Book Sale Business

I've started to branch out from the biannual Friends Book Sales at Arlington Central Library--this morning I went all the way to Falls Church (a distance of two and a half miles) to check out the American Association of University Women book sale and came home with a small stack of children's books and a couple of hardcovers for my husband and son, too.

I followed my usual book sale protocol, which is to head straight for the middle grade paperbacks. In this case, there wasn't a lot of pre-sorting--all the children's books were mixed up in boxes, fiction, nonfiction, YA, picture books, everything. The pricing scheme wasn't what I was used to, either: all paperbacks (children's and adult) were $2, hardcovers $3. Fortunately, "thin paperbacks" were only a dollar, which is still twice what one pays at the Friends sales. Also fortunately, the cashier agreed with me on the thinness of my paperbacks. One of my hardcovers  (Folk Toys Around the World and How to Make Them by Joan Joseph, 1972) was thin enough to qualify for a discount, too.

One thing I noticed about my new (old) books is the presence and quality of the interior art: black and white line drawings, mostly, by Erik Blegvad (who died earlier this year), N.M. Bodecker, Alan Cober, Margery Gill. Gill's illustrations are among my favorites, and I'm particularly pleased to have picked up a copy of Dawn of Fear by Susan Cooper because of them (here Gill was informed by her own childhood memories of WWII). But I'm reading A Candle in Her Room by Ruth M. Arthur (also illustrated by Gill) first.

Norland Nannies

I was intrigued by reports that baby Prince George's new nanny had trained at the prestigious Norland College. A college for nannies? Why, yes: Norland College in Bath offers a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development and Learning along with the "Norland Diploma," a hallmark of quality (from the website). In addition to childcare and nanny training, Norland nannies are now taught martial arts and advanced driving skills (to help them avoid kidnappers, paparazzi, and skidding on the ice). Those are Norland nannies in uniform; they wear it during training (although graduates are no longer required to wear the uniform at work, unless the family wants them to). The uniform itself was recently redesigned: it's a bit more 1950s chic now. Speaking of the 1950s, it seems as if there should be a series of girls' school stories set at Norland (or somewhere like it). I would read it!

In the meantime, I'm making a list of nanny-related reading. It should probably start with the classics: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers and Nurse Matilda (better known in the US as Nanny McPhee) by Christianna Brand. To which I might add The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by Australian author R.A. Spratt (American edition illustrated by Dan Santat; Little, Brown 2010). Look out for Nanny X by Madelyn Rosenberg, too! (Holiday House, August 2014)

Would you like to recommend a nanny? I'll add her (or him) to my list!

Trina Schart Hyman

Today would have been Trina Schart Hyman's 75th birthday. She won the Caldecott Medal in 1985 for Saint George and the Dragon, retold (from Spenser's Faerie Queene) by Margaret Hodges (Little, Brown; 1984; the cover image here is from the 25th anniversary edition, featuring the dragon. TSH did magnificent dragons), and three Honors as well: for Little Red Riding Hood, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, and A Child's Calendar. She illustrated over 150 books, not to mention countless covers (including Ronia, the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren) and black-and-white interior illustrations.

I could go on, but this post isn't meant to be an encyclopedia entry. I simply wanted to say that in my imagination, the landscape of fairy tales is illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. And thanks to her, that landscape is also peopled by a racially diverse cast of characters. It's a notable quality, especially of her later work, and one that is still too scarce today.

[Image from Bearskin by Howard Pyle, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (HarperCollins, 1997).]

The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert

Small and square, The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life (Beach Lane Books, 2014) by Lois Ehlert is actually bursting with images and inspiration drawn from the picture book maker's long career. It's unmistakably Ehlert, down to the round typeface of the main text (I think it's Century Schoolbook) and the handwritten notes (in place of the sans serif labels used in most of her books) adding another level of detail. Maybe a little messier, though, since The Scraps Book is all about process (and, Ehlert tells us, "I'm messy when I work"). In words and images, she shares where her book ideas come from, how to make a storyboard, the art technique of collage (often using recycled or natural materials), a recipe for bird treats...The Scraps Book is stuffed full of interesting things to inspire young (and not-so-young) readers, writers, and artists, right where they are. 

Instead of a bibliography, there's a double-page spread of Ehlert's book covers at the end. I was surprised at how many of them we had read and remembered: Planting a Rainbow, Eating the Alphabet (the IJKL page was our favorite, followed closely by the letter Pp, which got two pages), Waiting for Wings, and Feathers for Lunch (a good choice to read alongside The Scraps Book, which includes a series of spreads showing how Feathers for Lunch went from idea to finished book).