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


guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin Picks 3 Books About Living for Music

While I finish up my own next post on my3books, I was glad to receive a new post from my friend and fellow independent sales rep, Teresa Rolfe Kravtin.  You can see Teresa's earlier my3books posts here.

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong
by Terry Teachout
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780151010899 | $30 | Dec 2009

A thorough examination of the life of a music legend and American cultural icon, this story is how one man overcame an enormous amount of personal challenges and societal obstacles, to become who he was meant to be: one of the most original, inspiring entertainers of a generation.

A music history education in one life, Louis Armstrong defined a new style of music in his own likeness. By sticking to what he enjoyed doing most, playing and singing music from the core of who he was, he set a standard that inspired innumerable musicians and listeners alike.

There were many critics along the way during Armstrong's decades' long career. In the end, however, there is no other jazz musician who has achieved the level of admiration and respect for his dedication to his craft. Equally, no other musician has ever left behind a collection of letters, recordings, and documents detailing life in the recording studio, on the road, in the movies, and on TV, as he did.

Author Terry Teachout says in the afterword,

"...this is surprisingly, the first fully sourced biography of Armstrong to be written by an author who is also a trained musician." It is a narrative biography, not scholarly, but interpretive of a life well documented by academic scholars. Additionally, Teachout had access to a wealth of archival material previously unavailable to biographers."

Poet Philip Larkin said of Armstrong, "It is already accepted -- or if it isn't, it soon will be -- that Louis Armstrong was an enormously important cultural figure in our century, more important than Picasso in my opinion, but certainly quite comparable," and further, "an artist of Flaubertian purity, and a character of exceptional warmth and goodness."

For music lovers, those interested in American culture and general entertainment, Teachout's biography of Louis Armstrong will be the standard bearer for years to come.


The Pat Metheny Interviews
by Richard Niles
Hal Leonard Publishing Corp. | 9781423474692 | $19.99 | Oct 2009

The Pat Metheny Interviews is an insightfully revealing dialogue between American jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny and Richard Niles, a renowned recording artist, composer, producer and songwriter; a proverbial eavesdropping on a conversation between two long-time friends and musicians.

Richard Niles first met Pat Metheny at Berklee College of Music in 1974. It's hard to imagine that Metheny would take the time and discuss his thoughts on his long career with anyone other than a close friend, given his admitted self-criticism and intense working schedule. As a reader, and a fan from the beginning, I am glad he did. Drawn from a series of interviews Niles made with Metheny on several occasions for a three-part series that originally aired on the BBC in 2007 titled Pat Metheny – Bright Size Life.

Metheny is a rare exception in the contemporary music scene. He is an artist who has had a long recording and touring career, continuing to attract and maintain a large and devoted audience for over thirty years. In The Pat Metheny Interviews, Metheny discusses his need for finding his own means of musical expression through composition. He details his dedication to practicing, his musical inspirations, the issues of sound and melody, addresses jazz as a genre, among other topics. What separates him from many other talented musicians, he attributes to his razor-like focus on what he wanted to do with his playing and knowing how he wanted to go about it from a very early age.

Informal in tone, the question and answer format is mostly easy to follow, even when it gets into discussions of abstract concepts. There are a few sections of musician lingo and music theory references that only musicians might appreciate. One of my personal favorite passages comes from the chapter on melody, wherein there is a discussion of the biological and physical responses to music:

“My favorite way of describing this [responses to music and melody] is that music is actually this gigantic mistake that we’re not actually supposed to know about. That in our sense of the universe around us there’s these tiny little crack that give us a window into everything that we can’t possibly understand because we’re not equipped to understand those things, because we don’t have the tools for them. . . . But somehow music seeps into those cracks and it’s something that reminds us or indicates to us these unperceivable things that are in fact around us all the time. I tend to think of music as something that’s an incredible variation, away from the rest of most human experiences. For that reason I value it even more.”

Interspersed are entries from some of the musicians Metheny has performed with during his career such as Gary Burton, John Patitucci, Lyle Mays, and Jack DeJohnette. Photographs included portray his teenaged years of playing gigs around Kansas City, record company portraits, and tour pictures.

An engaging examination of an enduring musical artist, The Pat Metheny Interviews, is a unique gift of insights from this expressive guitarist and composer.


Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues
by William Ferris
University of North Carolina Press | 9780807833254 | $35 | Oct 2009

[Editor's note: We've already featured Give My Poor Heart Ease on my3books earlier this year, so instead of a third full-blown writeup, Teresa would prefer to point you to another book blogger who wrote quite passionately about Give My Poor Heart Ease.]

Check out this beautifully-written review of Give My Poor Heart Ease on BiblioBuffet.  Blogger Nicki Leone's review of the book really captures the spirit and passion and flavor of William Ferris' lifelong pursuit of the blues and the people who make the music come alive.

Here's one short excerpt from Nicki's review to give you the flavor:

"The results of this life-long . . . well, mission doesn’t seem to be too strong a word for it . . . have been brought together into an incredibly powerful book called Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues. A collection of oral histories,  the book looks at some of the people and places at the roots of blues music, starting with the churches in his own community of Rose Hill, and spreading outwards into the countryside filled with people who farmed and fished during the day and played music in the evenings, the men in the prison camps and on work detail in the cotton fields, and the men who ran the radio stations and nightclubs in the towns."


