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Friday, June 29, 2007

I'm not superstitious, but....

It always amazes me when I take notice of a book that I've had in inventory since the earth was young and greet it with some version of "what are you still doing here" only to have that book sell within a few days.

It's said that talking to your plants is good for them, but I never heard the same said for talking to books.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

To my mind Harold and the Purple Crayon is one of the classics. The original edition was written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson and published by Harper in 1955. It's still in print and has spawned a series of Harold adventures. I'm always looking for first edition Crockett Johnson books, especially this title.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Symeon Shimin Revisited

I was very lucky to be able to pick up a signed sketch on boards by Shimen. The sketch is of an illustration he did for a book called Sam by Ann Herbert Scott. NY: McGraw-Hill 1967. I've had to show some people the book to convince them that this is the right way was up for this sketch. Doesn't anyone else but me remember practicing standing on their head with the aid of a kitchen chair?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Words 'n Pictures


A definition from

"division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups"

An illustrated example:

Cover by Margot Austin, October 1956 Jack and Jill Magazine

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Words 'n Pictures


a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.

a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

( dates the origin of this word 1976, I did not realize it predated the internet...)

Illustrated example-Norman Rockwell's "Gossip"

Symeon Shimin- Illustrator

I became a fan of Symeon Shimin's illustrations the first time I saw the lovely little parable he illustrated for Madeliene L'Engle called Dance in the Desert. I've always had a special fondness for night time illustrations done well, and the illustrations for this book were done very well indeed.

A very short bio of Shimin from the Children's Literature Resource page of the Kerlan Collection:

Symeon Shimin was born November 1, 1902, in Astrakhan, Russia, and came to the United States in 1912. Primarily self-taught as a artist, he studied for a short time at Cooper Union and traveled to France and Spain in the 1920s and early 30s to study the old masters and contemporary European artists. He began his long career as a painter and illustrator in the 1920s, and in 1950 illustrated his first children's book, How Big It IS, revised edition, written by Herman and Nina Schneider. Throughout his long career, he illustrated books for many different children's and young adult authors, including Margaret Wise Brown, Joseph Krumgold, Virginia Hamiltor, Byrd Baylor, Elizabeth Coatsworth, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Madeleine L'Engle. He illustrated both fiction and non-fiction, including many books on animals, and preferred to work from live models to give his works realism and authenticity. Shimin died in 1984.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

(Another) One that Got Away

Most dealers (myself included) love to talk about the rare, scarce and truly wonderful titles that we found on scouting trips; attributing the find to luck, fate, karma, or just our overall brilliance and knowledge as a bookseller. Those same dealers (myself included!) are a lot more reluctant to talk about those cosmic moments when fate, luck or karma was virtually screaming in our ears but was ignored in what can only be attributed to a massive brain fart.

My most spectacular moment of mental flatulence occurred on the third day of a 4 day book scouting trip in the mid-west. I found myself standing in the upper floor of an antiques mall with an absolutely brilliant copy of 1906 novel in my hands. The cloth was in beautiful condition, the pictorial paste down, showing a Gibsonesque bust of a young woman was spotless. In short the book was in absolutely amazing condition, especially considering that it was almost 100 years old.

I still remember standing there with book in hand and convincing myself that the $12 asking price was too high, reminding myself that I specialized in children's books, ignoring that little voice that told me that I really should buy it, and feeling as smug as a dieter turning down the last brownie when I put the book back on the shelf.

Flash forward to about 6 months later, I'm thumbing through a copy of the PBA Rare Books auction catalog and lo and behold there is the picture of my Gibson Girl. Condition of the book in the catalog was barely Very Good, auction estimate $3,000. The book? Annabel by Suzanne Metcalf. Reilly & Britton, 1906. And oh yeah, Suzanne Metcalf was a pseudonym of L. Frank Baum.

(Rule #1 Trust your instincts, the worse that can happen is you die with a lot of books!

Rule #2 Learn your pseudonyms....especially those of the mainstays of early 20th century children's literature.

Rule #3 Keep a log of your book search locations....after about the 6th place it's easy to forget what you saw and where you saw it....)

even as x-libris

Another book that is always worth scouting for, dust jacket is important on this one:

Ruchlis, Hyman & Eidinoff, Maxwell. Atomics For Millions. N.Y.: Whittlesey House/McGraw-Hill, 1947. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

This is the first book Sendak illustrated.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lewis E. Theiss Biblio Checklist

Lewis E. Theiss wrote primarily aviation adventure stories for boys. The following is a biblio checklist of the books he wrote. Information is based on the Library of Congress Card Catalog and my own inventory, both books that I've had in the past and the few I currently have in stock.

