57th Street Books' Angela Sherrill picks 3 little old ladies.

I'm happy to welcome a new set of picks from 57th Street Books' children's buyer and bookseller (and my3books' contributing editor) Angela Sherrill.


Three Little Old Ladies 

Over the years, I've been asked for books on many subjects.  One memorable topic I researched and gathered books for was for a local organization who specialized in working with children whose parents, for whatever reason, were not their primary caregiver. Instead, these children were cared for by elderly grandparents.  The organization was in need of books that:

  1. Represented the elderly in a positive light
  2. Showed healthy relationships between young people and the elderly and
  3. Books in which children with this family structure could find comfortable and understanding characters. 

A year or so after working on this project, a display idea started to form:  I should do a display featuring some of these wonderful elderly characters that appear in children's literature. Last week, I watched the Disney/Pixar movie UP, in which the main characters are aged, have a full back story, and relate humorously with the younger characters.  After thoroughly enjoying the movie, I decided now was, indeed, the time to tell you about my 3 favorite “little old lady” picture books. Why wait?  They aren't getting any younger, and in publishing, their fate may be the often unforgiving status: Out of Print.

This Little Old Lady Eats Socks 

Martha Moth Makes Socks
written & illustrated by Cambria Evans
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780618557455 | $16 | Apr 2006

One could argue that Martha, may in fact, not be a little old lady.  The first objection would be the word little.  Martha is a moth of some size. Second, she has neither gray/white hair or is described as a particular age. But c'mon! Her friends are named Flora and Flit. She appears to live alone. She wears an oversized coat, and carries a purse AND umbrella with her when she goes out.  If you're not convinced, read it for yourself.  I recommend you do so, anyway, because this is a truly delightful picture book.

Martha is a nice lady moth who has a bit of a hunger. Because she is a moth, she finds fabrics and dust most palatable.  When she discovers she is out of both (fabric and dust), she heads to the store to pick up more before her birthday guests arrive. Martha ends up sampling a bit more of these delicious treats while preparing dinner (what home cook can't relate to that?) and ends up with little more than a few itchy socks to serve her friends.  But, don't worry. All is well that ends well.

After reading this book I wanted to be or befriend Martha and her buggy pals.  This book makes a great gift for home cooks and foodies, too.  Share it with friends young and old and delight in Evans' illustrations of Martha Moth and her birthday misadventure.


This Little Old Lady Takes Baths 

Estelle Takes a Bath
written by Jill Esbaum
illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma
Henry Holt | 9780805077413 | $16.95 | Oct 2006 

Right away, I fell in love with Estelle and her cozy little home.  She sips green tea, does crossword puzzles, has rhinestone cat-eye glasses, striped galoshes, a shower cap, candle sconces, and froggy wall paper.  If you don't fall for the illustrations at first sight, you will when you read the story.

One snow-storming day, Estelle is unwittingly followed back inside her house by a mouse. She makes tea and hops into a nice warm bath.  The mouse, drawn by the scent of her peppermint bubbles, climbs the tub in an unintentionally frightful greeting.  Estelle screams and gallivants about trying to catch the mouse—all in the buff! When the mouse falls into the bath and Estelle realizes he can't swim, her sympathy swells and the unwanted guest ends up sharing her bubbles.

The text has a bouncing rhyme that engages children during story times and multiple retellings.  The illustrations are perfect. And, while I've received the rare complaint or two about Estelle's naked bum, I have to say the sight of this particular little old lady's heiney warms my heart.


This Little Old Lady Gets a Pet

written & Illustrated by Linas Alsenas
Scholastic Books | 9780439779807 | $16.99 | Aug 2007 

Everything about Alsenas' little old lady book is wonderful.  Just to be fair, I'm a sucker for colored pencil on white background.  Something about the contrast just says "classic picture book" to me.  I find myself drawn to the fun, simple drawings of Felicia Bond's mice, Olivier Dunrea's geese, and Alsenas' simple, clean pictures enhance the story with humor and joy. We share this fun book with pet owners of all ages.

Mildred is most definitely a little old lady.  Her gray hair is pulled away from her face and her clothing and handbags are blasts from the past. What makes this little old lady special, and the story such a funny one, is her failing eyesight.  Mildred meets what she assumes is a lost puppy in the park, but what the images tell us is a small elephant.  Mildred names the puppy Peanut, and they get along well.  When Mildred is confronted by Peanut's true home and owner, she returns him despite her own heartbreak and loneliness.  