Resources for further exploration:

On Pops
> Pops will appear on the December 2009 Indie Next List – “Great Reads from Booksellers You Trust”
> Publishers Weekly *Starred* Review: “Teachout's portrait reminds us why we fell in love with Armstrong's music in the first place.”
> A link to the publisher's web page for the book.
> Author Terry Teachout's long-running blog About Last Night and his somewhat more recent Twitter presence. Crucial!

On The Pat Metheny Interviews
> A link to the publisher's page for the book.

 On Give My Poor Heart Ease
> The Facebook fan page for Give My Poor Heart Ease.
> UNC Press's blog & Twitter presence.
> Our linked-to book blogger Nicki Leone is a fellow bookseller-at-large (to borrow another of her phrases), and writes about books at BiblioBuffet and her own blog, Will Read For Food.

guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Fall 2009 list

I'm so pleased to welcome back my fellow independent sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin (@trkravtin on Twitter) for another round of my3books picks!  Among the many publishers that Teresa represents are the legendary imprints at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and she's picked out three of her favorite books from their fall list.

Two books of the American West and a special pop-up book for the holiday season.


The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America
by Timothy Egan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780618968411 | $26 | Oct 2009

The incident at the heart of The Big Burn was the largest forest fire in the history of America. “The bare facts were that the blowup covered 2.6 million acres of national forest land, and another 521,184 acres of private or state timber, for a total of just under 3.2 million acres . . . . " (page 221).

The power in the telling of this story resonates in the personal face that author Timothy Egan puts on the lives of the men and women involved. Every aspect of this story is completely absorbing:

  • Teddy Roosevelt and Progressivism
  • the fledgling concepts of conservation and the need for a forestry service
  • Guildford Pinchot, Roosevelt’s devoted friend and believer in conservation
  • big business and its influence on government
  • power-hungry politicians
  • ordinary homesteaders

They all play a role in this natural disaster. Areas of Montana, Idaho and Washington were burned. I have hiked through some of these areas in Montana and Idaho, which made this book a particularly meaningful read for me.

Oftentimes while reading, I found myself closing the book in astonishment at the ways in which politics played out in history. I often mistakenly think that only in the times we live have politicians been as driven to wrest power away from the people in achieving their policy goals. It takes a book like this, and many other fine historical reports to show that it is not so.

The Big Burn tells of a time when the people had very little influence in government at all, and there was hardly any place for the people as a concept in politics. We are an ever-evolving nation, and the consequences from this episode in our history shaped forestry policy for years to come.  Imperfect though these new perceptions were, it was a corrective step along the path toward a greater understanding of the demands placed upon our natural resources, the people charged with protecting them, and the role government plays in all of it.

In this meticulously researched book, National Book Award-winning author Timothy Egan, “brings a touching humanity to this story of valor and cowardice in the face of a nation catastrophe, playing respectful attention to Roosevelt’s great dream of conservation and of an America ‘for the little man’” (from the PW starred review).


Twisted Tree
by Kent Meyers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780151013890 | $24 | Sept 2009

A young teenager has been stalked and murdered, and in the vastness of the contemporary rural community of Twisted Tree, South Dakota, Kent Meyers deftly weaves an interconnected web of stories of the people whose lives have intersected with young Haley Jo Zimmerman.

I have long been drawn to the literature of a place or of the landscape, and these portraits of the people of Twisted Tree are, in some cases, stark, lonely, searching, mad, and poignant, all the while evoking the character of the desolate nature of the west. Each chapter could stand alone; and in discovering how these lives connected together, Meyers tells a greater tale of how one person’s life resonates in so many others. I was mesmerized.

“This novel is brimming with arresting descriptions, and the western setting is employed with surprising effect . . . . Meyers’s small masterpiece deserves comparison to the work of Raymond Carver, Joy Williams and Peter Matthiessen (from the PW starred review).


The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book
by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | 9780547260693 | $35 | Oct 2009

“What appears to be a fairy tale for children opens like the petals of the Little Prince’s flower into a fantasy that has lessons for all of us.” – School Library Journal

I love this special edition of The Little Prince. All throughout the selling season, I have carried my sample, a French language edition, mind you, into select accounts to share the unique experience of this pop-up book. Unique, in that it contains the complete text of the original story, while the mechanics of the pop-up elements honor the original illustrations by magically bringing them to three-dimensional life.

My buyers slowly turn the pages of the entire book. Each time I was entranced at the experience of standing aside, while the buyer deliberately enjoyed each spread. This pop-up edition of a children’s classic, is in itself, a new and complete experience of the story. There is text, the pop-up, and lots of white space, which allows for an absorbing, relaxing read.

How often are we dazzled by wondrous paper engineering, each spread building up to a magnificent conclusion? In this case, though, I am impressed by the experience of the book. I have found that to be immensely satisfying.

There are legions of faithful fans for The Little Prince. This would be a marvelous addition to their library.

The video for the Little Prince Pop-Up Deluxe edition has been posted to YouTube and can be seen here.

A link to an article where Brooke Shields quotes from 'Little Prince' in the tribute to Michael Jackson can be found here.


> For more information about Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and their fall catalog, you can find them here:
Web site ~ catalog downloads ~ @hmhbooks on Twitter ~ Facebook