In Camp at Fort Brady. Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill. Chicago: W.A. Wilde Co, 1914. 293pgs, ill. ; 20 cm.

His Big Brother; a story of the struggles and triumphs of a little "son of liberty." Lewis & Mary Theiss. Boston: W.A. Wilde, [1915] 309 p. col. front. 20 cm.

The Wireless Patrol at Camp Brady. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1917] 306pgs col frontis, illus. 20cm.

A Champion of the Foothills. Illustrated by John Newton Howitt. Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Co, 1918. vii, 345pgs [1] p. incl. frontis, plates. 20cm.

The Secret Wireless. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1918] 310pgs. col fronits, plates 20cm.

The Hidden Aerial: the Spy Line on the Mountain. Illustrated By Frank T. Merrill. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co, 1919. 332pgs.

The Young Wireless Operator--Afloat. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1920] 319pgs. frontis 20cm.

The Young Wireless Operator--As a Fire Patrol. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co. [1921] 352pgs frontis 20cm.

The Young Wireless Operator--With the Oyster Fleet; how Alec Cunningham won his way to the top in the oyster business. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1922] 328pgs frontis 20cm.

The Young Wireless Operator: with the U.S. Secret Service: Winning his Way in the Secret Service. Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill. Chicago: W. A. Wilde Co., [1923]. 310pgs.

The Wireless Operator-with the U. S. Coast guard. Boston: Chicago, W. A. Wilde Co [c1924] 313 pgs. front., pl. 20 cm.

The Flume in the Mountains; the Story of the Building of a Great Power Plant. Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill. Boston: W.A. Wilde, [1925] 316pgs col frontis, 20cm.

Piloting the U.S. Air Mail; flying for Uncle Sam. Illustrated by Harold Cue. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1927] 333pgs, frontis, 20cm.

Keepers of the Sea: the Story of the United States Lighthouse Service. Boston: W.A. Wilde, 1927, 320pgs; 19cm.

The Search For The Lost Mail Plane. Illustrated by Harold Cue. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co 1928.

Trailing the Air Mail Bandit. Illustrated by Harold Cue. Boston: W.A.Wilde Co [1929] 315pgs frontis, 19.5 cm.

The Pursuit of the Flying Smugglers. Cover and frontis by Harold Cue. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1931] 320 pgs, frontis, 20 cm.

Wings of the Coast Guard; aloft with the Flying Service of Uncle Sam’s Life Savers. Boston: W.A. Wilde, [1932] 314pgs frontis, 20 cm.

Flying the U.S. Mail to South America; how Pan American Airships Carry On in Sun and Storm Above the Rolling Caribbean. Jacket and frontis by Harold Cue. Boston:W.A. Wilde Co [1933] 303pgs, frontis 20cm.

The Flying Explorer: How a Mail Plane Penetrated the Basin of the Amazon. Illustrated by Albert M. Burkard. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co 1935. (picture of this book)

Guardians of the Sea. NY: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1936. vii, 9-73 p. incl. front., illus. 20 cm.

A Journey through Pennsylvania Farmlands. Illustrated by Alden Turner. Pennsylvania Book Service, 1936. 167pgs

From Coast to Coast with the U.S. Air Mail. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co. [1936]. 4 pgs plates, 310pgs frontis, 21cm.

Flood Mappers Aloft: How Ginger Hale and the Scouts of the Bald Eagle Patrol Surveyed the Watershed of the Susquehanna. Boston: W.A. Wilde, Boston, Co [c1937] 5 p. l., 5-311 p. front., plates. 21 cm.

A Journey Through Pennsylvania Farmlands Volume II. Illustrated by Alden Turner. Pa: The Pennsylvania Book Service, 1938.

Wings over the Pacific. Boston: W.A. Wilde [1938]. 304pgs frontis, plates 21 cm.

Wings over the Andes. Jacket and frontis by Harold Cue. Boston: W.A. Wilde [1939] 327 pgs, frontis, plates, 21cm.

On board a U. S. submarine. Boston: W. A. Wilde company [c1940] x, 308 p. front. 21 cm.

Flying with the C.A.A.; how two of Uncle Sam’s Youngest Airmen Saved a Great Defense Plant From Sabotage. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1941] 303pgs frontis, plates 21 cm.

Flying for Uncle Sam; A story of Civilian Pilot Training. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1942] 314pgs, frontis, plates, 21 cm.

Tommy Visits An Aircraft Factory. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1943] 146pgs, frontis, plates, 20cm.

Flying With the Coastal Patrol. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co [1943] 315pgs, frontis, plates, diagrams, 21cm.

Overseas With the Air Transport Command. Boston: W. A. Wilde [1944] 341pgs, frontis, plates, 21cm.

