Monday, December 17, 2012


Ludwig Bemelsmans ~ Harper & Row, 1955

To my surprise, I sat down tonight to write this post only to discover that one of my favorite blogs was having a like-minded moment. I'm not going to say this book has an anti-gun message, but... for sure it has an anti-gun message. Take that with whatever grain of salt you want and know that it has been one of the crappiest weekends of all time for parents and anyone else with a heartbeat. If the idea that a magical sort of tree can save us all from harm brings you any solace... well then, you are a dear dear soul.

Originally published in Woman's Day in '53 as a sort of poem called "The Old Stag and the Tree", it is the story shared between two unlikely friends.

    At the edge of a deep, a deep green forest
    stands an old, lone pine tree looking out
    over the valley below.
    It had started life there, emerald green and hopeful,
    and for a while stretched its little arms
    unworried to the sky,
    but then it discovered that it stood
    at the edge of an abyss,
    and that the wind blew at it
    day and night,
    and that the snow tried to smother it.
    It knew that if it wanted to stay
    it had to fight,
    and so it held onto the rocks
    with a will, and thoroughly rooted.
    It got old, so old
    that several generations of trees
    that stood in the protected forest
    and grew up, easily and straight,
    fell to the ax, and became
    parts of houses, furniture, and ships
    in the world below.
    Nobody wanted the crooked pine.
    It was useless to men. It had grown so big
    that its twisted boughs
    spread like a green tarpaulin, low over the ground,
    and in this safe shelter,
    secure from hunters' eyes,
    in a home of molded leaves and mosses,
    a stag raised his young,
    and the tree and the stag were grateful
    to each other. And both got very, very old.
    The stag was a grandfather many times,
    and his antlers were the biggest in the forest.
    He wore whiskers,
    and he came daily to the tree,
    not to sleep there any more,
    for his old friend had become barren
    and no longer could offer him cover.
    He came there out of friendship,
    and to look out over the valley below
    so that he could warn his grandchildren,
    who played in the deep forest, of danger approaching.
    And when the old tree and the old stag
    were together, weather-beaten the one, and gray the other,
    it was difficult to tell which were the antlers and
    which the barren boughs.
    One day, a hunter below, looking through his
    powerful binoculars,
    saw the stag, in the first morning blush,
    but the stag did not see him, for his eyesight was failing.
    The young deer played while danger approached,
    and the old deer wandered off to feed at the edge
    of the forest,
    while the hunter carefully climbed
    and came up over the edge of the abyss.
    The stag stood just right
    three hundred yards away. 

    The hunter leaned against the tree to steady himself, 
    but suddenly, just as he was about
    to squeeze the trigger,
    the tree whispered his warning.
    From betwixt two clouds that were as puffed cheeks
    there came a burst of wind,
    and the tree twisted and knocked against the hunter,
    and one of the roots tripped him,
    and he fell and fell, followed by stones,
    until he lay, far below, to hunt no more.
    The gun was lost in a ravine,
    but swinging back and forth quietly
    on one of the crooked arms of the pine
    hung the sharp binoculars,
    which the tree
    had lifted off the hunter's shoulders
    as he fell.
    And now all the old stag has to do
    is to stand there and look down into the valley
    through the binoculars
    for other hunters,
    and if he doesn't die of old age,
    he and his family
    will live happily forever after.

One last thought. A dear friend of mine posted this on Facebook over the weekend and it seemed apropos. 

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003)

Also by:
Madeleine and the Gypsies


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Friday, December 14, 2012

A Bookish Christmas

Ack. I have so many great things to share with you guys and not a lick of time to get them up. This weekend for sure! Because a few of you have asked, and he does get a ton of books, these are the reads my son is getting for Christmas. Some old. Some new. And in no particular order...

Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings: Obviously.

Astrix Ominbus: I figure with all the Tintin love floating around this house, it's a sure thing, right?

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Since I scared the crap out of my son all the way through my very dramatic reading of The Hobbit, I thought we'd move forward and start getting to know the rest of Middle Earth.

