Thursday, August 16, 2012

Oy! It's been a while!

You'd think summertime is the time to relax - to fiddle with leftover projects.... to keep up with a blog.

Yeah, right.

Not this year.

But I'm back now.  And right off the bat, It's into book stuff.

And now, for the beginning of the school year (at least around here it is), here's what I did on my Summer Vacation:

I was the lucky (and very grateful) recipient of a CABS faculty scholarship to the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. The Seminar was held in Colorado Springs, CO from August 5th through August 10th, 2012.  This year, there were 41 attendees from all over the US and Canada and Switzerland. Together, we 41 dealers-- from brand-spanking-newbies to those who've been in business for quite a while -- got to pick the brains of some of the most dynamic book dealers, librarians and scholars currently inhabiting the world of collectable and antiquarian books.

I have to say the seminar definitely did the job of pumping me (clap clap) up!

I've already started tinkering with the way I work, the way I think about work (work being the buying and selling of collectable and rare books), and the way I project myself via my online presence, book fairs, and my stock.

There's TONS to do -- but if I break it down into smaller bits to work on, it will all get done.

There are a couple of things that I've done right off the bat:

1)  I'm in the process of updating my website -- it is still a work in progress, but I'd love to hear comments and ideas.  Here's a link to website, just in case you'd like to see it: S. Howlett-West Books .

2) I'm updating my email newsletter list.  I've started an account with an honest-to-goodness email list compiler which will help me send out professional looking emails, AND will be a way that customers can join my list that much more up-to-date and professional than what I had done in the past.

3) I'm once again working through my customer database to get more specific information  -- and ways I can access it so that I can USE the information to quote new stock to people.

I know there's more, but for right now, this is definitely enough to be working on... while still doing a complete purge of my old stock AND listing the new stock I've gotten in the last month or so.

Thank you CABS faculty for a wonderful seminar and for the scholarship I received that made it possible for me to attend.

If there's anyone out there who has been contemplating attending this seminar, but has shied at the price, the week away from home, or was worried that you might feel like a rank beginner next to all the other seminar attendees ....



No matter what you're level, this seminar is definitely worth every penny.

Here's a link to the seminar's website -- just in case you'd like to start saving your pennies for next year.    CABS Website

I'll get into more detail at a later date.  Right now, I'm just glad that school's back in session and that I've got LOTS of new ideas to dig into.

Oh, and one more thing....

here's a link to add yourself to my newly updated email list :S. Howlett-West Email List

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I wish I had a better photo of this -- and that I could get one with him smiling.... but that just didn't happen.

Son #1 is officially a graduate of Middle School and can now call himself a freshman in High school.


Not for him, but for me... Congrats to him though. 

(in one of those grumpy asides -- the principal, at the start of the ceremony, asked if parents would not SHOUT or WHISTLE or use HORNS as the students received their diplomas so that each child could get equal attention but did that happen?   Not on your life.  There were shouts, whistles, feet stomping... and even near silence for those unfortunate kids who didn't have the big cheering sections.  I found myself wanting to smack people for their disrespectful attitudes... which just goes to show that as #1 grows up, I continue to grow older and more grumpy.  Sigh).

Graduation day was followed by Pentecost at church -- and as both #1 & #2 sons are in "Communion Class"  (it's in quotes because technically, the Episcopal church doesn't have a standardized First Communion / Communion Class sort of thing, but our parish priest found a lesson plan that he liked. The only problem I can see with it is that it's geared towards younger kids -- and my two are the oldest in the lot so it's a bit slow going for them.

Son #2 in the Middle -with blue shirt

Son #1 with the orange (Orange) polo shirt

The Final product -- one Communion Bread (there were 10-12 made in total)

However, the reason I mention Pentecost is because on Saturday afternoon (after graduation) the kids in the Communion Class got to make Communion Bread which we used on Sunday.  
I took the boys for the bread making  and got to take photos  (terrible as usual).  The bread was a form of quick bread, so it only took a few minutes to get the dough made, then they had to divide and pat out to a regular size.

NOTE for future bread making -- do NOT give 6 kids in ages from 7-14 an open can of flour....
 as they found ways to poof the flour everywhere. And there was a wee bit too much flour in the dough, but with some quick thinking and a lot of kneading, it got fixed.

I got to be one of the first taste-testers while the bread was still warm.  Yummy stuff. Lots of honey (and it was part whole wheat, part white flour) so it had some nice texture to it.  I plan on making some myself -- as soon as I can grab a bag of whole wheat flour.

The boys really enjoyed the process, and the people at church, while a bit confused as they are used to wafers, got into the spirit of it.

Then it was Memorial Day -- we missed the ceremony in Santa Nella that finished off the Eagle Project the boys worked on the week before (planting flowers -- just check back a few blog entries to find that one) because we needed to be at church, but we did get to see a photo of it in the paper the next day. AND we could see some of the flowers we planted.  Right there by the service men!

 Rounding out the weekend,  we got invited to a Memorial Day Barbeque (Thanks L!)  which (sad to say) was nearly a first for us -- the family is just not on the party list for most things as we're hermits....
 A great time was had by all.  Lots of teachers, so honored husband felt comfy, the boys got to swim most of the afternoon and there was loads of food and it was all GREAT!   AND, because the party was at the home of a  war widow, we all said the pledge of allegiance and sang God Bless America before chowing down.

