Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read

The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read
Irma Simonton Black ~ Seymour Fleishman ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1968

Imagine living in a world where you could not read. Then imagine what a nightmare something as simple as shopping for groceries could become. Told with humor and grace, it is very much a silly children's story littered with mishap and fun, while still driving home the very frightening reality that illiteracy creates.

Once there was a little old man who could not read. He just never wanted to learn. His wife went to the store and bought the food but -- the little man stayed home and made beautiful toys out of wood. Children all over the world loved his toys, and many wrote to tell him so. But still the little old man never wanted to learn to read.

Ah, yes. All is well in love and dependence, until said wife has to travel for a few days, leaving clueless old man to fend for himself. One trip to the grocery store and what seems like spaghetti proves to be wax paper. What sits in an oatmeal-like can is really salt... sugar is soap... and a tall glass of milk becomes a stinky sip of sour buttermilk.

Written by famed children's literature advocate Ms. Black and the illustrator who brought us such classics as The Blueberry Elf Pie and the Gus the Ghost stories, I'm always curious when I come across books with a high vintage price point. What is it about the book that makes it collectible? Is it the authors? Are the pictures particularly memorable? What makes one book forgotten and others highly sought after? The art of collecting children's books for my son is a mystery. One man's trash, I suppose...

Oh, and he does learn to read in the end. :)

Also by:
What's a Ghost Going to Do?


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Gretchen said...

I absolutely loved this book as a child, and can vividly recall the illustrations and also feeling very bad for the little old man (and how excited I was for him when he learned how to read!) I recently had my library search for a copy but to no avail. My Mom says it's not in the remaining stash of my childhood books at her house: sigh! I will have to keep my eyes peeled for it at yard sales and second-hand stores. I know my four-year-old daughter would love it.

Sarah said...

Oh, I also loved this book as a kid. Totally forgot about it, but I remember those illustrations and the text like the back of my hand. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

This was one of my favorites when I was a kid! Your scans are so clear- my book is faded and torn. Though, I don't think my copy was new even then. I also have the Little Old Man Who Cooked and Cleaned. :)

Gulcin said...

It looks nice! I wish i would read the whole story. An i think cover of the book is really great!

Justine said...

My dad worked in a library when I was young, and he would often bring this book home for us kids and read it to us. It was my favourite! He later bought a copy of it and put it aside for me, and we have just dug it out and I am now reading it to my 5 year old daughter and she loves it too! It brings back such happy childhood memories.

Jill said...

Burgin, we're (Purple House) reissuing this over the summer! I'm a huge fan of Seymour Fleishman's work and I love Irma Black's message, told with humor of course. Jill

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