Birds of Feather - You know my son is a bird freak, and this lovely lift-the-flap and flip-over-the-colors book is a perfect match for him. Goodness, it's lovely.

Gentleman Jim: Everybody loves Raymond.

Bone Volume 2: My son was afraid of these books for so long, but now he's jumped right in and loving them. Begging for more incessantly. I am going back and filling in what books we have missing chronologically. This should keep him quiet for about a day and a half.

Cartoon History of the Universe Part III: Book I and II have been huge hits in our house. But then again, anything in cartoon form makes my son go nuts.

That's about it. If you happen to run into the sweet pea, please don't give the surprises away. :) I can't believe we are headed into the home stretch already!


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Monday, December 10, 2012

Congrats Mr. Rock

Wanted to give an official holiday congrats to one of my favorite soon-to-be-published children's book authors... Mr. Zack Rock!!! Zack is a long-time fan of this site and the illustrator of my fabulous banner and logo, the keeper of an illustration blog that features lots of birds, the interview subject of this super piece on the Seven Impossible Things blog, a purveyor of cute prints for a song in his Etsy shop, and last, but certainly never least, the author and illustrator of his first book coming out from Creative Editions in 2014.

Congrats Zack! I can't wait to read it...


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Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings

Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings
Edward McLachlan ~ Follett, 1969

If you are a child of the 70s, you'll surely remember this little ditty... 

Well, you know my name is Simon, and the things I draw come true... 

Yes, many a morning spent watching Captain Kangaroo embedded that particular line of verse into my subconscious forever and ever. It was a cartoon short they used to play on the show that has stuck with me all these years, and resurfaces every now and again. 

Only this time, I did a bit more digging... according to the Wiki:

Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings was a British children's animated television program, featuring the adventures of a young child named Simon, who has a magic chalkboard. Things that Simon draws upon the chalkboard become real in "The Land of Chalk Drawings", which Simon can enter by climbing over a fence near his home with a ladder, interacting with his chalk drawings, including his chalk-drawn friend Henry. Stories often revolve around the unintended effects that Simon's drawings have on the Land of Chalk Drawings, such as when an upset Simon draws a picture of his angry self, which proceeds to go on a rampage.

The program is based upon the writings of Edward McLachlan. It was produced in the early by FilmFair Productions in London for Thames Television, and was originally a 5 minute program, broadcast around tea time in Britain. The program also became familiar to American audiences in the mid 1970s when it was featured on Captain Kangaroo (where it was narrated by Bob Keeshan instead of Bernard Cribbins).

The line that intrigued me was this... 
The programme is based upon the writings of Edward McLachlan.
A few more Google searches and $40 later, I am holding this little angel in my hand. Apparently, the cartoon series was based on a book. 

Simon loved to draw. He would have liked to draw all the time, and occasionally he would even draw on the fence on his way to school. But he never finished anything he did. One morning on his way to school he found a strange figure waiting for him beside the fence.

"Why, you're the drawing I did yesterday," said Simon.

"Yes," replied the drawing, "and if you will be so kind as to complete me, I would like to take you somewhere."

Simon took a piece of chalk out of his pocket and gave the figure another ear, and eye, and arm.

"Thank you," said the drawing and beckoned Simon to follow his. 

This is so much fun, thought Simon. Much better than school.

So Simon finds himself up and over the fence and into the Land of Chalk Drawings. A place where everyone is miserable because Simon only half drew everything. Upon finding a train with no track, he draws more. A mess of animals missing tails and whiskers and ears and feet, he quickly makes them whole.  

A teacher without any books, though when he makes that situation right and the teacher begins a lesson, he immediately wishes he hadn't. 

Eventually, Simon sets right all he had half finished, and worried that he'll be late to school, climbs back over the fence and promises to come back again.
And apparently he did. Fourteen episodic times.

He even showed up as a Mike Myers spoof decades later on Saturday Night Live, and now apparently has a new version that is showing on some channel or another. I won't dare have a look for fear that it sully my childhood memories of awesome. Good times friends. Good times.