Sky Road to Adventure. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co, 1945. 303pgs, illustrated, 21cm.

Flying With the Air-sea Rescue Service. Bost0n: W.A. Wilde Co [1946] 281pgs, illus. 21 cm.

Centinennial History of Bucknell University, 1946-1946. Williamsport, Pa, Grit Publishing Co 1946] 484pgs frontis, plates, portraits, 24 cm.

With Young Bruce on the Frontier: A Story of General Sullivan’s Expedition. W.A. Wilde Co., Boston, 1952.

Lives of Danger and Daring. Boston: W.A. Wilde Co., c1955. 278 p. : ill., photos., plates ; 21 cm.

(This may not be a complete list of the author's books, 2 of the titles which I happened to have in stock did not appear in the Library of Congress Card Catalog. )

condition Report

Weather Conditions: 71 degrees, clear and so late it's almost early
Bookseller Condition: sleepy

All orders are pulled, processed, and ready for shipping in tomorrow's mail run. Except, in a booksellers version of the cobbler's children have no shoes, the two books I've promised to send to my sister.....

(Tomorrow sis, I PROMISE!)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

even as x-libris

Always keep a look out for any in the Lucky Star science fiction series, (Lucky Star and the Pirates of the Asteroids, Lucky Star and the Oceans of Venus etc). The books, published by Doubleday, were written under the pseudonym of Paul French, in actuality were penned by Isaac Asimov. The whole series is collectible even when they are hard cover library discard copies. (Best if they still have the dustjackets though.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Word For the Day


  1. uttered clearly in distinct syllables.
  2. capable of speech; not speechless.
  3. using language easily and fluently; having facility with words: an articulate speaker.
  4. expressed, formulated, or presented with clarity and effectiveness: an articulate thought.

or in short....Taylor Mali

Book Scouting Children's Books-mini tip

Another type of children's book that I will pick up for general stock are books with children's names in the title. I have sold books titled; "Mary, The Mouse Champion", "David's First Boat", "Ellen's Blue Jay", "Roger and the Fishes" and I just finished wrapping a book called "Jonathan's Sparrow" for shipment in tomorrow's mail run.

I still have a copy of Jennifer-the-Jerk though....

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Reference Books- Picture Books

Barbara Bader's AMERICAN PICTURE BOOKS FROM NOAH'S ARK TO THE BEAST WITHIN is a must have for any dealer or collector who wants to become more knowledgeable about children's picture books. Published in 1976 and currently out of print, this book is an illustrated history of the development of picture books in the United States.

Favorite themes- Juvenile Fairy Tales Retold

Fairy Tales, whether they are familiar or obscure, have always been a staple of children's picture books, but more rarely are addressed by writers of children's juvenile or young adult titles. Three of my favorite juvenile "rewrites" all collectible as fine first editions and worth reading and rereading in any edition are:

Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted. (A Cinderella variation which finally has a logical explanation for why Cinderella was such a wimp. DO NOT watch the movie, read the book!)*

Robin McKinley, Robin. Beauty. (Absolutely the best retelling of this fairy tale, and pretty darn impressive for an author's first book.)

Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Gard. (Based on Tam Lin, a folksong I was only vaguely aware of before reading the book, even though I've always love stories of fairy folk under the hill.)

Ella Enchanted and Perilous Gard were both Newbery Honor titles and all three books were written in first person, a writing style I'm not usually fond of but one that really works for these stories.

(*as always I'm at my most opinionated when I'm in italics.)

Taylor's Antique Mall

I found this lonely little corner in Taylor's Antique Mall in Old Ellicott City that was crying out for some books, so I put some there!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

even as x-libris

Another title that I'd pick up even as a library discard:

Have Space Suit Will Travel by Robert Heinlein. Published by Scribners in 1961.

(For that matter, I'd pick up any any early hard cover Heinlein juvenile, this one just is a personal favorite.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Children's Book Awards

As a bookseller it is important to become familiar with the winners of the various children's book awards; today's winner can be tomorrow's most looked for book, especially in the case of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards winners.

Tracking the award winning authors and illustrators also helps keep you aware of which new authors and illustrators may have a collectible value in the future. This can be especially true if an author's first book wins recognition. An immediate example that comes to mind: Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman was the author's first book and was a Newbery Honor book in 1995, she then won the Newbery Award in 1996 for her second book, The Midwife's Apprentice.

Some of the children's book awards that I have found handy to track:
(Although I also try to keep track of the British, Canadian and Australian award winners the flat truth is no matter how wide the internet or how global the market, books, especially children's books, are still regional, or as the old saying goes they "follow the flag".)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Boston Globe- Horn Book Awards

The Boston Globe Horn Book Awards were announced today. Although I have read The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing which won for Fiction-Poetry, the other picks are totally new to me.

