Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Baseball season is here!

I promised son number two that I'd put this up -- his brother got an entry post the other day, so he wanted one. I wanted to take a picture of him by himself, but....

SO the game....

the first game of the season....

Total score was 17-14 (other team won, unfortunately, but overall, a great first game). By the way, we've moved up from coach pitch to kid pitch and WOW...

NOBODY got injured. Only one child walked due to being hit. My son is pitching and he's fairly decent. Hopefully as the season rolls along, they all will be doing better.

The weather was MISERABLE. Last week, it was 100 degrees in the shade and no breeze in the air to cool people off. For this game (and NONE of the kids wore extra layers) it was 55 and blowing at a steady 10-20 miles an hour. At 7:00PM, we FROZE.

I talked myself into being a scorekeeper which is a fun job, but not as easy as one imagines, and then you can't really enjoy the game as much (though I did shout encouragement as much as I could through the wind).

Great first game. Hopefully the one on Saturday will be less WINDY!

Son number one's first game is Friday, but we have a practice game tonight. I'll see if I can get more pictures.

As far as book business goes --- well, the wind is up again today which scrambles my brain, I've got an appointment to go to at noon and all I've done today is send in a scholarship application for the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I get it. There's NO way I'll get to go without a scholarship. Not this year at least.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Today it's Field mice...

I swear, I'm NOT stacking these books up on purpose on my desk.


It is just a major coincidence that I've had four books in the last week that are children's picture books about mice.

However, I was right that a nice collection of mice books could appear if one started looking.

This particular book has illustrations by Erik Blegved and the mice (and the other animals) are very detailed and anatomically correct in their depictions. I wish that the interior illustrations were in color as well as the front dust jacket, but it's not to be.

I just checked my database and I have 150 books with mice listed as a keyword -- now that was a general look and some of them are duplicates and not all of them are children's picture books, but the majority are. 150 books! And I'm sure that's not even the tip of the Mice / Mouse collecting iceberg. Now that I'm looking for them (not for a collection of my own, you understand... I've got plenty of books already piling up) but as a new thing to think about as I'm going about my daily business.

I'd love to hear what other types of books you people collect.

When I'm at book fairs I talk to customers about their collections and am always surprised -- and hear about collections that are new to me & sometimes ones that I would never have imagined. That information is both really enjoyable to hear about, but also good for me to know when I'm out scouting...

Any takers?

Let me know!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Scouts doing good things...

First off -- I was talked into having a Facebook page which you can find here: Stephanie Howlett-West. Join if interested. I'm still not sure what good I'll get from it, but that's ok too. Now if I could just figure out some of the ways to use it....!

This picture is of son number one -- this last Saturday, he and I joined in an Eagle Project (for those of you not in the know, Eagle Scout is the highest rank a Boy Scout can receive, and the last thing that has to be done is an Eagle Project -- the boy has to find a project, to organize it, to supervise it and get other scouts (and parents) to help. We have a few years to go before son number one is able to put together his own Eagle Project, but we helped out with one for another troop member (and earned service hours in the process).
Since Memorial Day is upcoming, this project is helping out the American Legion (I think) -- with sanding, repainting and generally fixing up crosses that will go out in the cemetery for Memorial Weekend. We started at 8:00AM with the sanding --- and by the time we left for baseball practice we had sanded off 400 crosses and the boys were starting the painting portion.

I have no fingertips left.
I also got a nail in my thumb, but luckily, I've had my tetanus shot so I'm good to go.
Son number one helped with the painting too -- now we have to buy new pants (AGAIN!!!)

It's good work. Definitely worth the time.

So many cute illustrated mice out there...

John S. Goodall is the illustrator of this wonderful little book -- he has published several books about Shrewbettina (who may be a shrew, not a mouse, but there ARE mousies in the book and on the dust jacket as well).

WONDERFUL delicate illustrations. And, to top it off, it's a book with no words. You just look at the pictures to get the story.

I originally entered this book in my database last September (for a book fair) -- put it on hold so I could offer it at the fair ... and because it was a last minute buy, didn't have any detailed description added to my database. Today, I pulled it off a shelf to put in the box for the next book fair & found out it was STILL on hold -- no wonder it didn't sell. I thought I was getting better about that sort of thing!

Here's another wonderful mouse book:

This is the second book I've featured by Palmer Brown (remember, he only wrote and illustrated four books in his career as an book illustrator). Palmer Brown's artwork is so delicate, so wonderfully deft and without excess color or lines that I could stare at it all day. In some ways, it reminds me of Tasha Tudor's illustrations. But Palmer Brown is NOT Tasha Tudor and one mouse book is not the same as another mouse book. Of course, the best way to find this out is to start collecting books illustrated with mice...


Friday, April 24, 2009

Why is it some books sell and others don't....

You know, I'm finding that I look as this blog more from the book SELLER perspective than any other (except for those days when I have to crow about the kids...). At any rate, I was going through more stacks of books to decide what to take to the Gold Rush Book Fair (There, I put a link in ) and saw this book.

I've had this book listed on my website since 2004 -- It's a GOOD book by a well known, and quite collectable author. It's one of the first hardback books Bukowski published and it's limited. SO why won't someone just snap it up?

I've tweaked the description several times to be more accurate to include more detail & depth to the listing -- but still no nibbles. Iv'e had customers (and dealers) pick it up with anticipation and a gleam in their eyes, but then put it down again.

So -- what MAKES a good saleable listing for a collectable book? And what's the exact formula for selling the darn thing anyway?

Of course, no one can tell you that (and even if they could, that's the sort of trade secret that no living book dealer would ever willingly fork over).

This blog post is mainly a way for me to muse on the fact that fate and luck are part and parcel of being a book dealer and that's just the way it is.

Also, for those of you in the business, there's that old saw about pulling a particular book off the shelf, wondering why it hasn't sold-- and see it sell the next day. This is just my updated techno version of that.

(and another old tale is ... if it doesn't sell in two days, threaten to to pitch it ... loud enough so the book can hear... and see what happens).

I'll let you know what happens with this particular book in a week.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Four days in a row? Wow!

See -- when I started this blog I expected that I could post a new blog entry every day without pulling too much of a sweat. Well, for the most part, that went by the wayside quickly. The first thing to go was the weekends (kid stuff gets in the way -- and now it's baseball season, so evenings are gone too).

Darn -- I just thought of a picture I SHOULD have taken & posted. Son number one is now deep into Boy Scouts (as compared to Cub Scouts like his brother). He officially started work on his Gardening merit badge yesterday (with a bit of help from me) -- he and several other troop members got a chance to PULL WEEDS! Yup, the beginning of the gardening is to prep the ground and they got to use real live tools (and watch men use power toys --oops tools-- as well.
I should be taking blow by blow pictures. Next week, when we go back for more ground prep and planting, I'll remember to do the picture taking thing then. It was 96 degrees (Fahrenheit) outside as we were working (at 5:30pm) and NO shade to be found... we were all red and sweaty.

SO -- back to the blog thing. This week, I've posted four times in a row, AND with photos!

I'm so proud of myself.

Of course, once I post this, something will happen so I can't post for three more weeks... life

Here's another:

These are two of the five books I've gotten added to my database & uploaded today. I would LIKE to try for more books per day, but so far, it's not to be.

If you'd ever like more information about any of the books pictured here, please email me.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Really Rosie... Maurice Sendak

Oops, another sideways picture. I need the pictures for my descriptions, but I just can't seem to take the time to do them perfectly -- also sometimes I think the frame is straight, but can't tell til after I put the card into the computer if it really is or not.

(PS: most... well, actually, 99% of the books pictured on my blog are available on my website -- I don't know how long some of them will last, but if you see something you like, find the link off to the side of this blog and have at it!)

I LOVE Children's picture books. It was late coming, as I've already mentioned (my first loves were youth chapter books and then science fiction-- both genres where you see the picture in your mind's eye, not on the page). However, after son number one was born, I started noticing more things I liked about children's books -- and it went downhill (or uphill depending on how you look at it) from there.

