Baby's Own

I found this fantastic online resource of classic children's books at the Library of Congress more or less by accident.

You can flippity-flip your way through all manner of pretty books here.

And here's one of my very favourites: Walter Crane's Baby's Own Aesop (1887).  So lovely.

I have a miniature edition of this somewhere ... the trouble with miniature things being how easy they are to misplace.  I see that I could pick up a first edition for the quite reasonable price of $400 on ABE.  


Painting With Plasticine and a Little Green Man

What would childhood be without plasticine?  The substance was 
invented in the 1890s by art teacher William Harbutt.

I recently came across this 1958 newsreel clip of his daughter, Miss Olive Harbutt (80), who was a pioneer in the field of painting with plasticine.


Plasticine always makes me think of Barbara Reid (and how happy it would make my mother if I ever wrote a book which she illustrated). In this video, Reid demonstrates how to create artwork with plastiscine.

And finally, here's a video in which my son is having fun with plasticine.


The Grim Reaper

Death.  There, I've said it.  It's like the great big elephant in the room as far as kids books go - books for the under-ten set, particularly.  But it's also something they really, really want to understand which lends the subject a peculiar fascination.  (My son once went as The Grim Reaper from The Seventh Seal for Hallowe'en).

Steph Aulenback over at Crooked House has written about her son, and how fascinated he was with Jan Thornhill's I Found a Dead Bird which seems to be going into a new edition (good news) and is available for pre-order now.    The book (deservedly) won the Norma Fleck Award for Children's Non-fiction.  And I recommend checking out Thornhill's website for all kinds of fascinating background on the process of creating the book.

All of this got me thinking about my friend Elizabeth Liddle (full disclosure:  I have some friends.  Many of them are very talented), and her book Pip and the Edge of Heaven.  The book takes the form of a dialogue between a young boy and his mother.   The adorably-named Pip asks some big questions and also comes up with some big answers.   As far as I can tell, this book seems to be currently out of print, which is a dirty rotten shame and somebody really ought to do something about that.


Library of the Early Mind

There is a trailer for Library of the Early Mind, a documentary exploring children's literature here.  (Thanks to Quillblog for the link)

The title, apparently, comes from Adam Gopnik and an essay containing the following passage:

The Babar books are among those half-dozen picture books that seem to fix not just a character but a whole way of being, even a civilization. An elephant, lost in the city, does not trumpet with rage but rides a department-store elevator up and down, until gently discouraged by the elevator boy. A Haussmann-style city rises in the middle of the barbarian jungle. Once seen, Babar the Frenchified elephant is not forgotten. With Bemelmans’s “Madeline” and Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” the Babar books have become part of the common language of childhood, the library of the early mind.

You can read more here.

And since we are talking about Adam Gopnik, can I just say that his LOL piece is the funniest thing I have ever read.  Funny in that cringe-y way.


Childish Things

Andre O'Hagan talks about Toy Story 3 over at This is London:
As the tear-jerking cliché says, when we are no longer children we put away childish things. Toy Story 3 taps into one of the most ordinary sadnesses of the average life: we are all, in the end, exiles from our childhoods, and lost to the things that used to make us happy. 
I've been reading more about toys and their inventors In Tim Walsh's Timeless Toys.  Did you know that the inventor of the Slinky ran off to Bolivia and joined a cult leaving his wife and six children behind?  And the story behind Raggedy Ann would absolutely break your heart.  Cartoonist Johnny Gruelle invented the ragdoll character for his daughter Marcella who died at the age of thirteen.  The name came from two poems, "The Raggedy Man" and "Little Orphant Annie."

When You Were Free

In light of When You Were Small being out of stock at many online sites just at present, I have decided to offer a copy for the very reasonable price of FREE.

I will give away a (signed if you wish) copy of When You Were Small to someone who leaves a comment on this post: tell me about when you were small, tell me about what books your small person likes, or just tell me any small thing.

I'll let my favourite small person choose a number at random and will announce the winner here.


Absolutely Frabjous

Buy of the week was a circa 1950 black bakelite Viewmaster along with a set of reels for Alice in Wonderland.  Some kind soul has uploaded these images onto flickr and you can find them here.

We had been reading about the history of the Viewmaster (also Raggedy Ann, Slinky, Mr. Potato Head and other friends of our youth) in a book called Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them by Tim Walsh.

And this is how we know that Viewmaster made its debut at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

And now we are on the hunt for one of these:


Sally and I

So apparently they are making The Cat in the Hat into an animated program.  And apparently Martin Short will be voicing the cat.  This is fine with us, since he did a mighty fine job as the Hatter  (he's never called the Mad Hatter in the actual book).

The only thing we don't understand is why the children in the series are to be called Sally and Nick.  Nick?


How I Spent My Summer Vacation ...

Okay, the plan is to make a TARDIS.  Slightly scaled down to fit a ten-year-old Doctor.

This way lies madness, I fear.

 Step 1: