Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Trip to the Library

Browsing through one of my favorite local vintage haunts yesterday I came across this book.  Although a little beat up, I had to buy it, as I had a whole set of these Brothers Grimm/Golden Storybooks from the 1960's when I was growing up.  I had remembered the holographs on the black covers, of course, but had not completely recalled the groovy multicolor typeface and and funky Japanese diorama style illustrations!

Finding this book reminded me that I have a stash of my childhood books squirreled away.  I dug them out, selected the most memorable, and will share them with you here.

If you did not have a copy of Pat the Bunny growing up, go on out and find yourself one!  Not only can you look at yourself in the mirror, play peek-a-boo, try on Mother's ring, and of course pat the bunny, you can also literally smell the flowers; what other children's book has odorama?

My parents always included a healthy dose of Beatrix Potter when reading to me as a youngster, but, The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies was a real nail-biter!  Whenever Mr. McGregor put those sleeping baby bunnies into that sack...oh my!

I recall being read to, and, having access to this book  - A Baby Is Born - from a very young age.  I believe my parents made a decision early on to be very open about such things with me - perhaps when my baby brother was coming? - and I am grateful for that.  Perhaps my Mom will comment about her logic.  I do recall once a fifth grade friend shared her "special movie" literature with me when I was still a fourth-grader and a friend of her's rushed over to whisk the papers away hissing "You can't show her that!"  I smugly explained that I knew it all already so did not need to see the papers anyway.  Of course, I was allowed to watch the "special movie" the next year, which immediately undid all my parents' efforts by somehow convincing me that you could only get pregnant when you had your period.  Just what you want your children to think, right?

The book stuck around, and, thankfully told it pretty straight.  Look, it even showed women (and men!) in  anatomically correct illustrations.  Sadly, I'll bet there are some adult women out there who could not fill in the blanks above.

Are You My Mother is one of my all time favorite books!  I must have made my parents read that to me hundreds of times.  I think I liked the spirit of the little bird, especially when he had his hands/wings on his hips and was talking right to the Snort!

 Nothing gives a child more joy than listening to their parents try to read aloud from Dr. Seuss, and no Dr. Seuss book is more of a tongue twisting nightmare than Fox in Socks.   Try it, really.  The page above reads:

Sue Sews Rose
On Slow Joe Crow's Clothes
Fox Sews Hose
On Slow Joe Crow's Nose

Hose goes
Rose Grows
Nose Hose Goes Some
Crow's Rose Grows Some

(tee hee hee)

My signed copy of Cliff Roberts The Hole clearly came to me second-hand (I guess Erik, Karen and Vicki had outgrown it) and unfortunately, second-hand is the only way you will find it today.  It was a charming book.  Interactive, much like Pat the Bunny, with clever illustrations and a smile-shaped hole running though the entire book.  What's not to love about this one?

(Oh, are you doing something here? Allow me to sit in your way...)

Certainly every child's library should have a copy of Make Way for Ducklings and luckily, my childhood library was no exception.  The classic story and charming illustrations were extra special for me as I grew up right outside the city of Boston and had parents who not only made a point of bringing me there, but, taking me for a ride on the Swan Boats.  Magical.

When I think of Richard Scary's Best Word Book Ever I think of it as HUGE!  It was, when I first had it, around age four.  I would open it flat on the floor and literally sit atop the opened pages, searching for words I knew and learning new words each day.   The book is wonderfully illustrated and I love how it illustrated and labeled the mundane right along with everything else.  Of course it is as important for kids to recognize and name a wall socket and toothbrush as it is to identify a Fire Engine.  Richard Scary understood that and made it work in the most charming and effective way.  By using animals, he also immediately made the books accessible to all races and ethnicities as none were specifically illustrated so, likewise, none were excluded.

As I again browsed through the wonderful pages of labeled illustrations, I wondered how much influence this book may have had on my interest in art and birds later in life?  But then again, he also shows a kitchen, and I have never shown much of an interest in there...

I was a youngster in the early 1970's so this original Shufflebook was extremely artsy and cutting edge back then!  I recall spreading the cards across the entire living room floor to make the longest story possible.  I'm sure my mother appreciated the hours I would be occupied creating the book, but, dreaded the inevitable "Mum, hey MOM!"  that would come when I needed her to carefully read everything I'd created.

As my reading skills progressed, I discovered Ruth Chew.  There was a Scholastic Book Program when I was in Elementary School.  As I recall, you could order the books in advance, (parents would pay, of course!) and it would be a discounted rate.  The box of everyone's books would be shipped to the school, so a few times each year there was this delightful day when the teacher would hand out the newly arrived books!  My parents let me use this system to buy the latest Ruth Chew books, so, I was always waiting anxiously for the next box to arrive.  (Although we also visited the library frequently, they were not readily available to me there.) Her mixture of fantasy with adolescent reality was a fun and less complex predecessor to the Harry Potter books of today.

