Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mister Rogers' Songbook

Mister (Fred) Rogers ~ Pictures by Steven Kellogg ~ Arrangements by John Costa
Random House, 1970

Because I am having the happiest of days and this video still tickles me even though it is way way old news. Lord, I loved me some Mr. Rogers. What an incredibly fabulous person.

All the PBS remixes are fabulous. After watching it, if you are feeling musical and Mr. Rogersy, pick up a copy of Mister Rogers' Songbook and get down to classics like Won't You Be My Neighbor?...

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

 ... or Everybody's Fancy...

Some are fancy on the outside.
Some are fancy on the inside.
Everybody's fancy.
Everybody's fine.
Your body's fancy and so is mine.

Or Tree Tree Tree, Sometimes People Are Good or It's Such a Good Feeling. All your favorite hits of 1960s and 70s PBS television are here with themes of friends, family, and feelings. Piano arrangements aplenty and sweet little illustrations by Steven Kellogg.

Then after you've sung a dozen choruses or 12 of "You've Got To Do It" and still want the musical stylings of your favorite childhood stars, watch the remix of Reading Rainbow. Ssswawesome!

Also by:
Tell Me Mister Rogers About
Mysterious Tadpole
You Ought To See Herbert's House
There Was an Old Woman


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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Walt Disney Story of Our Friend the Atom

Our Friend The Atom
Dr. Heinz Haber ~ Simon and Schuster, 1956

Published in conjunction with the Tommorrowland exhibit at Disneyland and an 1957 episode of Walt Disney's Disneyland, Our Friend the Atom is a propaganda-filled journey into the squeaky clean benefits of nuclear power. 

From the dust jacket:

This book is the literary counterpart of the Walt Disney motion picture Our Friend the Atom which was first released on the Disneyland TV program. The story tells how atomic science began, and how knowledge of the atom's energy finally emerged as the result of much effort. The characters of the story are the great minds of the past who contributed to our modern atomic science. These men and women come to life, and they add a warm human feeling to the story. As the tale evolves, atomic science is handed down from one generation of scientists to the next, and as we follow their reasoning, the knowledge of the atom unfolds with compelling clarity. The atom is easily understood through this simple and fascinating presentation and the appealing illustrations. This book tells the story of the atom, from the first speculations of Democritus to the beginnings of atomic power today. It gives close-up views of...

Roentgen seeing his hand in the first X-ray picture...
Rutherford bombarding the atom to find its nucleus...
The Curies searching for radioactive elements...
Einstein working out the equivalence of mass and energy...
...and, in more recent years, the scientists of many nations assembling atomic reactors for the world of the future.

...and, in more recent years, the scientists of many nations assembling atomic reactors for the world of the future.

Written by Dr. Heinz Haber, a German physicist, University of South California professor, and science consultant to Walt himself, the library copy I checked out is actually inscribed by him to a colleague "in memory of fruitful years spent together."

The illustration styles in the book run the gamut, and though individual pictures are not marked, there is a list of the "Walt Disney Production staff artists" who contributed to the project, which is pretty good considering most old Disney books don't give credit to individual artists at all. 

Art direction was by Paul Hartley with art by: Claude Coates, John Hench, Paul Hartley, Bill Layne, Bill Boche, Anne Siberell, Frank Armitage, Don Peters, Dick Ung, Collin Campbell, Lacques Rupp, Ray Aragon, Tom Yakutis, Alfred Roark, Albert Whitlock, Tony Rizzo, Frank Barnette, Fil Matolla, Jack Foster, Bill Pelayo and Jay Gould.

Very cool bit of atomic era memorabilia. 


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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Babar's Fair

Laurent de Brunhoff ~ Random House, 1954

And speaking of children continuing the legacy of their artistic parents... I recently found another in the Babar series that I'd never seen before authored by the second generation of de Brunhoff. Published in 1954 and only his fourth attempt at following in his father's footsteps, the drawing style sticks very closely to the original Babar books. Unlike Laurent's later Babar books, you can hardly tell the difference between his work and the real thing. 

In Babar's Fair, Babar and his closest colleagues decide to stage a fair in Celesteville to celebrate the city's anniversary. One that will attract foreign dignitaries and tourists and highlight all the worldly and wonderful things the elephant city has to offer.

"My dear guests, my dear friends, it is with great emotion that I now open this exposition. This is the first time in our history that we are holding such a festival. We have never before had do many people in Celesteville. May we all get to know and like each other. My friends, I wish you all a wonderful time!"

A thunder of applause follows his speech. Then Cornelius hands Babar a pair of scissors. There is complete silence. Babar cuts the ribbon. The fair is open.

Imagine a fair with pyramid displays sponsored by kangaroos. Giraffe castles with tiny windows "to keep the house cool". Underwater diving exhibits where all the animals don scuba equipment. Puppet shows and sailing trips and sculptures crafted by lions.

It's a magical time in Celesteville and Pom, Flora, Alexander and Arthur befriend a green duck and make the absolute best of it.

My son and I read this in bed last night and it warms my heart that at almost eight years old, my boy still loves a story like this and whines when it's over. I do like the fact that Laurent has kept his father's voice alive, but in my opinion, nothing can compete with Laurent's own The One Pig With Horns. Genius.

Also by Laurent:
Babar Visits Another Planet
The One Pig With Horns

By Jean:
Travels of Babar
Babar and Zephir
Babar and Father Christmas


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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Happy Saturday!!!

A few thoughts on a beautiful Saturday here in Texas. 

There are three main reasons I write this blog.

The first and foremost, was for my son. This blog was a way of celebrating the books he loved, and sharing them with other people who appreciate sifting through old books to find treasures.

The second was when I realized by sharing these books, I was helping connect other people with the long lost books of their childhoods. Books that had made lasting impressions and stayed with them through the years. People like this person, who left an anonymous, heartfelt comment on my post for Dr. Goat this week.

Knowing that I was trying to find some of my favorite childhood books, my 92 year old Mom called my brother from her nursing home bed and said she wanted to get Dr. Goat for me for my 63rd birhtday. They spent 45 minutes on the phone together with my brother submitting bids to Ebay. They both laughed and got so excited as the bidding continued and my mom did win it for me. My brother wrapped the book and mailed it to me. 

Mother ask if I would bring it to the home and open it there with her. I did and when I saw it was Dr. Goat, I starting screaming and had to put my hand over my mounth because they don't favor screaming in nursing homes! I told her there was nothing she could have given me that I would have love more than Dr Goat. She died two weeks after my birthday. The book stands open in a very special place where I can see all the time -- her final gift of love to me.

And thirdly because all the amazing illustrators of old I've discovered and met through this blog (Hi Roy!), and all the upcoming young artists who are making their way in the business now like Ward Jenkins and Zack Rock.

That said, it's almost February and I've finally come up with my New Year's resolution. Scan more old books and support more up and coming children's book authors by throwing money at their Kickstarter pages. Like this guy, Zack McLaughlin. Very cool stuff (see the above and below). Support his Kickstarter page, here, for his children's book Hairy and Scary.

Happy Saturday everyone!


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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mister Magnolia

Quentin Blake ~ Jonathan Cape, 1980

Since we've been hanging around the 80s and still have one day to go before the weekend...Here's a wee bit of Blake brightness to happy your Friday.

Mr. Magnolia has only one boot.
He has an old trumpet that goes root-toot--
And two lovely sisters who play on the flute--
But Mr. Magnolia has only one boot.
In his pond live a frog and a toad and a newt--
He has green parakeets who pick holes in his suit--
And some very fat owls who are learning to hoot--
But Mr. Magnolia has only one boot.

Oh, what a lovely, bouncy, darling rhyme. When my son reads this book to me, he giggles the entire time, particularly over the fat owls, hooting, of course. Mr. Magnolia rides a scooter with his friends, makes giant splashes when he goes down the slide, and juggles fruit to the dismay of many a fruit sales lady, all while only wearing one boot. Ah, but when a little girl brings him a mysterious package, his problems (or lack thereof) are over.

Love, love, love Mr. Blake. Always with the birds and the adorable mice. His creatures are a treasure.
His drawings harness so much joy, it's hard not to giggle incessantly. Hee hee. Ha ha. Tee hee.

Also by:


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Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Troll Book

Michael Berenstain ~ Random House, 1980

This post is going to involve a number of my favorite things. First, I love getting e-mails that include the words, "I WAS WONDERING IF YOU REMEMBER A BOOK..." Often, I don't know the book the reader is after (sometimes I do, YAY), and I send them to The best part is, they usually write me back to tell me what it was when they find it.

Well, the other day I was emptying out my inbox and came across an unopened e-mail from a year ago. 

It read...

"I love your blog for children's books. I came across it while looking for a book I used to read when I was little and now I want to get it for my daughter. From what I remember it had either goblins or trolls that lived underground or inside trees. It looks like it might have been made in the early 80s or late 70s. The drawings were of a tree cut in half and inside lived the creatures. I used to love the fact that it was very intricately drawn. I've been looking for it for years."