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Great Holiday Give Winners

I have the winners of the Great Holiday Give, but first I wanted to thank you all for playing along and most especially READING... this blog and to and with your kids!

The winner of the mystery grab bags is Mary Making

The winner of Wolf Story is Cathy.

The winner of the Steig CD is Marty.

The winner of Pippi Moves in! is Danzel.

The winner of No Kiss for Mother is John & Catherine.

Congrats everyone! If you guys send me your info to webe(at)soon(dot)com ASAP, I might be able to get these to you by Christmas. Thanks again and Happy Hanukkah all!


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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Weekend Reminder

Happy weekend everyone! We finally got the tree up and the holidays have officially begun. Just a reminder about the Great Holiday Give. Entries are still good until tomorrow night! If you haven't done so already, just comment on each of the five posts below between now and midnight (CT), Sunday, December 9. A winner will be selected at random for each one and announced the next morning.

Day One was No Kiss For Mother by Tomi Ungerer. Enter to win here.
Day Two was Pippi Moves In! by Astrid Lindgren. Enter to win here.
Day Three was The One & Only Shrek on CD. Enter to win here.
Day Four was Wolf Story. Enter to win here.
Day Five was Two Mystery Vintage Book Grab Bags. Enter to win here.

Happy commenting and great luck!


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Friday, December 7, 2012

Great Holiday Give: Day Five ~ Grab Bags Galore!

The last day in our Great Holiday Give will involve not one, but two gives. A grab bag from me of, say.... ten books of the vintage variety. Don't ask, I'm not telling what they will be, but for sure, they'll be awesome.

In addition to that personally-selected collection of fabulousness, you'll also get a very special treat. A five book mystery grab bag from my BFF and fellow vintage children's book collector Thingummery. Her blog is one of my favorites, and if you are a thrift store shopper or estate sale pillager, you'll appreciate her obsessive commitment to the call. Her writing is clever, savvy, and sentimental as evidenced by this piece on estate sale shopping she wrote for Oprah Magazine. You can also get a sense of her style and story on this post about how one becomes a coveter of all things past tense.

Her vintage children's book collection is the only one I've seen that surpasses mine. I live in a two-bedroom craftsman bungalow--she lives in a sprawling four-bedroom atomic ranch house, but I still give her a run for her money. Her Etsy shop sells lots of midcentury design books, vintage children's crafting titles, and she will be selling more vintage children's book like this one, The Night Before Christmas, in the coming months. Trust me when I say, whatever is in her mystery grab bag will be an utter delight!

All you have to do to win this double-power punch of vintage kids' goodness is comment on this post between now and midnight (CT), Sunday, December 9. A winner will be selected at random and announced the next morning.

That said, I wanna thank you guys for always reading. I know my new day job has taken me away from these pages more than I'd like, but I promise in the new year to be around more. I'll even be launching a new, more regular blog, that's truer to where my son's reading interests currently sit, so stay tuned. 

In closing, I want to give my yearly shill, as well, to Amazon. Of course, I love independent bookstores, but the reason I am an Amazon affiliate is because of the thousands of used booksellers that sell through Amazon's site. If I am looking for a specific out-of-print title, I almost always find it there. So remember, every time you click through my site to Amazon and make a purchase (even if it is not the specific item you originally clicked on --electronics, clothes, toys, whatever) a small portion of that sale comes to me, and eventually goes into the purchase of more books to feature on this site. 

Anywho, good luck everyone. I have a short stack of holiday titles to share next week so stick around.

Day One was No Kiss For Mother by Tomi Ungerer. Enter to win here.
Day Two was Pippi Moves In! by Astrid Lindgren. Enter to win here.
Day Three was The One & Only Shrek on CD. Enter to win here.
Day Four was Wolf Story. Enter to win here.
Day Five is... wait, that's today! Just look above!


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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Great Holiday Give: Day Four ~ Wolf Story

Day four of the Great Holiday Give comes to us via the New York Review Books Children's Collection and involves a very special story...