Every time I went out book hunting, I'd find MORE children's picture books than what I was seriously searching for. Pretty soon I found that I had a knack for finding good titles... and then...

There's a lot of "and then...." in my life.

Currently, I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm trying to log more non-fiction work into my database to see if I can jumpstart sales.

--- You know, life would be breeze if I could do the job I love without having to worry about paying those pesky bills! ---

So far, it's been working, but I miss entering the children's books. I'll probably pull out a box of them soon and dig in. But this next week or so, I'm going to start frantically searching through my boxes for the last few books I want to take to my next book fair. The book fair is in Grass Valley, CA (up the road about two+ hours) and is one of my favorites. It's a small fair, but very friendly and relaxed.

The thing is, BEFORE the weekend at the fair, there are three to four weeks where I panic and try to figure out what I'm taking, what my focus is, why I'm going, how stupid I'm going to look, am I going to take books that will sell --- oh, the list could go on for days, weeks... don't get me started.

So now it's getting to be crunch time. I need to start mentally preparing and deciding. And then I have to check everything, poke around, pull the boxes out for transportation & start filling them, etc. etc.

NONE of which has anything to do with the beginning of my post about Children's books -- except that I'm currently trying to decide if I should take a bunch of picture books to the fair, or if I need to leave them home in favor of the non-fiction new stuff....

If you have an opinion -- especially if you're going to the fair -- let me know.

(PS: I'll post a link to the Gold Rush Fair information another day. Today I have to run & take my son to the Dr. for his yearly physical)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Alfred Lord Tennyson -- Maud, and the Charge of the Light Brigade

Strange, isn't it, how some of the books from the mid-1800's look really drab and uninspiring?

This particular book is from 1855, published in London, England by Edward Moxon. It's called Maud and other Poems by Alfred Tennyson (Poet Laureate) .

First off, there's no mention of his title.

The binding itself is nothing special. Just plain green cloth with indented decorations to the front and rear covers, yellow chalk endpapers and BANG -- right into the poems. No dedication page, no extras. No illustrations.

Well, there are eight pages of adverts for other books by OTHER authors jacked into the front endpapers... (and by the way, this copy is a first edition, first state, with the July 1855 date on the ads).

But inside, there's poetry. Not just words on a page, but real flowing, emotional poetry.

The last poem included in this small tome is The Charge of the Light Brigade, one of Tennyson's most famous -- which stemmed from a completely botched military action during the Crimean War.

It's a wonderful poem. Very stirring. Very sad. And mainly due to poor communication -- something that seems rife in military operations throughout the ages.

But all of that wonderfulness is hidden underneath a rather plain, drab cover just like so many other from that time period.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Man, those Victorians sure knew how to terrify children!

If you've never seen a copy of this book -- well ... maybe for those who are faint-hearted, that's a good thing.
Struwwelpeter (alternately known as Slovenly Peter or Shock-Headed Peter) is a book filled with nursery rhyme style verses / poems which were used by parents to keep their children in shape. Tough love, hah!

The title character, Slovenly Peter gets off easy. It's some of the other children & their habits listed in the book that will give you nightmares (who KNOWS what it did for little children back then).

Here are a few titles for you:
Cruel Frederick
The Dreadful Story of Harriet and the Matches
The Story of the Inky Boys
The story of the Man Who went out Shooting
The story of Little Suck-A Thumb

I have to stop for a moment -- this poem freaks me out (can you tell I actually sucked my thumb for a while as a child?)

Ok, here's the poem:

One day Mama said "Conrad dear,
I must go out and leave you here.
But mind now, Conrad, what I say,
Don't suck your thumb while I'm away.
The great tall tailor always comes to little boys who suck their thumbs;
And ere they dream what he's about,
He takes his great sharp scissors out, and Cuts their thumbs clean off - and then,
You know, they never grow again.

Ok, there's more.... you guessed it. Conrad can't help himself & the tailor comes...

the pictures that go with this verse are just plain wrong.
Conrad ends up with no thumbs.

