Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fashion Plates

Fashion Plates, TOMY Corporation, 1978

I still have mine. Though not the original box or the pencils. I loved the endless possibilities. You could mix and match the tops and bottoms and change the colors and patterns. Soooooo many options. There are some for sale on ebay and this site has lots more images of them.

I Heart Fairy Tales.

Hansel and Gretel by Brothers Grimm
Illustrated by Eloise Wilkin

Western Publishing Company, 1954

I love this dark, somewhat violent fairy tale. I mean, when one thinks about it, it's quite scary. It really plays on one's childhood fears--evil stepmother, child abandonment, getting lost, being hungry and alone, creepy old ladies who entice you with candy but really want to cook and eat you, murdering someone even if it's in self defense. And then divorce of some sort when the evil stepmother heads for the hills and the repentant father seeks out the kids he'd traded away for his new wife. Yikes.

Wilkin's innocent illustrations soften that story considerably. Some versions have a white duck at the end. This one does not. It's how I first learned Hansel and Gretel.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Singing in the Kitchen.

Align Center63 Great Country Songs, The Big 3 Music Corporation

When I was young I remember pulling this songbook off the shelf and singing the songs with my mom in the kitchen. The funny part is that I didn't even know the original versions of the some of the songs (though, I suppose my mom did!). Later when I heard "Knock Three Times" by Tony Orlando and Dawn I was impressed by how close we were to the original. I can read music, but I'm not known for my singing abilities.

I also think it's rather amusing that the company who put out this book came up with 63 songs. Not 50. Not 60. Not 75. Sixty-three. I guess it seems like an odd number to me. I also think the label of country is sort of funny considering some of the songs don't seem like country songs at all (Knock Three Times, for example).

I scanned the back of the book so readers could see the songs the book includes. My favorites were "El Paso," "We'll Sing in the Sunshine," "Paper Roses," "Delta Dawn," "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," and "Crazy."

Animal Babies

Harry McNaught, Random House Pictureback book, 1977

I simply LOVE the illustrations in this book. I had a copy as a child but it disappeared as many of those things do. My pal, Jenny, sent me this copy. I guess because she thought I'd appreciate it and she was right! Animals featured in the book are wild turkeys, orangutan, rabbits, deer, lions, swans, ducks, horses, pigs, robins, alligators, flamingos, anteaters, bison, polar bears, zebras, giraffes, hippos, elephants, rhinos, penguins, kangaroos, and koalas.

The book includes wonderful little facts, some useful as trivia questions. Here are a few:

Rabbit babies are called kits. They cannot see or hear until they are about ten days old.

Flamingo chicks bark like puppies when they are hungry.

When a giraffe calf is born, it is almost as tall as a full-grown man.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Speak & Spell

My parents liked to invest in "educational toys" so we had one of these beauties, created by Texas Instruments in 1978. I don't remember much about it except that I could play a kind of hangman on it...I think it was called "mystery word." I guess the object was to improve spelling. There were also other versions called Speak & Math and Speak & Read. I know we had the math one too, and possibly even the reading version. Wikipedia has a pretty good article on this toy and it reminded me that an early version of the Speak & Spell was featured in the Spielberg film, E.T.

If you want to really relive this game, check out this link. It allows you to actually play with a Speak & Spell online.

Even Horses Have Bad Days.

By Harold Littledale, Illustrated by Tom Vroman
Parents' Magazine Press, 1964

As Chris and his father visit at bedtime, Chris tells his dad, "Alexander was a pretty bad horse today." He proceeds to tell his father all about the bad things that "Alexander," the horse with the red and green stripes, did that day--refusing to eat his cereal or brush his teeth, not playing with the others at the park, splashing water in the bathtub, and refusing to pick up his toys. His father sees through the scapegoating and reminds his son that things will be better the next day.

"You wait," he said. "Alexander will be a wonderful little horse tomorrow. And you'll be a wonderful little boy, too."

Chris giggled. "How did you know I wasn't very nice today?" he asked.

His father turned out the light in the hall. "Alexander told me," he said.

"And he jumped and jumped all over the living-room couch even when Mommy asked him not to..."

"Well, we went to the grocery store. And Alexander swished his tail and knocked over a jar of peaches by accident--and broke it."

"I guess it's pretty hard for a horse in a grocery store," Chris's father said.

"He'd better be more careful," Chris said, "or we won't be able to take him shopping with us any more."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

From the Sticker Collection...

I have a couple of these stickers gracing the pages of my sticker books. They probably weren't really meant to be collected and treasured by kids. This is a sticker that came with a pair of shoes. Famolare is an Italian shoe popular in the 70s and early 80s. My mom was a fan of the shoe. I was a fan of the logo.

Learn more about the shoes here.

Dum ditty Dum ditty Dum Dum Dum...

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb
by Al Perkins, Illustrated by Eric Gurney

Bright & Early Book, Random House, 1969

This book is pretty primitive and I'm not saying that in some evolutionary, "from ape to man" way. Instead the language in the book is remarkably limited and yet I remember really liking this book. I have decided it's the rhyme and rhythm that appealed to my poetic nature. Here are some favorite images:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What a Berry Good Day!

