Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Post: Ben’s Trumpet

I'd put out the guest post request a while back when I went on vacation and then ended up with no internet, so now I have a backlog of books reviewed by readers. I thought rather than doing an update today, I'd share one with you. (And I know it seems of late that I'm stuck in the 70s, but fear not, I'll be back to the 60s next week!)

Welcome Amy Broadmoore, prolific book-lister of Delightful Children’s Books, clipped from her post 9 Books to Introduce Children to Jazz.

Ben's Trumpet
Rachel Isadora ~ Greenwillow Books, 1979

Author Rachel Isadora was a professional dancer studying with George Balanchine’s School of Ballet until an injury led her to begin writing and illustrating children’s books. Ben’s Trumpet was one of the first children’s books she wrote in the 1970s, and it's one of my favorites.

Ben’s Trumpet is the touching story of a boy who yearns to play the trumpet like the trumpeter he hears playing at the neighborhood Zig Zag Jazz Club. The text of Ben’s Trumpet is spare, and yet Isadora manages to tell a moving story and seamlessly introduce kids to the instruments in a jazz ensemble. An original jazz score was written to accompany Ben’s Trumpet, but the book stands alone without it.

Isadora received a Caldecott Honor for Ben’s Trumpet. While she generally creates colorful oil paintings, she used a very different black-and-white style here and in another of her early books, Max (about a boy who discovers ballet).

I love the slouchy figures Isadora drew for both Ben’s Trumpet and Max.

The illustrations are remarkably varied and incorporate graphic patterns that give a sense of jazz music playing behind the text.

I am not the only one who has been moved by this simple story. In 2009, a Boston ballet company created a ballet based on the book.


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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dr. Merlin's Magic Shop

Dr. Merlin's Magic Shop
Scott Corbett ~ Joe Mathieu ~ Little, Brown, 1973

I'm such a sucker for vintage children's books, that even a crummy-old-yellowing paperback won't turn me off... no matter how brittle and fragile the pages are. I did my best with these scans, but sometimes, the signs of age are just too difficult to Photoshop. That said, you all know I have a soft spot for Joe Mathieu because of his Sesame Street legacy. I had so many of his books when I was young, and even now I still enjoy his cartoonish style. Well, let me introduce you to my son's favorite Mathieu book, crummy and browning though it might be.... and a wee bit scary.

Nick loves magic tricks and fog. So when Nick looks out the window to find the foggiest day ever, he takes his dog, Bert, on a walk that leads them to...

All at once he stopped. He saw a shop he had never seen before.
The sign on it said: DR. MERLIN'S MAGIC SHOP.
"Hey, Bert!" he said "Here's a new shop, and it's a magic shop!
I'll bet Dr. Merlin sells all kinds of magic tricks! I'm going in!"
He walked to the door. But on the door were two small signs.
One said: CLOSED. The other said: MOVING.
"Darn it all, anyway!"

Nick then takes the back alley to see if anyone inside the shop can tell him where the mysterious store is moving to. Enter, Dr. Merlin, who--right from the start-- gives you the creeps when he asks Nick menacingly if he can use Bert for his "scrambled dogs" magic trick, wherein he would attempt to halve Bert with a poodle. When Nick protests in horror, the good doctor tries to poison him with you-will-obey-my-every-command gumdrops. Nick uses his smarts to trick the doctor and escape, but when he runs onto the street to find the store front and flag a cop, the shop evaporates as mysteriously as it appeared.

Dr. Merlin is pretty skin-crawling, but I love the fact that Nick doesn't let fear consume him, and is able to outwit the dastardly demon. The conclusion has my son jumping up and screaming in delight every time. Reading this book gives me the same excited creeps that the top-hatted spy from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang gave me as a child. Awesome. Which reminds me of another, not-so-awesome pop culture memory, the Different Strokes "very special" episode when Arnold and his bud Dudley are cajoled into drinking wine and watching dirty cartoons by a creepy bike shop owner... shudder. Anyways, I digress.

If you are looking for a book to reinforce the "never talk to strangers" message, this one should do the trick.

Also by:
Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum
The Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Koko's Kitten

Koko's Kitten
Dr. Francine Patterson ~ photographs by Ronald H. Cohn
Scholastic, 1985

I'm out of pocket today, so I'll just post a few images from the book Koko's Kitten. Any child of the 70s and 80s knows the story of Koko, the orphaned gorilla child who was taught to speak sign language and communicate with humans.

All ethical questions aside, you have to admit Koko's communication skills have been hugely influential on the study of gorillas and the origins of humanity. No matter how you swing it, it's a profoundly life-altering concept to contemplate.