Not much nice stuff here at all. In fact, the whole book could make an adult queasy.
No wonder those victorians got a bad rap. They deserved it.

On the other hand, it IS a COOL book. Rotten stuff in it, but the illustrations are wild and the whole concept... well...

Maybe if I get some times I'll add a few pictures from the inside of the book.

Friday, April 17, 2009

On Thermonuclear War - Herman Kahn

Yesterday, it was imaginary mice in space (well, they never actually made it to space... but you'll have to read the book yourself to find out exactly what happened). Today, it's a heavy-duty, philosophical treatise on dealing with the newest technology available. This book was published in 1960, during the Cold War when at least two superpowers had access to unthinkably destructive weaponry. (Of course, the lectures in this book certainly pertain to today's situation with MORE countries able to push a button and start a holocaust like none seen before).

Many people during the 1960's thought -- OK, we HAVE this weapon that can annihilate the world, so we WON'T EVER USE IT -- since we know what it would do. BUT, the sad fact was (and is) that NO weapon has ever been devised that hasn't sooner or later been used during wartime situations.

SO, Herman Kahn, knowing that the US was treading into new territory, wrote a series of lectures / briefs wherein he postulates some hard facts about peoples, wars and weapons. He explains HOW people thought during wartime (using specific historical examples), he postulates what MIGHT happen, and he forges plans / contingencies for what COULD happen if this weapon was to be used.

Heavy-Duty stuff. NECESSARY stuff.

Unfortunately, Herman Kahn took a beating (figuratively speaking) for writing this book -- he was labeled a Bomb happy guy who WANTED the US to use this weapon when in actuality, he was very much against it's use.

There is definite historical value to the book -- placing ideology and thought of the 1960's into perspective and dealing with a topic that STILL scares people silly.

There is also a value in reading this book today to remind those in charge just what could happen if they forget history.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Church Mice are at it again...

Darn it -- the camera took a blury picture again. I'll have to fix it, but not today (we're in the midst of Easter vacation and much of my time is spent doing kid stuff this week. The retakes will have to wait for next week).

I only learned about the Church Mice series about three years ago when I picked up a paperback copy and sold it almost instantaneously. Hmmm...(I thought) what's so good about this book? It's not one I remember from my childhood. Granted, I didn't actually read lots of picture books when I was young. I started on chapter books fairly early on & never went back. I didn't find the picture books of much use at the time. Now, though, I have had that aha! moment regarding picture books & finally GET them.

The Church Mice series by Graham Oakley is one of thos Aha! series. Starting the series off, THE CHURCH MICE are two mice (named Arthur and Humphrey), along with a veritable host of other mice who live in a church in England, and who help a stray cat by the name of Sampson become a member of their group -- with the strict understanding that their friendship means that Sampson would never EAT any of the mice.

Currently, there are fourteen books in the series (The Church Mice was published in 1972 and the last so far, The Church Mice Take a Break, was published in 2000). Graham Oakley has written and illustrated several other books beside the Church Mouse series and has illustrated a host of other books for other authors over the years, but it is this whimsical series about adventurous mice that have become classics favorites.

If you haven't seen or read one, do so.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What a day....

Yesterday was a regular school day for sons number one and two, but arriving at school, we found a fire engine, two sheriff's patrol cars and some municipal trucks -- along with a very long Semi tractor trailer truck looking awfully suspicious.

The school itself is quite organized & had folk out to help parents park & get the the actual school grounds, as the road was closed off. So we parked & hiked. There wasn't much to see -- the parked Semi had officers swarming around it, but no guns drawn. Getting to the classrooms, we noticed that the lights were NOT on in the building.

So -- here's the story.

Semi truck (probably got lost as the road the school is on is a dead-end that stops at a just plowed field....

Somehow the truck got down to the end of the road ... how it managed to turn around, we'll probably never know (there's literally NO room for a large truck to turn), in turning, it managed to snag one or more high voltage live wires overhead ... didn't NOTICE and barreled on down the road, pulling the live wire (one or more) with it.

