Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Finding Lost Treasures of Childhood

I was talking to a friend the other day about books we treasured from our childhoods. We have saved the books we loved but sometimes books get lost over the years or in my friend's case, during her frequent military moves. I told her she could find them through Internet booksellers. She said, really?! She had never apparently used Internet booksellers so I thought I would tell the story of one treasure I thought I would never find again. You can see its picture above.

I loved my copy of Cinderella and held on to it for a long time but at some point during my childhood it disappeared. It may have gotten given to my Montessori school library as many of my not-so-valued children's books did. I just don't know. I remembered it was a very large, thin book with the title Cinderella and that the cover had a green background with a golden coach and Cinderella in a golden gown. I loved the illustrations which showed gorgeous 18th-century clothes. I have never seen another Cinderella version that appeared as beautiful to me and I did look hoping to find "my" Cinderella. But without remembering the author or illustrator, I was stuck.

Last summer, 30-some years after losing my copy, I took a class on fairy tales online through Rutgers University with Monica Edinger and Roxanne Hsu Feldman aka fairrosa. I told the story of my lost book in a class post and Monica told me that there was a detailed Cinderella bibliography available through Rochester. She recommended that I search it. Off I hurried to search the bibliography and checked their General Collections list. I used the find function on the tool bar and searched for golden, hoping to find a mention of a Cinderella in a golden gown. I had noticed over the years that she is almost never shown in a golden gown so I thought that might help my search. I used the find function to search by golden and after finding various golden shoes and fish, I finally found this entry:

Andreas, Evelyn. Cinderella: An Old Favorite with New Pictures. Illustrated by Ruth Ives. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1954.

[The narrative follows Robert Samber’s English adaptation of Perrault. The illustrations use 18th-century settings and dress; the fairy is a young, attractive blonde, as is Cinder-wench. Her ballgown is golden yellow, trimmed with pink roses. Her wedding gown is white, and the flowers adorning the aisle of the church are pink roses. The kingdom rejoices in their salons, while the honeymooners sit in a garden at a table situated on an oriental carpet beneath a white cloth drapery that serves as a sort of tent.]

This sounded like my childhood memory of the illustrations. Off I went to the Internet used booksellers' search engines. I chose to check Abebooks first, much as I dislike it, because you sometimes see cover images by the booksellers' listings. There were a couple of images of the cover and it looked enough like my childhood memory that I ordered a cheap copy of the book. When it arrived a week later I opened it up and yes, those were the illustrations I remembered! The story is still as beautiful and satisfying as my childhood memory had recalled.

Luckily I had specifically ordered a large-format copy because according to WorldCat, this Cinderella was reprinted by Wonder Books in a smaller-format edition (21 cm.) with fewer pages up to 1977. It appears to be only the Grosset & Dunlap copies that are folio size (31 cm.) with the complete set of illustrations.

So my advice to all of you is to search the following Internet book search engines for your lost treasures: AddAll Used, ViaLibri, or eBay Books, though eBay is frustrating to use. I have not figured out why they don't have an advanced search form where you can search by author and title. Don't forget to limit the search engines to search by price, ascending so that you find the cheapest copies listed first. Some of the Internet prices are crazy, in my opinion anyway.

If you are having trouble finding your lost book through Internet booksellers, check WorldCat through their free portal on the web. Since I'm a librarian I can use the regular WorldCat, which searches all libraries, not just the ones accessible through the free portal. If your book was published in another country, check that country's national library catalog. Even now there are books that don't appear in WorldCat but may appear in other library catalogs that are not yet a part of WorldCat.

If you are stuck and don't have enough information for a search like I did, find out if there is a bibliography of the subject, the author, or the illustrator that may contain your elusive title. You can post queries about lost treasures to listservs for children's librarians or to an interesting resource at the bookseller, Loganberry Books, Book Stumpers, where for a small fee you can post your query. I enjoy reading their queries and archives when I have the time. There are a lot of people hunting for treasure out there!