There's lots of laughs in this book and this little old lady with wonderful intentions and terrible vision will win you over in the first few pages.  The plus for dog owners is a full spread of humans who look strikingly and hilariously like their four-legged friends.  Don't miss it. It's a hoot!

The Final Word: 

Share one of these picture books where the main character is a little old lady and bring joy to all ages.


Angela K Sherrill
57th Street Books, Chicago


my3books' First Impressions for Spring 2010: books for kids from Consortium publishers

Recap: Here's the introduction to the First Impressions series of posts.

Consortium Book Sales & Distribution:  As always, I left this two-day long sales meeting completely overwhelmed with options.  Among the hundreds of new titles that will be coming out from the more than 100 indie publishers that are distributed by Consortium are a couple dozen that I'm very very excited about.

On the Children's and Young Adult side of the catalog (literally - it flips over!), a new publisher joined Consortium for Spring 2010, Enchanted Lion Books.  Two of their picture books are featured below, alongside a graphic novel collection of Trickster tales from Fulcrum Publishing.

The Chicken Thief
by Beatrice Rodriguez
Enchanted Lion Books (Consortium) | 9781592700929 | $14.95 | Apr 2010

Perhaps the sweetest & funniest picture book I've seen in a long time, it's the wordless epic of a fox who snatches a hen from the yard where she lives and runs off with her.  Bear, rabbit and rooster make chase, but after a surprising number of twists in the tale, it's a happy ending for all involved.


The Wild Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster
by Astrid Desbordes
illustrated by Pauline Martin
Enchanted Lion Books (Consortium) | 9781592700936 | $17.95 | May 2010

With understated humor and a very clear line indeed, young readers encounter a graphic novel-format picture book about a Hamster whose interactions with the other animals who are his friends gently illuminate the meaning of life, the life of the mind, and the nature of friendship.  Naturally, it's translated from the French.


Trickster: Native American Tales
edited by Matt Dembicki
Fulcrum Publishing (Consortium) | 9781555917241 | $22.95 | June 2010

More than 20 trickster tales, each retold and illustrated by different Native American storytellers working with selected illustrators.  Here's a sample page from one of the tales, Coyote And The Pebbles.


Consortium on Facebook & on Twitter.  Their Spring catalog can be downloaded in two parts here: Adult & Kids.

Before the sleds and shovels come out: 3 books about snow for kids

Here at the very beginning of December, before we Snow Belt dwellers come to loathe the very sight of a fresh snowfall, let's pause to appreciate the magical qualities of the white stuff.  Yes, it's three books for kids about snow.

Two of them were recently featured in the New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2009 (A Penguin Story and The Snow Day).  Though they were both published earlier this year, the NYT reviews were the first I'd seen of them, somehow.  I tracked down copies of both and I was completely charmed.  The third is a book I spent all summer talking about with my booksellers - it takes a close look at the science behind snow, with real photographs of super-magnified snow crystals.

A Penguin Story
by Antoinette Portis
HarperCollins | 9780061456886 | $17.99 | December 2008

For a couple of years now, whenever I begin to talk to one of my buyers about a new book that touches on childhood creativity, or with kids creating something new from the stuff around them, my savvy buyers give me a little shake of the head and say something like "Nope. We've got Not A Box."  After this happened a few times, I asked my buyer to show me this magical ur-book of youthful creativity.  And of course, that's exactly what Not A Box turned out to be.  I had nothing to compete with Not A Box.

And now, the Evil Genius author and illustrator who has frustrated so many of my book presentations is back with another delightfully charming story, sure to squelch any future sales I might otherwise make with books about penguins.

In A Penguin Story, Edna the penguin has finally grown weary of the somewhat limited palette of colors in her antarctic world: white snow, blue sky and water, black sky at night, and the black and white of her fellow penguins.  She bravely leaves her colony in search of some other colors that believes must be out there.

When she stumbles upon a scientific expedition, she soon sees that there are more colors than her usual blue, white and black - she sees sweeping tents, cold weather gear, and especially a mitten, all made of bright orange.

The hilarity of a whole colony of these charming little penguins "helping" the human scientists pack up to go home brings the story to sweet closure with the gift of a glove.


The Snow Day
by Komako Sakai
Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic | 9780545013215 | $16.99 | January 2009

There's an entirely different snow story working here - the quiet warmth of a wintry day spent close to home, the unlooked-for pleasures of a day with no school and no work, mother bunny and child watching a storm blow through, waiting for dad to come home safely from a trip.