This is the sweet, but heartbreaking tale of Koko and her pet kitten, All Ball (Koko named it herself). The joy she feels upon receiving it as a gift and the grief when the animal is inadvertently run over by a car. If nothing else, this story illustrates how closely linked we as human beings are to these incredible creatures.

The book is still in print, and this month, Koko celebrated her 40th birthday.

Bless her heart.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shooting Stars

Shooting Stars
Ida Bohatta ~ translated by John Theobald
ars edition reprint published in 1981

Austrian author/illustrator Bohatta was famous for these sweet little books full of words and images about fairies, flowers, elves, gnomes, and in this case, wee babe shooting stars. Books with names like The Cloud Kitchen, The Busy Savers, The Hardworking Bee, The Misjudged Mushroom, and The Helpful Dwarves, she published over a hundred in her lifetime.

The Little Star
Out of a billion stars
here am I just this one,
Turning up my distant face
Like any other sun.
Quietly giving light
Is all the joy I know,
Sharing all my own delight
With everyone I know.

How do you spell A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E? I'm not sure when or in what format these books were originally published, so if anyone knows, speak up!


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Monday, July 25, 2011

Great Monday Give: The Sunflower Garden

Welcome to the Great Monday Give, wherein I gift a vintage book from our collection to one swanky reader. Today's give is a hardback copy of The Sunflower Garden by Janice May Udry and Beatrice Darwin. All you have to do to be entered to win is comment on this post between now and Sunday, July 31 at 11:59 PM. A winner will be selected at random and announced the next day.

As for last week's winner of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, that book goes to long-time reader wmmahaney. Congrats and e-mail me at webe(at)soon(dot)com with your info. I promise to ship it out ASAP, as I've been sick for weeks and haven't yet gotten the last two gives out, so I'd better get a move on before someone comes looking to poke me with a long stick. Whew.


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Friday, July 22, 2011

Update Friday: The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock

Update Friday finds me scratching up a book we read in this house, probably once a week. My childhood copy of The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock, that I originally reviewed in August of 2008. I've added all new scans and edited the text a bit so have at it. Enjoy and happy Friday everyone!


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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ali Mitgutsch's World on Wheels

Ali Mitgutsch's World on Wheels: Rolling Along from Ancient to Modern Times ~ Ali Mitgutsch ~ Golden Press, 1975

Probably the question I get asked most on this blog is...

"Know any vintage children's books about cars, truck, trains and the like?"

Seeing as I live in a house with a child who has almost no interest in the subject, it stinks to always have to recommend the same books over and over again. Seriously, how many times can I expect Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go to single-handedly make me look like I know what I'm talking about?

Now, I have a new go-to book that even my animal-loving, almost-grade schooler enjoys. And, it's an over-sized Golden Book, even better!

Ali is a German illustrator who became famous in the late 60s and 70s for creating busy books that had lots going down on each page (not unlike our dear Mr. Scarry or another Big Golden Book fave Joe Kaufman). Here, we learn all about the discovery of the wheel and where the circular invention has gotten us over the years, from the prehistoric to the "somewhat" present.

People have always had clever ways to carry things. But there's no doubt about it -- the wheel has made life alot easier. Moving heavy objects was a problem right from the start. People struggled along with their loads as best they could, until a little over 5,000 years ago, when the wheel was invented.

Nothing not to love about this book. From watching a caveman try and heft a downed bear on page one to milestones in auto racing, everything you ever wanted to know about how things go is here.


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Coll and His White Pig

Coll and His White Pig
Lloyd Alexander ~ Evaline Ness ~ Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965

Though we haven't delved into them yet, I've often asked readers where to go next in middle grade once Harry, the Pevensie children and Percy are through, and I usually get the same answer. The Chronicles of Prydain: The Book of Three (1964), The Black Cauldron (1965), The Castle of Llyr (1966), Taran Wanderer (1967) and The High King (1968). However, I never realized that the author did a few picture books with the wonderful Ms. Ness based on some of the stories within the chronicles (like the The Truthful Harp), and that Ness also illustrated the covers of the original novels, like here and here).

This particular tale was taken from The Book of Three. Since I'm not hugely familiar with the stories (other than having since The Black Cauldron a million and one years ago), I can't tell you how these characters fit into the overarching plot... only that Coll is a warrior turned farmer who owns a uniquely magical pig named Hen Wen. It's not until the pig is abducted...

He glimpsed a band of horsemen galloping off into the forest. One rider had flung Hen Wen, shrieking and struggling, over his saddlebow. Shouting, Coll raced after them. For a time, he ran as fast as he could in the darkness, following the crashing of the steeds through the underbrush. But the riders outdistanced him and, at last, in the dawn mist, Coll dropped to the ground, out of breath, deeply distressed, having not the first notion of who had made off with his pig nor where they had taken her.