This is not my original Betty Miles book but a copy I picked up somewhere in my travels to keep for memory's sake.  My childhood book was The Real Me, in red paperback.  I can picture it clearly in my mind but I think it may be lost at this point.  Reading this book truly made me feel more adult.  She was sassy, and, had real problems, and, a real job, and conviction.  When the book was written, she was a radical because she was a girl with a paper route.  The book talked about this new thing called "women's lib" and was probably considered heresy by some of my friend's parents at the time.

Judy Blume, I bow to thee.  I honestly think my childhood would have been very different had I not been able to read Judy Blume.  I have a brother but no sisters, so, Judy Blume's characters were there to tell me what I was feeling was normal, even if those feelings were things I could not talk about with anyone else.  Religion, acne, breasts, menstruation, mean girls, boys, and sex were all topics that were covered regularly and with an honestly that made it OK to be going through puberty.  None of her books were read by me as many times as Are You There God, It's Me Margaret.  The book above is my own and I love how dog-eared it is.  How I longed for the mystery of "Three Minutes in the Closet" in my own life, and, Chapter 14 was THE most read chapter in the book, hands down.

The notorious Chapter 14

Of course Judy Blume's books stayed with me as I got older.  Deenie and Forever talked about more adult topics as I became closer to being an adult.  I must, however, give Paula Danziger her props.  Her characters were also very real, and, very sassy and funny!  Actually, more of a continuation of the Betty Miles book characters as they approached adulthood.  The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, The Pistachio Prescription and of course, as a kid who spent her summers at camp There's a Bat in Bunk Five were all my favorites as I entered my teenage years. 

I have provided Amazon links to most of the books and/or authors mentioned in this post in the hopes that you may wish to find one of these books for your children or as a gift for a child or teen you know.  Many of my books came to me second hand, however, as well as through my weekly trips to the library.  Church sales, book sales and yard sales are all great sources for used books, and, a trip to your own local library should certainly help you connect with these authors - and many more you find on your own - as well!


  1. I remember all of these books. The book "A Baby is Born" was introduced to you when I was pregnant with your brother. I loved reading the "Fox In Socks" and all the other Dr. Seuss books to you. I remember that the Shufflebook could make us roll on the floor with laughter at some of the things that came up while making up a story. You almost wore the Richard Scarry book out. I wanted you to love words and books as much as I did so I introduced you to words when you were just a baby by having a place next to the changing table where I changed the pictures periodically. I would cut out things that were colorful from magazines and put them up and while I was changing you I would point to the picture and say what it was. You learned the words very quickly and sentences came next. I tried to make it fun for you. I think that because of this you had any easy time learning to read. The "Hole" book is as we found it. It must have been a book sale. Do you remember the great sales we took you and Mark to at the Horticultural Hall in Boston? I think it was the Brandeis Women's Club who put it on. We used to come away with bags and bags of wonderful old books. MOM

  2. Thanks for the added info Mom! I do not specifically recall the Boston Sales, but, do recall searching for Nancy Drew and Dana Girls Books at every church sale. I have none of those left for the post as I passed them all along to Meg years ago. I just wanted to read them; today, people would kill for the first editions I'd found for $.50 as a kid with a voracious reading appetite! Thanks for everything...

  3. What I love about your blog is learning things about you I wouldn't have otherwise. Hope Ian appreciates the old books you bought him as much as you do! Jill

  4. I just found one of Richard Scarry's books on Craigslist! Thanks for the heads up.

  5. Terrific! Glad to point you in that Scarry direction! (hee hee)

  6. What about me? I've given you books every birthday and Christmas. I gave you one of those cloth books they make for babies for your first Christmas.


  7. I just counted the word "parents" used at least SIX TIMES in this post; I believe you are one of them? Sheesh, I've had it with you and my husband complaining about not enough mention in my blogs. Start your own, then you can talk about anything you want! :-P

  8. I loved this blog entry. Like you, I had parents who were big advocates of reading, something I have gladly passed on to my own kids. I am so fortunate to have had a mom who was willing to drive to three different library branches just so I could have a huge stack of books to read (remember those godawful limits they'd put on you as to how many books one could check out?!) I think this really helped me become the person I am today. I recall a lot of the same books, but there were several I did not have the pleasure of reading such as "a shufflebook" nor any of Ruth Chew's books. I must admit I still like to check out books from the Young Adults section of the local libraries!


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