"One night in 1947, an intensely curious 5-year-old boy named Michael McCleery asked his father for a story. So his father, William McCleery, produced a tale that revolved around a wolf named Waldo, a hen named Rainbow, and another little boy, the son of a farmer, named Jimmy Tractorwheel. Over weeks and weeks, William serialized the story, telling it in installments to Michael and his best friend during bedtimes and Sunday afternoon outings.

But William wasn't just a dad — he was also a Broadway playwright. And, together with the artist Warren Chappell, he turned that elaborate wolf story into a short book for children. The resulting Wolf Story was acclaimed when it came out in 1947, but it's been out of print for decades. Now, the New York Review Children's Collection has reissued it." (Listen to the whole story about the story here on NPR.)

Wolf Story by William McCleery with pictures by Warren Chappell. Such a cool book, and such an amazing dad. All you have to do to win a copy of this family heirloom of a tale is comment on this post between now and midnight (CT), Sunday, December 9. A winner will be selected at random and announced the next morning.

Only one more day in the give. Don't miss it!

Day One was No Kiss For Mother by Tomi Ungerer. Enter to win here.
Day Two was Pippi Moves In! by Astrid Lindgren. Enter to win here.
Day Three was The One & Only Shrek on CD. Enter to win here.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Great Holiday Give: Day Three ~ One & Only Shrek CD

Day three of the Great Monday Give is hosted by the one and only, ME! Because audio books have been such a tremendous part of my son's life (he listens to at least an hour a day and three plus on the weekends--right now all Rick Riordan, all the time), I've decided to celebrate this holiday season by buying one of you awesome readers the very first audio book he fell in love with, The One and Only Shrek: Plus Five Other Stories. Nothing beats Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep bringing to life the most classic William Steig tales. There's Shrek (of course), Brave Irene, Spinky Sulks, Dr. De Soto, The Amazing Bone, and Caleb & Kate

Really, one of the best children's audio books of all time. (Though NOTHING beats EB White, himself, reading Charlotte's Web. Magical!) 

All you have to do to win this audio CD of awesome is comment on this post between now and midnight (CT), Sunday, December 9. A winner will be selected at random and announced the next morning.

Five days. Five prizes. Five chances to win. See you tomorrow!

Day One was No Kiss For Mother by Tomi Ungerer. Enter to win here.
Day Two was Pippi Moves In! by Astrid Lindgren. Enter to win here.


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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Great Holiday Give: Day Two ~ Pippi Moves In!

It's Tuesday kids! Welcome to day two of the Great Holiday Give! We have a copy of the wonderful Pippi Moves In! generously donated by Drawn & Quarterly.

"Pippi Moves In marks the first time that the legendary Pippi Longstocking comics by famed children’s author and creator Astrid Lindgren and Danish illustrator Ingrid Vang Nyman will be published outside of Scandinavia in thirty years, as well as their first ever publication in English." 

This book is fabulous, and even if you don't win you should go out and buy a copy for every little girl (and boy) you know. All you have to do to win this gem of a gem is comment on this post between now and midnight (CT), Sunday, December 9. A winner will be selected at random and announced the next morning.

Remember to come back every day this week for a chance to win a new prize, and good luck to each and every one of you!

Day One was No Kiss For Mother by Tomi Ungerer. Enter to win here.


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Monday, December 3, 2012

Great Holiday Give: Day One ~ No Kiss For Mother

Happy Holidays everyone and welcome to the annual Great Holiday Give. Five days of free fun for the whole family. Actually, just five days of giveaways for five lucky winners, but you get the point.

Unlike in years past, I'll be giving away four days of brand spanking new publisher reprints of vintage classics with the last day reserved for my BFF and vintage children's book muse, Thingummery. She's going to be putting together a surprise grab bag for the last give, and her books are even more awesome than mine. She's also just opened up an Etsy shop if you are into mid-century design and craft books and the miscellaneous children's gem. (Anyone interested in a first edition copy of This Is Israel by M. Sasek?)

