Friday, October 18, 2013

My Daddy Don't Go to Work, by Madeena Spray Nolan (1978)

This one jumped out at me right away, not from some abandoned library here in Detroit but from the shelf of a tiny used bookstore in tiny Northport, Michigan. This book is clearly intended for children dealing with a parent's unemployment, but I can't help out but enjoy and appreciate its positive portrayal of fatherhood and the difficulty of dealing with the challenges to masculinity that are a part of a nontraditional situation (both fairly unusual topics for a book written more than thirty-five years ago).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Terrifying Nixon-Era Children's Books: The House Biter by William D. Sheldon (ill. Dan Dickas) (1966)

Published in 1966, just as Johnson's Great Society was really getting started, The House Biter seems to have been inspired by the (probably understandable) fear children might have of the giant construction equipment then dotting the urban landscape, particularly those huge excavators with giant grapples for tearing down historic architecture so that cheap, modern, and totally disposable buildings could be thrown up in its wake. Like Bam Zam Boom, this book is a window into that strange, pre-preservation era when it just made sense to everyone that old stuff should just get knocked down. Today it seems somewhat strange to see that mentality articulated so bluntly in a book meant for children.

In this book, the machine calls itself "the house biter," because that's not nearly as scary as "hydraulic excavator," right?

He bites houses of any size, really. Including houses the size of your house. . .

See, nowhere is safe. Not even school.

That's all he does, really.

I like the way that woman is staring dreamily at the house biter. She can't wait for that historic home next door to be demolished!

I'll bet the new school is going to be really lovely, too, with none of that annoying old stonework or that leaky, 60-year-old roof. . .

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pitschi (the kitten who always wanted to be something else. A sad story, but one which ends well) by Hans Fischer (1953)

Like the heroes and heroines of so many stories, the hero of this one is unsatisfied with his station in life and dreams of something greater. Pitschi is the smallest kitten in his litter. He doesn't want to play with his parents Mauli and Ruli. He doesn't want to goof around with his brothers and sisters Grigri, Groggi, Patschi, and Mitzi. Pitschi wants something bigger, something more. It worries the good dog Bello. By the end of the first page, you know this book is going to be good. 

I've noticed that a few of the books I've featured here become quite expensive after I share them and the few cheap copies available on Amazon or eBay are purchased. I started this blog to share some of the real treasures we've found in our piles and piles of discarded library picture books, hoping to convince some parents out there to introduce these stories to new children and, in a way, save them from obscurity. Unlike most of those books, Pitschi is a fairly well-known story book in Europe and it has even been in print in the United States as recently as 2010 (and a few of those newer printings are still available on Amazon). But it's still a rarer book than it should be. I'm going to share some pictures from our first edition and hopefully convince a few folks out there to seek out this wonderful story book.

Mr. Fischer's colorful lithographs illustrate the story of Pitschi and his adventures discovering Old Lisette's farm. Fischer draws the runt Pitschi as a skittish little thing for the first few pages.  

But soon he'd emboldened as he ventures out to get a look at all the other animals and decide which kind he'd rather be. First it's the rooster:

Then it's the goat:

(though Pitschi decides he'd rather not be milked):

Then he gets soaked pretending to be a duck, and the rabbits help him:

Pitschi spends the night in the rabbit hutch, sees some terrifying nocturnal hunters, and nearly freezes to death. He spends the rest of the book recovering from the ordeal:

The rest of the book is all about the lovely illustrations of the world inside Old Lisette's house and the party all the animals throw for Pitschi when he starts feeling better:

That dog rules.