Note: Apparently Ruth Ives illustrated other fairy tales and children's books during the 1950s and 1960s. I may try to get hold of these other books to see her illustrations. Neither WorldCat or ArchiveGrid list papers of Evelyn Andreas or Ruth Ives which makes me sad. So many children's book authors and illustrators are forgotten today and I don't think judging by this book that these two deserve to be!

Second note: I may post future posts on other lost and found treasures. Let me know if you want me to do that.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In Praise of Vachel Lindsay

I grew up in a house full of books, and the living room had a wall of bookcases filled with poetry. My father loves poetry and he is the world's best reciter of poetry. When he was young he studied debating and he listened to many poets and trained himself to use his voice to convey the music and rhythm of poetry that I wish all of you could hear. One of his favorite poets is Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931) and to hear my father recite The Congo or The Kallyope Yell is to be entranced.

I firmly believe that the best way to teach children to love and appreciate poetry is to surround them with poetry in their homes and schools. But also it is very important to read poetry with rhythm, inflection and love. If you just present poetry to children on the page, you rob them of the whole aural dimension of poetry. Remember poetry started as an oral art where poets declaimed their poetry and it was passed down in memory for many generations before being written down. Think of the Norse and Icelandic Sagas or the Iliad and the Odyssey or the Biblical Psalms. These are all examples of oral poetry that were eventually written down. Songs themselves are poetry full of the music of words and rhythm.

Vachel Lindsay often appears in children's poetry anthologies. There is one collection of his children's poetry: Springfield Town is Butterfly Town, and Other Poems for Children (Kent State University Press, 1969). I recommend you find a copy through your local library or through Internet booksellers. Here are some of the poems he wrote for children and I want to share one:

The Mysterious Cat

I saw a proud, mysterious cat,
I saw a proud, mysterious cat
Too proud to catch a mouse or rat-
Mew, mew, mew.

But catnip she would eat, and purr,
But catnip she would eat, and purr.
And goldfish she did much prefer-
Mew, mew, mew.

I saw a cat-was but a dream,
I saw a cat-was but a dream.
Who scorned the slave that brought her
Mew, mew, mew.

Unless the slave were dressed in style,
Unless the slave were dressed in style.

And knelt before her all the while-
Mew, mew, mew.

Did you ever hear of a thing like that?
Did you ever hear of a thing like that?
Did you ever hear of a thing like that?
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Mew. . .mew. . . mew.

I can't resist posting a portion of one of my favorites:

The Kallyope Yell

[Loudly and rapidly with a leader, College yell fashion]


Proud men
Go about,
Slander me,
Call me the "Calliope."
Sizz . . . . .
Fizz . . . . .

I am the Gutter Dream,
Tune-maker, born of steam,
Tooting joy, tooting hope.
I am the Kallyope,
Car called the Kallyope.
Willy willy willy wah hoo !
See the flags: snow-white tent,
See the bear and elephant,
See the monkey jump the rope,
Listen to the Kallyope, Kallyope, Kallyope!
Soul of the rhinoceros
And the hippopotamus
(Listen to the lion roar!)
Jaguar, cockatoot,
Loons, owls,
Hoot, Hoot.
Listen to the lion roar,
Listen to the lion roar,
Listen to the lion R-O-A-R!
Hear the leopard cry for gore,
Willy willy willy wah hoo !
Hail the bloody Indian band,
Hail, all hail the popcorn stand,
Hail to Barnum's picture there,
People's idol everywhere,
Whoop, whoop, whoop, whoop !
Music of the mob am I,
Circus day's tremendous cry: --
I am the Kallyope, Kallyope, Kallyope!
Hoot toot, hoot toot, hoot toot, hoot toot,
Willy willy willy wah hoo !
Sizz, fizz . . . . .

I love the Willy willy willy wah hoo/sizz fizz lines which convey the hiss and whistle of the circus calliope that announced the arrival of the circus into town. Today's children will never hear a true circus calliope but the rhythm and excitement of this wonderful poem give a very visual and oral image of the old-time traveling circus.

