Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #7: Chosen

Snowbound Books in Marquette, Michigan

When I scan the shelves in a bookshop, sometimes a volume chooses me! Irresistible qualities include eye-catching titles, outstanding cover art, smells that spark memories, or an author’s name that rings a bell.

For about two years, I had the pleasure of living in Marquette, Michigan, situated in the Upper Peninsula and perched on the shores of Lake Superior. A variety of bookstores graced that town, but my absolute favorite was Snowbound Books, within walking distance from my home and pictured above. At that time, the store’s vintage paperbacks huddled together in one section, and I always checked them, on the hunt for Dell Map Backs or other interesting finds.

During one of my frequent visits, a 1950 Pocket Book Mystery entitled Beyond a Reasonable Doubt chose me to be its owner. I had nothing to say about it. The book wasn’t a Map Back, but I had to have it, all the same. The title wasn’t what grabbed me; it was the author’s name…C.W. Grafton. Could they be related? One of my favorite mystery authors is Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Mystery series, beginning with A is for Alibi. Hundreds of mystery authors could have the last name Grafton, I supposed.

In those hazy years before the Internet, facts and details weren’t available instantaneously at our fingertips like they are today. Months passed before I knew the answer to my question. Yes, they were related! C.W. Grafton was Sue Grafton’s father, who practiced as a lawyer and published three mystery novels. My new collection search had been born!

Becky’s Collection

I don’t need much of an excuse to stop at a used bookstore or collectibles shop that might feature books. This new quest was one more reason to pull over when I saw a promising business sign. Decades went by, but I found all three! Which is my favorite? The paperback on the left is important, since it was the first. My purchase of The Rope Began to Hang the Butcher, on the right, was exciting because it was the last and completed this collection. The book shown in the middle, The Rat Began to Gnaw the Rope, is my favorite, for two reasons. First, this copy still proudly wears its jacket, however tattered. Second, the book is dedicated to C.W.’s youngest child, Sue, his other daughter, Ann, and wife, Viv. The family is shown below with the book in a 1944 photo, with Sue on the right.

The Grafton Family in 1944

Over the years, I’ve read interviews in which Sue Grafton explains she was the survivor of a difficult childhood, due to both of her parents suffering from alcoholism. In her semi-autobiographical book, Kinsey and Me (2013), she credits her father with her own passion for the mystery genre, which served her well. Sue Grafton died in 2017, at age 77, just one book shy of the entire alphabet. I’ve read all her alphabet mysteries except the last one, Y is for Yesterday. Guess I don’t want them to end…

Sue Grafton

 

 

February 8 – It’s Children’s Authors’ and Illustrators’ Week — re-blog from Celebrate Picture Books!

Visit Celebrate Picture Books to read about this fun book related to punctuation and writing!     ~Becky

About the Holiday This week was established to raise awareness and promote literacy and the joys and benefits of reading. During the week, children’s authors and illustrators attend special events at schools, bookstores, libraries, and other community centers to share their books and get kids excited about reading. To learn more about how you can […]

via February 8 – It’s Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week —

Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #2

dick and jane

If you learned to read at school in the U.S., sometime from the 1940’s to the 1960’s, there’s a good chance that you learned with the help of Dick and Jane, their little sister, Sally, and the pets, Puff and Spot. By today’s standards of instructional materials for reading, this basal series was quite dry and some might say boring. I loved those books in my first years of school, mainly because…I WAS READING!

Dick and Jane pages

Fast forward many decades, when I trained to become a teacher and landed my first elementary position in Michigan. Although we still used a basal series in fourth grade, that year, it was packed with “real literature” and was supplemented with sets of award-winning chapter books, in addition. By the time I served as a Chapter I reading teacher in North Carolina and later taught kindergarten back in Michigan, sets of charming leveled books (like “Mrs. Wishy-Washy“) had replaced all basals. Reading instruction methods, assessment, and progress tracking had been fine-tuned, as well.

During my years of teaching and even after I retired, collecting vintage children’s readers was a hobby that I enjoyed immensely. Many of those 30+ books were the Dick and Jane variety, while some featured other children, pets, and retold folk literature. I had a few favorites, like the cover that’s pictured above, which I can actually remember from childhood. I had read an article, once, that revealed the Dick and Jane characters originally were a part of other collections before they appeared in their “own series”. These early books were known to be quite the collectors’ items and sometimes brought hundreds of dollars. I stored this information in the back of my mind, but didn’t really remember the details.

One day, as fate would have it, I was looking through shelves of used books in a little shop near St. Louis, Michigan. I picked up an old school reader that was in pretty rough shape. My heart started beating a little faster, since the Elson-Gray name on the scarred cover rang a bell. I leafed through the book, being careful not to tear the somewhat brittle pages any more than they already were…Billy and Nancy, Alice and Ned, DICK AND JANE!!!

pages inside oldest Dick and Jane

I tried not to be too overjoyed, since I couldn’t tell if the price penciled near the front of the book said $2.00 or $200. Yes, I really wanted that 1936 edition, but it wasn’t in great shape, and I’ve never spent that much money on a book in my life. Holding my breath, I walked up to the counter. Luck was with me that day, and I still have the receipt for $2.12, with tax.

When I moved from Michigan to Texas a few years ago, I was forced to dramatically cut back on the books that I would pay to ship, since I had collected many different types, over the years. As an end result, I saved just five of my children’s readers, including three regular Dick and Jane books and this very special precursor of what they would later become. I’ll treasure it forever, along with the memory of that day.

oldest Dick and Jane

I’d love to hear from you in comments if you learned to read with Dick and Jane, or if you would just like to share a memory about learning to read!

 

 

Little Free Libraries: Sad but Inspirational!

A Sad Farewell to a Good Man – this is from Jon at Children’s Book Insider.

(I’d love to read comments about your experience, if you own or have used a Little Free Library!    ~Becky)

image
Todd Bol, 1956-2018

Todd Bol passed away last week, at the age of 62. You may not know the name, but you’ve seen his impact.

If you’ve passed by a home, or a firehouse, or a school that has a Little Free Library out in front, you’ve met Todd. You see, Todd is the man who thought the whole thing up, and then spread this beautiful idea around the globe.

He didn’t do it for money, nor fame. He just wanted more people to read, and more neighbors to get to know one another.

Today, 77,000+ Little Free Libraries later, Todd’s simple idea is putting books into the hands of millions, and creating tighter, more connected neighborhoods in the process.

I had the privilege of interviewing Todd as one of the very first guests on my podcast, DISRUPTOR. He was a lovely, thoughtful and deeply inspiring man.

A friend who heard the interview when it posted told me she wept just listening to such a decent man who viewed the world not with anger or distress, but as a garden for dreams to flower. And books were his water.

When the news of his passing came out, she texted me to tell me how gutted she was to hear about the loss of a man she had only known for the duration of a 30 minute recording. I feel the same way, and so do many, many others in the publishing community.

I invite you to take 30 minutes to meet Todd. His words will forever change your attitude about whether a regular person like *you* can have a massive impact for good.

Be inspired by what he’s done, and help carry his torch of understanding, knowledge and love of reading onward. And please share this interview so others may know this remarkable man.

Rest in Peace, Todd. May a million Little Free Libraries bloom in your memory.

Todd Bol, Little Free Lib

Episode 2 – Todd Bol of Little Free Library

What started as a hobby has become one of the book world’s most exciting adventures. Meet the man behind Free Little Library, and learn how he’s bringing free books to millions of readers!

Listen to podcast here

You can find the Podcast on iTunes here

All the best,

Jon

“The Rules of Magic” : Basic Human Truths

 

One of the reasons that I attend several book clubs is for motivation to try new genres and authors. Although I’ve read some books in the past that would be considered paranormal, I don’t know that I would have chosen to read The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman unless it had been a book club pick. It isn’t AT ALL what I expected.

This book is a prequel to Practical Magic, for which there is also a movie that I’ve never seen. Possibly it was the picture on the movie ad that made me expect The Rules of Magic would be light, autumnal entertainment. Not so; in fact, tears came to my eyes countless times in the reading. Yes, the blurb DOES mention “loss,” but I just didn’t anticipate the feelings this book would evoke.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many paranormal elements to the story, especially as the children…Franny, Jet, and Vincent break more and more of their mother’s rules aimed at protecting them from their history and connections to magic. No walks in the moonlight, no black clothing,  and no cats, just to name a few! Once their mother and father allow them to visit their aunt, however, things really start to devolve. Over time, they eventually break most of the rules they’ve been taught, including warnings against falling in love.

