.)I've kept it since my childhood. The illustrations have always intrigued me.I'm going to read it today and treasure it even more.Thanks for the post!

Catherine said...

Love, love, love this book and all the tall books. The story Bad Mousie amazes me. Could such a story ever be published today? I doubt it. Its message--naughty mousies (i. e. kids) are banished unless they behave--is frightening beyond belief. Still, I loved this story as a kid and read it again and again.

Dan Moynihan said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I've never seen it before. Garth Williams amazes me. I wonder if some of the stories are not considered appropriate today.

B. Streetman said...

I think children's literature is far too sanitized nowadays. I've never met an inappropriate children's book yet that I couldn't talk my son around. As a matter of fact, it often opens up conversations that we would otherwise never have. Children are not what they read alone. The world is far too big and varied, the past just as important as the present and future. But then again, that's just me.

April said...

Ohhhh... Must. have. this. book. Magnificent. It should be standard childhood issue. I would so love if you would link this post up to my Make Believe Monday Meme today. It's a small meme, but I believe in it and this is exactly the sort of post I love to see linked up. www.mythreerivershome.blogspot.com

B. Streetman said...

April... I don't even know what a meme is. ;)

raul said...

This was my mom's favorite childhood book and later my favorite book and now one of my kid's favs. There was a excellent quality reprint in the late 80's early 90's and that's the one my kids read (my mom's copy is worn to a nub). The reprint was virtually identical to the original. I blogged about this book a few years ago and hardly a week goes by without someone emailing and asking where to find a copy. The publishers should definitely figure this one out.

Melissa@Julia'sBookbag said...

Burgin, I am FREAKING OUT. FREAKING OUT! You made my day. You made my week, month, year. I MUST HAVE THIS BOOK! I am going to write about this post and link to you on my Friday Cool Stuff List. OMG. Garth Williams is my top fav illustrator, along with Gyo Fujikawa. I literally gasped when I saw the mermaid!

raul said...

p.s. for the person that doesn't think it's appropriate for kids today.

My own experience is that kids love stories that have a little edge. If I had to name my kids favorite books each of them—Tall Book of Make Believe, The Three Robbers, Rotten Island, Where the Wild Things Are—has an edge. It's the edge that the kids love.

B. Streetman said...

raul... have you seen how much the reprints go for!?! Jeez....

Chandra said...

Why oh why is this out of print?? Agree 100% about what kids can handle! So nice to encounter like-minded folks!

Kimberly said...

This book looks fabulous!

Anonymous said...

And let us not forget its worthy companions, The Tall Book of Mother Goose and The Tall Book of Nursery Tales, illustrated by the inimitable Rojankovsky. The Tall Book of Christmas was reprinted just a few years ago so perhaps there is hope.

Claire said...

I am in love with this book! It looks so wonderful! Please add my name to the great Monday give for this. I have a copy of the re-issued Tall Book of Christmas that I bought on an impulse a couple years back, and didn't remember until I was reading it with my son that it was one of my childhood books. so much fun! thanks for sharing this!

katie said...

It's so nice to see other people loving this book too. My childhood copy is pretty worn, but well used by my kids now. Funny I wrote about it on my blog last year (we have similar taste in books!)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I loved reading this book at a friend's house. I still want my own copy.
:)stephanie

Beth said...

I have loved this book since childhood and still have my well worn copy as well as a later addition. Garth Williams' illustrations are enchanting, and I spent many hours pouring over the pictures and stories. They still hold the same magic as they did decades ago. I'm happy that so many others treasure this book as much as I do. It is definitely past time for this wonderful book to be published again!

ribcage said...

I can't believe you have found my book! I have been looking for this book but never knew the title. Even tho the cover was gone & beat up it was my favorite book as a kid before I could read. The illustrations stimulated my mind & I think contributed my wish to become an artist.
I have been scouring the internet trying to find out what the title was. Thank you for sharing this.

suzieQ said...