Strawberry Shortcake & her Friends,
Kid Stuff Phono Picture Disc, American Greetings, 1981

This LP is a story record interspersed with songs. Strawberry Shortcake has this incredibly high pitched squeaky voice that is terribly annoying. But the record album that is also a full color image is incredibly cool.

Pictured on the cover are Strawberry Shortcake and Pupcake, Lemon Meringue , Raspberry Tart and Custard the cat, Apricot and Hopsalot, Apple Dumpling, and Blueberry Muffin.

I am not sure I EVER really liked this album but I couldn't possibly part with it simply because it LOOKS so cool. Still even today, my friend's kids enjoy listening to this and playing with my Strawberry Shortcake dolls.

BIG and Little Are NOT THE SAME

By Bob Ottum, illustrated by George Buckett
A Golden Tell-A-Tale Book, Western Publishing Company, 1972

This book focuses on opposites and shows what would happen if tall things were short or wet things were dry or happy things were sad. Ottum & Buckett infuse subtle humor throughout the book in the choice of animals to demonstrate the words' meanings and the superfluous little comments here and there reminding us to give the dog back his bone and that even if our food fell out of the lunchbox and we were hungry our puppy wouldn't be!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Escape to Witch Mountain

This has to be one of my favorite childhood films. Escape to Witch Mountain is a 1975 Disney film based on a book by Alexander Key (book cover images below). I am guessing I saw the film on TV on the Wonderful World of Disney TV program that ran opposite 60 minutes so it was always a battle with my parents to be allowed to watch "our show." This was back when we had to turn the antenna on the top of the house to tune in one of our four main TV channels.

I read Key's book AFTER seeing the film and right now I really can't remember the book or any of its differences from the film.

Tony and Tia Castaway with Winkie and Mr. O'Day

Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and Tia (Kim Richards) are orphaned children who are placed in a juvenile center after their foster mother Mrs. Malone dies. They possess paranormal abilities. Tia can communicate using only her mind; she does this to speak to Tony and to animals and unlock doors with her mind.

One of the best scenes is when the kids are presented a puppet playset and Tony is able to make them work using his music. Using his harmonica he can access his powers of telekinesis and it both entertains them and saves them when they are locked up in the jail and he distracts the officer by creating a dancing coat rack that frightens the man into a corner.

Pictured here is Tia's "star case" with its hidden map the kids just discovered. They've been suppressing memories about their past and Tia begins to remember an Uncle Bene and a shipwreck of some kind. She remembers being rescued and that other people drowned. They use the map to flee the baddies who are chasing them for their powers and Mr. O'Day (Eddie Albert) is instrumental in helping them get there. One of the main bad guys is devilishly familiar now that I've seen all the James Bond films--Donald Pleasance plays Mr. Deranian.
Interesting fact I learned while creating this post:
Kim Richards is Paris Hilton's aunt.

In 2009, a new version of the film will release. I am not sure how I feel about this. Certainly it will NOT be as good as the beloved favorite from my youth. Heck, the beloved favorite seen today isn't as good as it was in my youth. Things rarely are. But I really did enjoy watching the 1975 version about a week ago at the gym. I barely noticed all the exercise I was getting while running on the treadmill. I was too captivated by the film as it aired on TCM. I didn't stick around to watch the sequel Return from Witch Mountain which introduces new bad guys--notably Bette Davis and Christopher Lee. I am guessing I will watch this 2009 movie when it makes its way to DVD.

A Preschool Puppet Book

Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata, illustrators
Grosset and Dunlap, 1976

I had other board books like this as a child but can't remember what they were. The illustration style is so unusual with the puppets that it's hard to believe I have forgotten the titles. This book has two Aesop fables: The Tortoise and the Hare and the Lion and the Mouse.

I particularly love this last image. The fable of the tortoise and the hare reminds me of a 5th grade play in which my friend Jennifer played the tortoise and I was a little brown squirrel in a tree.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Look Pa, I'm Doing a Figure Sixteen!

Stan and Jan Berenstain, illustrators, Random House, 1970

The early rhyming Berenstain Bears books have a special place in my heart. When they started mass producing moral tales in the 8 x 8 size I lost some interest. However, I had a few of these Beginner Books and even some large size almanac or encyclopedia type books of theirs.

In this BB book, as in so many of theirs, Papa Bear is prepared to educate his son in the ways of the world. In this book, it's how to use all his fantastic Christmas presents--skis, sled, ice skates. Ahhh... the joys of seeing old Papa Bear's "Great Belly Flop." Of course, his son is wise beyond his years and kindly helps out his pop when he finds himself in a pickle. Is it my imagination or does Mama Bear have a sort of knowing look in her eyes. I can almost hear her patient sigh as her husband bounds out the door with their son in tow!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas morning, 1978

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Corinne Malvern, illustrator Western Publishing Company, 1949

This illustrated version of Clement C. Moore's famous poem is probably the most familiar to me. I love the old fashioned feel to it which is emphasized by the calendar at the beginning which reads 1822. This particular edition of the book still has the Mary Reed stamp of approval on the cover page. THIS is exactly how I picture Santa Claus.

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