Feeling like crap that an e-mail had gone unanswered for so long, I immediately wrote him back saying I did not recognize the book, and within a few hours, I received a reply back that it was quite alright because he had tracked down the book in question.

This one.

The second thing about this post that I love is anything old school Berenstain Bears or related to Bear Country really gets me excited, particularly when it's something I've never seen before. I'm a fan of the Berenstain's youngest son Michael, in that he draws in the same style as his parents but always gives it a wee bit more of an edge. When my son was younger, he loved Michael's "I Heart Dinosaurs" series: Day of the DinosaurThe Horned DinosaurThe Spike-Tailed DinosaurFlying Dinosaurs and The Biggest Dinosaurs. There's even more to love like Peat Moss and IvyThe Ship BookThe Castle Book and the one I'm dying to see but have never gotten my hands on... The Creature Catalog.

As big a fan as I am, I'd never even heard of The Troll Book! I immediately looked online and the least expensive copy available was $50. Damn it!

Which leads me to the third favorite thing about this post. The fact that I now work in an office that's housed in a library. Three minutes after remembering that fact, I had this book in my hand. The Troll Book.

Which, is just that. A book about trolls.

Deep in the forests of Scandinavia, where the dark pines loom and pale lichens spot the rocks, there dwell a strange and little known folk. No one knows how long they have been there, nor how first they came into the world. But it is clear that they are an ancient race--so ancient, in fact, that the pines, the lichens, even the rocks feel young when they pass by. 

They are the trolls.

In the pages that follow, we learn loads of interesting facts about trolls and their brethren. Like, did you know trolls, "with their big, furry ears...can hear a wolf's heartbeat at fifty paces"? Or that they live in hollowed-out tree trunks. That "troll magic is not an art or craft. It is an ability as natural as seeing or breathing"? That a "night troll" can turn a human into a troll by "rubbing them with magic troll ointment, stretching their arms, and howling in their ears"?

So many wonderful mysteries unfold, all in the signature hatching style. I love the Berenstain style when Stan and Jan were at their peak and Michael's older work certainly reflects that penwork.

Currently, Michael spends his time keeping the family flame alive by illustrating new Berenstain Bear adventures, often giving them religious undertones, but man, oh, man would I like to see more troll and monster books from him in the future.

Here's hoping.


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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ant and Bee Go Shopping

Ant and Bee Go Shopping
Angela Banner ~ Kaye & Ward, 1972

UPDATE*** A reader just pointed out that Egmont is going to be rereleasing these books starting in February 2013. Yay!!!!

I never had any Ant and Bee books when I was little. I vaguely remember having seen them on and off throughout my youth though I can not recall where. When I mention to people that I collect old children's books, on occasion an Ant and Bee will materialize out of someone's purse brought as a special treat to share. Everyone I know who has one covets them like a secret treasure to be handled gently and awed over and then tucked away in a protective sleeve. The Aunt and Bee ownership stories are special, wrapped in cozy memories and often told in something akin to a whisper. "It was my mother's. Isn't it dear?" "My grandmother used to keep them in her guest room and read them to me when I was little." "My aunt gave this to me as a child. It's my most cherished possession."

For those not in the know, the Ant and Bee stories were "a collection of small format hardback books produced in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 1970s. They were reprinted by Trafalgar Square in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were designed to teach pre-school children about the alphabet, shapes and colours. The principal characters were Ant (the naughtier and more adventurous half of the duo) and Bee (more sensible and better behaved). 

On occasions they were joined by the Kind Dog and/or the zoo man. The primary lure of these books is that simple three and four-letter words are texted in red so children can associate the print with the pictures." (Thanks again Wiki, you endless source of awesome.)

I don't own any now because the wee little tomes run between $40 and $500 depending on the edition and rarity. But having had the chance to peruse a few, it's easy to see why these books are so loved. The first thing to die for is the size. At 4 X 5 inches and around 100 pages long, they are tiny, but still packed with pages. 

The bold and busy illustrations make a huge impression with solid color and lots to look at. Add the fact that Ant and Bee themselves are drawn pretty hysterically and you have a world of fun that fits snugly into a child's tiny hand.

This particular book was borrowed from my boss. There were thirteen books in all; this one being the 12th in the series published in 1972 about the day Ant and Bee invite Kind Dog to dinner and have to shop and focus on things round, fat and flat. Super cute. (See a full scan of Ant and Bee Go Shopping, here.)

If you come across one of these books in your thrift store travels, grab it and never let it go.

Lest you be sorry...


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