Oh well, too much time spent in the out-of-print end of the business, not enough time reading reviews and scouting the new books.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Oh piffle!

I love words... long words, short words, stuffy and pretentious or pithy and scurrilous. Turns of phrases, metaphors, idioms, homilies and cliches. Regionalisms, colloquialisms, alliterations, figures of speech....

So why in the flippin hell does it take me at least three hours and 12 drafts to write a couple of short and (hopefully) grammatical paragraphs?

Newbery and Caldecott Award Prices

The high priced speculation in Newbery and Caldecott Award books is a relatively new feature of the in print collectibles market. While some of the price increases can be attributed the the high number of dedicated and active Newbery and Caldecott collectors, a lot of the increase results from book publishers being less and less willing to print large runs of juvenile hardbacks. Also a factor is that if a book is successful and sells well, there is a very good chance that it will be in a later printing by the time the awards are announced. In the last decade or so all these factors has driven the prices of the award books up accordingly.

The first book I recall selling for around two hundred dollars within a week of the award being announced was The Giver (Newbery 1994). Some of the other titles that were difficult for me to find in collectible condition: Smoky Night* (Caldecott, 1995), Out of the Dust (Newbery, 1998), Holes (Newbery, 1999), Snowflake Bentley* (Caldecott, 1999), A Single Shard (Newbery, 2002 ), Kira-Kira (Newbery, 2005), and last year's The Higher Power of Lucky (Newbery, 2006).

*Publishers tend to have larger print runs of picture books than juveniles so it takes a real surprise by the Caldecott Award comittee to result in a scarce Caldecott winner.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

A Dinosaur Laments.....

I spent this afternoon reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It is well over 500 pages and is a hybrid of a graphic novel, picture book and novel. (can 3 things be a hybrid?) The black and white illustrations are wonderfully done and they occur in blocks that further the development of the story. It is a stunning book with a great storyline and I think it will be considered for both the Newbery and Caldecott award.

I enjoy books that don't fit into a single genre but when I started to read Hugo Cabret I found myself skipping the pictures to read the text and then going back and studying the pictures and ignoring the text. Tomorrow I will sit down and read it in sequence, but I'm afraid I will always favor the pictures my imagination draws from the words over any illustrations provided in the book. I wonder if there is a age related tendency to favor written words vs. visual images?

Years ago, (pre-internet) I was doing a book search for a lady in her 50's. She was looking for a specific edition of HEIDI which was read to her as a child. She remembered the book and it's illustrations vividly but no matter how hard I searched I could not find the version she recalled. A few months later she was visiting her cousin and found the actual book that her mother had read to her when she was 6 years old. She recognized the cover immediately but when she opened it up to revisit the illustrations she was stunned to find that the book was not illustrated at all. All the pictures she remembered so vividly had been provided by her own imagination.

She was of the generation raised prior to TV, I was raised with television in a limited fashion, an old black and white set and the choice of 3 network channels, one fuzzy because the signal had trouble clearing the mountains. And while I can appreciate the novelty and visual impact of a book like Hugo Cabret, and I sincerely hope it gets the recognition it deserves both for the art and the text, I'm afraid I will remain a reactionary old dinosaur muttering "the word, the word's the thing...."

One That Got Away....

About 10 years ago I was processing a collection of mostly children's books when I came across an adult title in the box. The book was titled A GRIEF OBSERVED by N.W. Clerk, publisher was Seabury Press and the book was not only in fine condition, it looked to be completely unread.

I sat at the computer and did a quick read of a couple of chapters of the book, which appeared to be by a religious gentleman discussing the loss of his wife. I processed the book, put a price of about $20 on, based on it's condition alone and was very surprised when it sold immediately. Of course the second person who called (not emailed) to order the book was very sad that it sold and happy to point out to me that the "religious" gentleman's real name was C.S. Lewis.....

(It's not the gross underpricing of the book that bothers me as much as the fact that I read some of it and did not recognize the writing style. For crying out loud, I specialize in children's books!)

Friday, June 1, 2007


didacticism- definition paraphrased from
1. intended for instruction; instructive
2. inclined to teach or lecture others too much: a boring, didactic speaker (or story).
3. teaching or intending to teach a moral lesson.
It's the third definition that causes the most diatribes regarding children's books, usually couched in some version of "What is the author trying to teach our children?"

The second one which causes said child to drop the book like the proverbial hot potato.

And the first that causes most authors to say "Lesson? What lesson! Where?"

More Dream Collection- Fantasy & Science Fiction

I can't believe I forgot to list Louis Sachar's HOLES on my original dream collection list or for that matter HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE.