Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Four Fir Feet (and other things)

Rising from the grave here because I am just past spring break and shelves were cleaned off, and I was reminded of just how many books there are still to share. Every time I turn around, a beloved author is passing away; their books like tiny secrets lost in time. There will be great authors who will live forever like Seuss or Margaret Wise Brown, but for every one of those there are a thousand others who fade from view. Their wonderful spirits vanished to the bins at Goodwill, or worse, withdrawn and thrown away.

This summer it will be ten years since I started this blog. So much has happened in that time. Publishers have taken more of an interest in out-of-print books that begged to be reprinted. Used booksellers have gotten more savvy about what people are willing to pay for old, beloved favorites. The internet has made it easy to price books accordingly, so that even the shelves of my favorite thrift stores are filled with overpriced gems. Gone are the days of 25 cent classics and incredible finds. Gone are the days when no one was shopping the book section at my local flea market. San Antonio, like many other American cities, is much too hipster for all that now. Sadly, that was what made this blog so easy to begin with. All I needed was a five dollar bill, a son who loved being read to, and an imagination open to looking beyond dingy library binding. It helped that I had a best friend who shared my passion for old children's books and had an even more amazing collection than my own.

I couldn't start this blog now without a much larger budget and more time to pick over and buy premium Etsy scores. All the fabulous out-of-reach design things moms like me pined for ten years ago are now being knocked off and sold at Target for a fraction of the cost, and all the vintage treasures that were so bountiful and inexpensive have been discovered and driven up in price. My son has moved on from picture books for the most part defaulting to his obsessive audio book collection, graphic novels, and middle school required reading like Shiloh (in Spanish) and Walk Two Moons. My BFF moved back to New York and now stretches past kids' books to troll library sales and handpick vintage design books for resale, and I went back to work in publishing. The end result being little to no time for this hobby right here.

But somehow, I always return. This spot reflects the hours I spent cross-legged on the floor with my son taking him to far off lands and introducing him to monsters who dance wild on islands and children who learn to switch on the night. This is the place where we met a fox who was indeed fantastic and spied on three robbers who befriended an orphan girl. This corner of the interwebs will always be the sacred space where I held my son in my arms squirming and squealing... "Again again, Mommy. Read it again." Every book on these pages is a memory of the best years of my life. I will cherish it always and mourn those moments when it was just me and him and all we wanted was the perfect 32 pages and all we had was all the time in the world.

Books are everything. With all that is wrong with the world, we were lucky enough to get lost in them for a while.

That said, Four Fur Feet popped into my view this last week and had me grieving again for the loss of Remy Charlip, lamenting the publishing urge to always re-illustrate, and falling in love again with the words of Ms. Brown. My son might be growing up, but I'll always come back if I find something worth remembering.

Four Fur Feet
by Margaret Wise Brown, pictures by Remy Charlip ~ William R. Scott, INC., 1950

What makes this book incomparable, ingenious, and absolute magic is that you never see the animal depicted in these pages. We only see his feet. His fabulous four fur feet!

See the four fur feet
at the top of the page?
They are the feet part
of a furry animal.

Follow the animal's feet
around the pages of the book.
When you come to a picture that looks wrong side up,
it's because the animal
has gotten part way around the world.

It is plays on the form like this that made Charlip such a delightful illustrator and a true artist. Simple. Playful. Elegant. And absolutely silly.

The feet appear throughout the book as if they are actually walking around the world until at last our creature sets down to rest and dream.

Also by:
What good luck! What bad luck!
Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send For the Doctor Quick Quick Quick
The Dead Dird
Arm in Arm
Wait Til the Moon is Full
Do You Know What I'll Do?
The Sky Was Blue
The Rabbit's Wedding
The Quiet Noisy Book
On Christmas Eve
Christmas in the Barn
The Dead Bird
Little Chicken
The Little Island
The Friendly Book
Little Fir Family
The Sailor Dog

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