From the first quiet panels as the small bunny wakes up to discover a darkly snowy day beginning, this is the best kind of story to share with young readers on the sofa watching their own snow day underway.

Komako Sakai's other book published in the US is Emily's Balloon.  You can find out about more books published by Arthur A. Levine by following them on Twitter.


The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder
by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson, Ph.D.
Chronicle Books | 9780811868662 | 16.99 | October 2009

After two imagined journeys through snowy tales, some readers may be wondering what it is that makes snowflakes form?  What is the lifecycle of snow?  Perhaps those readers would be surprised to learn that some snow crystals are not flaky at all, but can be cylinders. What is the truth behind the story that each snowflake is unique?

With drawings, actual photographs of highly magnified snowflakes, and tips on how to catch and observe your own snow crystals, The Story of Snow would make another great companion book for a snow day at home!

The Story of Snow

Chronicle Books' page for the book offers a downloadable teachers' guide.  The microsite and blog for The Story of Snow can be found at StoryOfSnow.com.  Mark Cassino has a separate blog for his photography here.

An Eye on the Looking-glass: The Enduring Appeal of Lewis Carroll and Alice

Lewis Carroll's best-known and best-loved creation, Alice, is about to get a facelift.  Any fan of Tim Burton can tell you that his next major project is a typically Burton-ian approach to the children's classic. In his version, a 17-year-old Alice returns to Wonderland for the first time in 10 years and meets up again with all her old acquaintances. (In theatres on March 5, 2010, teaser trailer is here.)


Of course, the launch of a new movie adaptation is always a good reason to put together a display of the latest editions of Alice in Wonderland, and its related books.  Most stores can easily do an Alice display without breaking a sweat - there are always new editions coming out and evergreen classics that are usually in stock.

Here are three suggested books to add to the display that could take it through the looking-glass!

Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
illustrated by Rodney Matthews
Templar Books (Candlewick Press) | 9780763645687 | $24.99 | Sept 2009

A CAUCUS RACE - 1994 (Rodney MatthewsThe relatively new-to-the-US Templar Books imprint at Candlewick Press is bringing out this lavishly illustrated edition, complete with bejeweled slipcase.  The illustrator is the legendary UK fantasy and SF artist Rodney Matthews (he's also a jazz and rock musician, album cover artist, and video game designer).  He may be best known for his illustrations for Michael Moorcock's Elric books.

AT THE MARCH HARE'S TABLE - 1990 (Rodney Matthews)Given his credentials as a painter of the fantastic, you can imagine just how over-the-top his Alice paintings would be.  Luckily, you don't need to imagine.  His web site hosts a gallery of past works and images from works in progress.  Check out these two illustrations from Alice in Wonderland, previously published in a series of calendars featuring his fantastic art and now repurposed as part of the suite of illustrations for the new book.


On to two books that look at the creator of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (or as he was known to his friends and colleagues at Christ Church college at the University of Oxford, Charles Dodgson) and the young girl who was his muse and friend, Alice Liddell.

Lewis Carroll
by Colin Ford
Thames & Hudson (Norton) | 9780500410981 | $15.95 | Sept 2009

Alice I Have Been
by Melanie Benjamin
Delacorte Press | 9780385344135 | $25 | Jan 2010

I've previously featured Lewis Carroll, edited by Colin Ford, in the "my3books x 3" post about three terrific series, which included the Photofile series from Thames & Hudson.  The newly released volume in that series is on the photography of Lewis Carroll.  In addition to being a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church college, Carroll was a well-known local photographer, just years after the popularization of photography as a hobby. 

It was through his photography that Dodgson met Alice Liddell and the rest of her family. He famously befriended the young girls, Alice and her two sisters, and escorted them on many outings in the area around Oxford.  On one of those occasions, Dodgson invented the tale that would become Alice in Wonderland.

Alice Liddell as a beggar-maid. (photo by Lewis Carroll)The Photofile book of Dodgson/Carroll's photography features 59 of his pictures, most of them featuring the young girls that were his constant sources of inspiration and to some historians and observers, a possible source of some scandal.

Aside from Dodgson's perhaps questionable focus on young girls, his photography is timeless, and because of the fame of the man as an author, is particularly well-documented. 

Melanie Benjamin's marvelous upcoming novel, Alice I Have Been, covers the same ground from the perspective of Alice Liddell herself, drawing on the historical record and much research, but expands the story into the realm of the possible. 