... and Coll mistakenly receives the short-term ability to "talk to the animals" that Hen Wen's amazing secrets are revealed and all is set right with the world.

While I'm no expert on the history of children's literature, the Children's Lit. Research Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia has a wonderful collection of papers from the author and created a Facebook page containing a hand-typed essay written by Lloyd talking about his collaboration here with Ness. In it he writes, "The key to a picture book is the artist's ability to add a new dimension to the words; a dimension the writer himself might not even have suspected."

Wonderfully put.

Also by:
Sam, Bangs & Moonshine
Some of the Days of Everett Anderson
Fierce the Lion
Pavo and the Princess

Monday, July 18, 2011

Great Monday Give: Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile

I have a great hardcover copy of the classic Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile up for the Great Monday Give, today. The dust jacket has a few tears, but otherwise it's awesome!

To be entered to win, all you have to do is comment on this post before July 24, Sunday at 11:59 PM. A winner will be selected and announced the following day.

Speaking of which...

The winner of last week's give of Frog Went A-Courtin' is Meghan. Congrats and send me your info to webe(at)soon(dot)com.

Have a great one guys!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Update Friday: Donkey Donkey

Update Friday is a post from 2008 on a Duvoisin fave, Donkey Donkey. I put an extra copy for sale in my Etsy shop and added all new scans to the post. Enjoy and have a great day!


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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Boy, Was I Mad!

Boy, Was I Mad!
Kathryn Hitte ~ Mercer Mayer ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1969

People often mention that Mayer was heavily influenced by Sendak, and no place is that more evident than here... particularly in the picture above with the dogs. Those definitely look like Sendak dogs. I love both these men, and if Mayer did lift some of his styling in the beginning, he sure added his own humorous spin that the seriousness of Sendak sometimes overshadows. I was influenced by both men equally growing up, so I don't like to draw comparisons as they both hold separate but special places in my heart. Besides, Hitte's story is pretty darn cute, too...

I was mad one day,.
I mean REALLY mad!
So I ran away.
I stuck a sandwich in my pocket,
and left my house fast,
and I didn't look back.
I wouldn't look back at my house for anything,
I was so mad that day--
that day when I ran away.

Off he goes and meets some workmen who give him a hard hat and let him help... until he remembers how mad he is and moves on... He gets to drive a horse-drawn wagon, until he remembers how mad he is and gives up... he meets dogs and babies and ants... so much cool stuff that he eventually forgets why he was mad in the first place and find himself home again.

Darling! Nothing not to love here.

Also by:
Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp
One Monster After Another
Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-A-Zoo
Me and My Flying Machine
Beauty and the Beast
A Special Trick
Bubble Bubble
One Frog Too Many
How the Trollusk Got His Hat
Little Monster at Work
The Bird of Time
Herbert the Timid Dragon
Professor Wormbog's Gloomy Kerploppus


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Russell Hoban ~ Quentin Blake ~ Victor Gollancz, 1989

Speaking of Steig and the 1980s, this book has recently moved into the favorite's fold. The monster drawings and descriptions remind me of Steig's Rotten Island, and having a child who loves to draw one particular thing over and over, I can appreciate our main character's, um... interest.

John liked to draw monsters.

He drew monsters that looked like puddings with teeth, he drew monsters that had hundreds of eyes and odd numbers of ears, he drew scaly monsters, furry monsters, vegetable and mineral monsters, and unheard-of monsters that were so monstrous they had to be invisible so they wouldn't scare themselves to death.

John's parents don't really understand his urge to illustrate all things icky, but it's when he begins to draw a monster so huge and, well, monstrous that it takes days and reams and reams of brown wrapping paper, they turn to his art teacher for answers."I shouldn't worry about it if I were you," said Mr. Splodge.
"Boys are naturally a little monstrous."

When that doesn't squelch their worry, a shrink is next in line, but when the good doctor asks to see John complete the monster, well, let's just say his folks might need a second opinion.

So many times I'll pick up a book that looks awesome, but then on the first read, it doesn't live up to the cover. This, however, is a book that delivers on all levels. Blake's drawings, as usual, are hysterical and right on... and Hoban (this is my new fave of his, sorry Francis!) shines with a story that is a sweet, ode to the imagination of childhood, while standing on the rated-G brink of being a horror story. Love it!

Perfect, perfect, perfect.

Also by:
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
Mouse Trouble
Dirty Beasts
Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas
Mole's Family Christmas


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