Before I get to those “basic human truths,” or BHTs (not to be confused with that suspect additive, BHT :) I want to mention that Ms. Hoffman’s use of setting…both place and time is excellent. The Northeastern U.S. with its change of seasons affords wonderful atmosphere, and I felt a comfortable familiarity with the times in which the children grow up and try their hands at being adults, the 1960’s and 1970’s. Now, for those nuggets of humanity that even the witches and wizards in this book experience:

winter scene from Pixabay.jpg no attrib. req.

“…forgetting her loss would be worse than the loss itself.”  (p. 231)

“…when you truly love someone and they love you in return, you ruin your lives together.” (p. 254)

“I just do the best I can to face what life brings. That’s the secret, you know. That’s the way you change your fate.” (p. 258)

“Life is a mystery, and it should be so, for the sorrow that accompanies being human and the choices one will have to make are a burden, too heavy for most to know before their time comes.” (p. 266)

“It is simply the way of the world to lose everything you have ever loved. In this, we are like everyone else.” (p. 297)

“Well, we can’t really know our parents, can we?…Even for those with the sight, parents are unfathomable creatures.” (p. 331)

“But rules were never the point. It was finding out who you were.” (p. 365)

“Know that the only remedy for love is to love more.” (p. 366)

***

The book closes with unexpected developments and a new set of rules, one of which I know from my own life: “Always leave out seed for the birds when the first snow falls.” I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to reading others by Alice Hoffman!

Hoffman, Alice. The Rules of Magic: A Novel (The Practical Magic Series Book 1). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

To end this post, I’m including a link to a lovely song, “A Case of You,” by Joni Mitchell taken from the soundtrack of the movie, “Practical Magic,” which I plan to watch, someday very soon. 

If you’ve read this book or others by the author, please share some of your thoughts in the comments!

 

Don Freeman: the Winding Path to Children’s Bookshelves

Come One Come All Don Freeman cropped copty

I recently wrote about my “fantastic find” at a bookstore of a signed copy of Hattie the Backstage Bat by children’s author, Don Freeman, which also sports an original illustration! This made me curious to find out more about the person, himself. I learned that he had written an autobiography as a young man before he and his wife had become published in the world of children’s literature.

The book, Come One, Come All, tells about his somewhat unusual childhood in California and his very early dreams about moving to New York and becoming an artist. It recounts his later struggles in New York, during the Depression, first supporting himself by playing the cornet in dance bands. We follow Mr. Freeman as he finally squirrels away enough savings to take painting classes with the inspirational artist, John Sloan.

Eventually, Don Freeman seems to find his artistic niche behind the scenes in the world of the theater. Some of his articles and illustrations were published in newspapers such as the New York Herald Tribune, the New York Times, and PM, in addition to making appearances in publications such as Stage and Theater Magazine.

Readers interested in the heady atmosphere of New York leading into the early 1950’s will find this to be a very interesting window into that period. The book ends happily with Don and Lydia, a young woman he had met earlier in California, getting married. We say goodbye to them as they are both experiencing their first tastes of professional success. What really grabs me about this well-written and charmingly illustrated book is that they had no inkling at the time how successful and admired they would later become in the realm of children’s literature.

This 244-page book was not a simple one to find! A few copies were available through Amazon or eBay for hundreds of dollars, each. That wasn’t going to happen, as much as I wanted to read it. Hurrah for WorldCat, the inter-library option, and I did find the book listed there!

The copy that I borrowed was through a university’s library and has been rebound, so no longer wears the interesting, illustrated cover shown above. No matter, since this copy DOES have something else that I find to be so intriguing. Tucked into the back is what I imagine to be the original card! This chronicles check-out dates in the 50’s through 60’s and being “mended” in the early 70’s. The borrowers’ names have been blacked-out, as shown, below. I love those old library cards and treasure a few used books in my personal collection that contain these. Digital means of book management are efficient, but sometimes I feel sad that we’ve lost a certain sense of history in the transition.

library card 2 001

Talking with Kids about A Culture of World Peace

Please check out this awesome book “All Are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold — in this reblog from Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal!    ~Becky

International Day of Peace, Sep. 21, 2018 All Are Welcome Alexandra Penfold, Author Suzanne Kaufman, Illustrator Knopf Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Jul. 10, 2018 Pages: 44 Suitable for Ages: 4-8 Themes: Diversity, Inclusiveness, Classroom, School, Friendship Opening: Pencils sharpened in their case. / Bells are ringing, let’s make haste. / School’s beginning, dreams to […]

via All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold — Children’s Books Heal