Now, from what I can piece together, this happened about 7:45AM (school starts at 8:15, so there were children playing outside on the blacktop).

Transformers blew -- one or more, depending on which person you talk to, but the children thought it was COOL.

There was fireball eruption from the top of at least one pole and then the school went dark.

The sheriffs' patrol got there right quick & blocked the road, but DID not send children home instantly.

The teachers were told that school would go on it's normal schedule, just in dark rooms. (and the consensus was that the power would be out for an hour or so... no big deal). Luckily, there is a fence by the road, so no students were given the opportunity to go check out the dancing live wires (and of course, by the time WE got there... being just a bit too late for the dramatic portion of this story... the wire was dark and blended with the road, invisible unless you were right by it).

I admit it -- I LEFT MY SONS THERE -- yup. Bad parent, you're thinking -- well, there was no actual threat to the school & the power was only supposed to be off for an hour or so... I had a full schedule planned for the day, so merrily I went (and I have to say that in my defense, 90% of the parents did the same).

BUT --- (and there's ALWAYS a but to this sort of story)

The power company decided that no way was it going to take an hour. Four hours (promise!)

So the Sheriffs, being good cops, informed the school that it was illegal to keep children in a place that had no electricity...

Which meant that all the teachers had to CALL all the parents back and evacuate the school. I was merrily (remember, merrily off to do a full schedule...) driving home after my second errand when I got the call.

Turn around, pick up the kids, forget the schedule (and oh, by the way, add boy number three to the mix because his mom wasn't able to get off work for the day and since I'm working for myself, I can do that).

That part of the day was exciting.

The rest of the day was just a big mess.

Hopefully today is going to be less exciting.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Drool book....

Sorry about the date code... new thing on the camera & haven't asked son number two how to get rid of it (don't you LOVE eight year olds who know more about technology than you do? )

I call this a drool book because it covers a subject that I could drool over for ages. The book doesn't look that unusual from the photo, but it IS. This book, published as part of one of the in-depth books on the history of Art by University of California Berkeley Press covers a very specific subject -- Medieval Chronicles written about and for Royal patrons. The manuscript (which was copied and recopied and fiddled with from 1274-1422) includes numerous lists of blood lines of the Kings of France. In addition it gives ideas on how kings should behave, how their dauphins (heirs) should requite themselves and how the queens should act. There is a great deal of information in the chronicles on all facets of kingship -- and much information on how it changed from king to king depending on their abilities, interests and political structures during each reign.

BUT --

while I LOVE that information (Medieval French is nice -- I happen to adore early English / British royal history & have read up on that when the chance appears), this book specifically details the illuminations (pictures) that accompany the text of these manuscripts & tries to interpret the meanings -- and the changes that were made to different copies through the years.

The thing about manuscripts is that even if the monk who is working on the illustration / illumination or the caligraphic text, is taking the material from a copy in front of him, there is variation -- many of the illustrations change. Either subtly due to different artistic interpretation, or because the patron who ordered the manuscript gave specific information about what was to be illustrated, or because the overseer of the project had specific details he wanted included.

Here's a bit about that process: "Like Thomas of Maubeuge, the designers of these books apparently took the taste of their patrons into account by personalizing both text and pictures. Thus an unedited text describing John of Jerusalem's trip to Rome to ask for papal assistance for the Holy Land was apparently included in the Brussels chronicle to satisfy the requirements of a patron with a particular interest in this incident. Because the pictorial cycles in these manuscripts are as varied as their texts, a comparison of texts and images should cast light on the perceptions of French history by noble audiences in the mid-fourteenth century."

For book dealers who specialize in manuscripts and incunabula (early printed books) (unlike myself) this book is a drool book because it contains detailed collations -- page information on how the books were put together. In what order, what was moved, and how many pages (leaves), etc. were in each copy & how they differ. It's vital information for these dealers to make sure they have complete books & also to find out exactly which copy the manuscript might be.

Cool book. If only I had time to read the whole thing. ...