PennSound offers downloads of readings by Vachel Lindsay himself of six of his poems. Lindsay wandered about the United States, reading and performing his poems, which were specifically crafted to be read aloud. Check LibriVox for downloadable audio files of four of his poems read by other readers and contrast the reading styles.

Enjoy then go find a group of children and share some of these wonderful poems with them!

Note: I do not quote The Congo here though I love the rhythm and sound of it because it is very controversial then and now. UIUC has a page that provides further information about Lindsay and this poem. It would make a good poem for a high school class learning about issues of racism and the early twentieth century. With preparation on the background, the students might really love hearing the poem.

Second note: If you live in or near Chicago, come to the Mercury Cafe, 1505 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, on Friday, April 18th, 2008, from 7-9 pm, to hear my father and two other local poets read their own poetry!

Also, go enjoy other Poetry Friday posts at The Well-Read Child.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Time to plunge in and start writing my posts

Well, I think I better start posting if I want to have a blog. Clearly I am not going to be able to make myself write something awesome for a first post. What I do want to do on this blog is to share some of my passions in the field of children's literature. One of the things I love about Google is its alert system. Via Google Alerts I am notified of articles and blogs that discuss children's literature. Sometimes I just need to share the wonderful articles I discover, so I will do regular posts providing links to these articles.

I love articles that discuss authors and illustrators and give information about how they create their books. They give me insight into the incredible creativity of these folks.

Here are some links to recent articles:

Here's an article from EADT, which is an online newspaper for Suffolk and Essex, about the British author and illustrator Helen Oxenbury. It includes personal stuff about her family and her childhood in Ipswich and Felixstowe. For more information on Oxenbury, with an amazingly long list of her books, see this link.

Here's an online interview with Lois Lowry, where she discusses her books and particularly her new book, The Willoughbys.

Here's an interview with Jeanne Birdsall, author of The Penderwicks at the Orange County Register.

Full confession. I have yet to read either book but the buzz is certainly making me curious about them!

Tracy van Straaten sent me a Newsweek interview from last month with Meg Cabot, discussing her new series for tweens, the Allie Finkle series. Sounds fun. I never got into her Princess Diaries but I love her Mediator series and the 1-800-Where-Are-You? series. I also adore Avalon High which transplants the King Arthur story to a modern high school. It's now being continued as a Manga series and the first volume: Avalon High: Coronation is not bad, though I prefer the original Avalon High book. For more information on Meg Cabot and her books, see her website.

Here's another Newsweek article, an interview with Blue Balliett on her latest book, The Calder Game. She's my hometown author but I have yet to read her books, shame on me! She does make the book sound intriguing and I love mysteries. Hmmm.

The Guardian, an UK newspaper often has very interesting articles on children's books. Here's one on Maurice Sendak. Reminds me that I have sitting on my desk the book, The Art of Maurice Sendak, that I need to read and return to the library. I love ILL (interlibrary loan) where I can get all kinds of wonderful books about children's books! A subject for another post there....

I really enjoyed this article by Alison Lurie. It describes recent books based on the folk tale of Rapunzel. I've read one, Golden, by Cameron Dokey. It was an interesting take on Rapunzel but I prefer her retelling of Cinderella, Before Midnight, and of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty Sleep. I have to go find the book by Sara Lewis Holmes, Letters from Rapunzel, since I met Sara last October at the Kidlitosphere conference and I enjoy her blog.

Oh, here's a bit of children's book history in Publisher's Weekly which discusses an event I knew nothing about, the 1974 Macmillan Massacre. This caused the demise of Macmillan's children's book publishing section and led to the start-up of Greenwillow among others, which has published some of my favorite children's books. This article reminded me of a book I read last year by Jacalyn Eddy, Bookwomen: Creating an Empire in Children's Book Publishing, 1919-1939. It's fascinating and I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. Here's the publisher's description.

I better stop now but I hope people like these links.