Oh,oh,oh! This was my favorite book when I was little and my bad mom gave it away. I adored the illustrations and hold Garth Williams in a special place in my heart. The illustrations just spoke so deeply to me, I would just look at each picture and find so much to enjoy. Seeing some of those pictures again brought such happy memories back. They MUST reissue this book.

Anonymous said...

So wonderful to read so many other have grown up loving this book as much as my brothers and I, Its only today whilst looking for a copy for my eldest brother who is now 47 as a birthday present that I didcovered the book I have is an original first edition and so valuable, its actually not in bad condition either condisering the household and roughness of us three...amazing it survived lol, my brother was moved to tears when i put the book in his hand and he read Bad Mousie for the first time in 40 years...many wonderful memoried of all sitting on his bed listening to our mum reading to us and the magical pictures coming alive in our imagination, desperate to find another copy for him but knowing its value now think its a bit out of my range...I feel very blessed to still have our childhood treasure and will treasure it always and share it with my Grandchildren as they come along x

whatbob@rogers.com said...

What a fabulous treat to gaze upon these pages again, a sight for sore eyes, indeed! Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Susie said...

This is the most wonderful children's book ever.
And you are correct. It SHOULD be reissued, exactly as it was. The artwork alone is stunning. There is nothing else like it.

leyla74 said...

My aunt wanted to buy me a copy for my soon to arrive son/daughter (this was her favorite book as a child) and reported back that the prices were ranging from $600 to over $1000!! Fortunately, I still have a copy from when I was a child and my mom reads it regularly to my niece who loves it as much as I did. I'm thrilled that we still have it and I will be able to share it with my own children! Amazing that they aren't reprinting with such a CLEARLY high demand for this fantastic collection.

jeri said...

Hurray! My sister just emailed me that she had found "our tall book" on Pinterest. It directed me to this blog. We have missed this book for sooo many years. We grew up in the '50's with this wonderful book. She even tried to buy one for me on Amazon but too expensive for our pocketbooks. This is the second best....to scroll down the pages and remember...thank you.

steven pueblo said...

good book !

Pam said...

I still have my book! It is what I would take out of my house if there was a fire (besides my husband and cats).
My mom bought it for me when I was 5. My grown kids loved it and now my grandkids love it too. It is a real treasure. I think the illustrations by Garth Williams are the key! Good for you if you have a copy or can get your hands one one!!!!

Anonymous said...

Susan's Bears, being questioned by the Uncles which you illustrate and is instantly recognizable to me after 50 years, The poem about how regardless of her brother's skeptism, the girl in the tree "felt just like a bird." The Everlasting Lolipop, Winken, Blinken and Nod, Bad Mousey, the mermaid in the lagoon (quite a challenge to figure out what a lagoon is when you're six), The Land of Counterpane (ditto for counterpane), The girl who ran away and thought that about 20 harebells full of water would be enough to feed her (harebells too, but aren't they magic?)- the greedy man who lives in the woods of Pottle - and of course, The Very Mischief - with the fairies in the lemonade and bears licking ice cube trays and a whale in a handkerchief case (another mystery) - I am over 60 and this book is part of my Soul...

Anonymous said...

This was my favourite book as a child - I spent hours copying the drawings and I think this sparked my interest in art. I love the quirky poems and stories. I lent it to a child at school and never got it back. I bought another copy through via the internet five years ago - it still holds its magic. Wonderful book.

Barbara's Thought of the Day said...

Thanks so much for sharing this book. It was so lovely looking at the pictures again. This was a favorite from my childhood too, and my favorite story was Bad Mousie. I loved it as a child and loved telling the story to my kids, too, long after the book was gone.

Pam, aka, Dessert Lady said...

I grew up with this book, and still have my treasured copy. It was, and always will be, the most special book to me. All of your reviews...spot on. From the illustrations to the creative stories and poetry...unequaled.

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