But before time gets away from me, let's talk about today's give. One reprint copy of the ever amazing No Kiss For Mother by Tomi Ungerer, a give hosted by the amazing folks at Phaidon Press who have been systematically republishing the bulk of all Tomi's backlist.

All you have to do to win this perfect stocking stuffer is comment on this post between now and midnight (CT), Sunday, December 9. A winner will be selected at random and announced the next morning. That simple. And fun.

Come back every day this week for a chance to win a new prize. Think of it as something to look forward to. Like an advent calendar of books!

Good luck!


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Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Christmas Piñata

The Christmas Piñata 
Jack Kent ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1975

Hey kids! Welcome to the first day of Christmas! 

You all know I am the biggest Jack Kent fan of all time, right? And Christmas is my favorite season of the year. And living in San Antonio is as close as you can get to Mexico without actually being there.

All three of those things rolled into a perfect ball of awesome? 

Well, it doesn't get any better than that. Introducing the saddest clay pot of all time with the happiest ever after, all in the name of las posadas.

"In Mexico, the Christmas holidays begin unofficially with the saint's day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. But can decorations appear anytime after the Day of the Dead on November 2. The festivities are in full swing with the beginning of the posadas — celebrated each evening from December 16 to 24. They are, in fact, a novenario — nine days of religious observance based on the nine months that Maria carried Jesus in her womb.

The posadas re-enact Mary and Joseph's cold and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter; in Spanish, the word means "lodging." Traditionally, a party is held each night in a neighborhood home. At dusk, guests gather outside the house with children dressed as shepherds, angels and sometimes, Mary and Joseph. An angel leads the procession, followed by Mary and Joseph or by guests carrying their images. The adults follow, carrying lighted candles.

The "pilgrims" sing a song asking for shelter, and the hosts sing a reply, finally opening the doors to the guests and offering hot ponche, fried rosette cookies known as buñuelos, steaming hot tamales and other festive foods. The party ends with a piñata in the shape of the Christmas star.

The last posada, held on December 24, is followed by midnight mass, a tradition that lives on in countless Mexican towns and cities." (from Mexconnect).

If you didn't get through that description, be sure to watch the las posadas segment (designed by Mary Blair)  from my son's all time favorite movie, The Three Caballeros.

Anywho, on to the book. 

Juan Gomez is a potter who makes handsome clay pots. He and his son take care to make the prettiest pots around, but that doesn't mean they don't crack one every now and again. One such cracked pot gets its heart broken when it sees how grand the other fancy, painted pots are. That is until it is selected by the man's wife and daughter for the highest honor of all, to become a piñata for las posadas. 

Using a pot for the body, Maria and her mother added legs and a neck of sticks tied with string. "It's dark in here!" thought the pot, as it was covered with a skin of torn-up newspapers soaked in flour paste. Slowly the form of a bull began to take shape. Then it was covered with fringed strips of colored tissue paper. 

"It's beautiful!" said Maria. 

"I'm beautiful!" the proud pot said happily to itself.

The pot becomes the centerpiece of a wonderful celebration, but is ultimately shattered in joy. In what is possibly the best morality ending to a children's book ever, we see the pot, shattered on a heap with the other beautiful pots he'd once felt envy toward, now all cast aside. 

"We began the same and we ended the same," said one pile of bits.
"Everyone does," said the other.
"And in between, we were each useful in our own way," said one.
"Everyone is," said the other.
And the whole trash heap sighed happily. For there is contentment in knowing whoever you are, you're somebody.

Enough said.

Also by:
Jack Kent's Twelve Days of Christmas
I Was Walking Down the Road
The Grown-Up Day
The Fox and the Crow
The Biggest Shadow in the Zoo
The Animobile Book
Jack Kent's Book of Nursery Tales
Dooly and the Snortsnoot
Mr. Meebles
Cindy Lou and the Witch's Dog
The Blah
Jack Kent's Valentine Sticker Book
The Bremen-town Musicians
Round Robin
Just Only John
Fly Away Home
Fat Cat
Piggy Bank Gonzales
Socks for Supper
The Simple Prince


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