Alice I Have Been opens in 1932 as an aged Alice Liddell Hargreaves looks back on her life: from the earliest years as the middle daughter of the Dean of Christ Church college, her friendship with Dodgson and the creation of Alice in Wonderland, to her (speculated upon) romance with Prince Leopold, the hemophiliac youngest son of Queen Victoria, and finally to her marriage in later years to Reginald Hargreaves, and the life they had together with their three sons.  

Benjamin has taken the well-worn cloth of the life of Alice Liddell and given the fabric new life with a richly imagined tale.  The crowded streets and gardens of Oxford are filled with vibrant characterizations of Alice and her family, celebrities of the day, and brings a fresh understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the life of one particular girl.


Enlightenment in the Copyright Page, Or, Three Author/Illustrator Treats From Kids Can Press, Fall 2009

Contributing Editor Angela Sherrill (of incredible Chicago bookstore 57th Street Books) returns with a look at three charming books in the Fall 2009 catalog from Kids Can Press.  Angela's last post on my3books was a look at the Pink Cheeks of David Roberts.

I love the details in a copyright page.  Even when I have no idea what some of them mean.  If you really want the details and history of copyrights, rest assured that the U.S. Copyright Office has a horridly boring website where you can fall asleep while browsing.

What initially caught my attention on the copyright pages of these three Kids Can books were the illustration methods.  I'll spare you the wonder of the font names and let you explore those on your own time.  Here, we're looking at three examples of author/illustrators that do both and do it well.  They are all on the Fall 2009 list from Kids Can Press and available now.


Have I Got A Book For You!
by Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press | 9781554532896 | $16.95 | Aug 2009

From the copyright page: “The artwork in the book was rendered in charcoal pencil and assembled digitally.”

If you don’t love Melanie Watt already, you have missed out on years of enjoyment, so don’t wait another day to join in the fun.  Booksellers, librarians and families all over the continent have been laughing at and with Scaredy Squirrel.  His fearful antics and preparedness tactics are endlessly funny. 

Melanie’s newest character is no Scaredy Squirrel, but the book is a loony treat all its own.  Meet Mr. Al Foxword as he tries to sell you a book. This book, in fact.  Al's suits and desperate smile leave much to be desired.  If nothing else, Al Foxword is enthusiastic. You should be, too, when you read this book. I insist you give this one the proper treatment by reading it aloud in your best enthusiastic-infomercial or used-car-salesmen voice. Whatever you do, don’t skip to the end.  Read it through properly and enjoy this flim-flam fox. He's got a few tricks up his polyester sleeves.  

By the way, Melanie knows this is one ridiculously silly book.  Check that copyright page again for her dedication.


Big Bear Hug
by Nicholas Oldland
Kids Can Press | 9781554534647 | $16.95 | Sept 2009

From the copyright page: “The artwork in this book was rendered in Photoshop.”

The illustrations make this book look like a cartoon, but the message is bit more serious than your typical bear-centric cartoon. First of all, this bear is a real sweetheart.  He hugs (read loves) everything in the forest.  But even the patience of this furry and lovable creature is tested when an overweight and empty-headed woodcutter comes into the picture. What results is a message of tolerance that trumps the “green” message we've come to expect.

I wouldn't have suspected myself to be a fan of a “green”, Photoshop-ed picture book, but this one surpassed all my expectations.  Thanks to that handy copyright page, I must confront my prejudice against illustrations rendered without the artistic tools of the previous millennium and allow that for some artists “the medium is transcended by a powerful sense of vision.

And if we check that copyright page again for Oldland's dedication, we'll see that he did indeed have a vision — it came from his mother.


Binky the Space Cat
by Ashley Spires
$7.95, 9781554533091, 2009

From the copyright page: “The artwork in the book was rendered in ink, watercolor and cat fur.”

The world of children's picture books is not lacking in space traveling animals.  Whether they reference historical space trips such as Laika and Ham, or purely imaginative one such as Green Wilma or David Carter's bugs

What makes Binky so wonderful in the world of well-traveled fictional characters?  Maybe it's that unique mixture of ink, watercolor and cat fur? I think it's the wacky shape of his head and the deft hand of talented illustrator.  But who am I?  I can't write OR draw!

The Final Word:  If it's a wonderful little press like Kids Can, go ahead and check the copyright page every once in awhile.  You might find enlightenment there.

-- Angela K Sherrill
57th Street Books

> For more enlightenment on Kids Can Press, you can learn more here: web site ~ catalog downloads