Of course, with all the commotion, work did not get done - and emails did not get answered which is just par for the course.  Now it's back to the regular grind, but with the added help from #1 & #2 while they're home on vacation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Continuing the slog

Hey - I'm up to the letter 'E' in the ongoing stock updating / purging process.  I guess I'm finally fired up to really get this job done, since I seem to be whacking my way through a shelf a day currently (we'll see how long that lasts when school is officially out on Friday. Production might slow to a standstill depending on how many things I can find for the kids to do during vacation).

The shelves are looking good -- at least the shelves that are finished.  I am cleaning (dusting, everlasting dusting!) and reorganizing.  So far, I have several subject areas that are NOT on shelves yet since I don't have the space for them, but I'll get there.  And the purging is going extremely well -- I have completely run out of paper bags in which to put them.  I'm still holding out on putting them in boxes as I NEED boxes for book fairs, so will have to scrounge for more bags.  I have more places to give the books; my sister, who lives in San Jose, asked for kids books to donate to her school. I'll donate to other schools in the area as well if they'll take them.

I've also started a true purge / cleaning binge of the house in general -- I'm on a mission -- and it involves going through every nook and cranny of the house, pulling things out into the light of day, making a final decision about it's relative worth to the household and chucking anything that just doesn't need to stay.

This is a long, involved process, as you can imagine - and it has to happen around my regularly posted work hours, so it's also a long slow slog.  I've made headway in the garage, the kitchen and my closet (which is actually more full of books and kid stuff than clothes).

I'm still looking for alternate employment - either part time or full time.  Books are selling, and the purging seems to help with this, but it's just not stable enough at the moment to make me comfortable.  So, if you're in the Modesto area and have any part time jobs for a willing worker who has awesome skills (yeah, I said it!),  send me a comment and I'll come running.

The Great Sewer Debacle is continuing - slowly  - to unfurl.  No word yet on what we'll actually do, but I'm in contact with the insurance people, and the Roto-Rooter people.  It will involve permits from the city as well. No word on THAT yet.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Day to follow up on things

Today is a good day to follow up on a few things  -

First, some more pictures of the latest info on the "Great Sewer Debacle":

After the Roto-Rooter men (two trucks this time) came back to our house last Wednesday to give the sewer issue another look, they left with no real plan -- there was nothing they could do until they checked with all the utility companies to see where other utilities might be in comparison to the sewer line.

These are a few pictures of the new colorful additions we have to our lawn, sidewalk and street showing the codes, etc. that have been marked by the utilities. I personally have NO idea what they mean, but they seem awfully close to the place where digging will have to begin.

I haven't heard anything from the Roto-Rooter men this week so far -- I don't know if they're waiting for me to call, or for the utilities to finish (and I can't tell if everyone has put their marks out yet).  Tomorrow is my day to dig in and start calling again.  Sigh.

In other news,  Son Number One, Son Number Two and I spent Saturday working on an Eagle Project for one of the scouts in our troop.  We caravaned down to Santa Nella (about an hour & a half from home) with gardening gear in hand.  The project was to add landscaping / flowers to the areas around some of the contemplation spots at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery / Veterans Cemetery.

Our Eagle Scout candidate received donations of all the flowers, etc. from Lowes and with the help of 30+ volunteers,  landscaped the areas all over the cemetery that had been prepared.  It was a large job, but definitely worth the work we all put in.

While we were there, we saw some interesting things -- nature in action, as it were.

  This is a baby owl that was just sitting on the ground a  few yards from one of the areas we were working -- we tried to be careful not to startle it.  No one really knew why he was sitting on the ground but we definitely knew not to disturb him.

Here's a closer view:

We saw a couple of large vultures sitting on fence posts as we drove in, but I couldn't get a good photo of them (I was driving at the time).

We did see a juvenile hare (rabbit?)  who didn't seem to mind a bunch of guys whacking away with their trowels (well, for the most part- when they tried to corner him, he got very nervous -- then the leaders stepped in).

Son number two spent some time coaxing fuzzy guy a bit closer --

it's a bit hard to see the fuzzy as he's quite well camouflaged, but he's to the right of the picture.

 There was a lot of discussion about where the flowers would go -- there was no layout design made ahead of time and a whole passel of flowers in various sizes, colors, etc.  The only common thing was that they were all flowers that love the sun.  Lots of Marigolds, pansies, etc.

So much for asking for a smile.....

I never did get a photo of Son #1 Saturday.

Saturday was a LONG day -- the morning was definitely full of work (in straight out sun -- it was only in the upper 80's and there was a bit of a breeze, but this was the first day we'd all been out doing heavy gardening work in the heat  -- and then we had to race home before my Mother-In-Law arrived for dinner.

Sunday was party day with my Mother-in-Law ... she hosts a party (at my house) for all the people born in May ... so we had a house full of visitors, which is always nice.  However, trying to explain what we (and visitors) could and couldn't do with the toilets was no fun at all.

Luckily, we went out for dinner.

And that's the round up for now.  I have one more follow up to write regarding the envelope that goes with the 1st US edition of The Story of Babar, but I figure it deserves a blog post of its own, so that will come later.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Child's Garden of Verses

I had been hoping to intersperse this blog with some of the wonderful poems that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote -- but that will have to wait for a better time.

The book called A Child's Garden of Verses, is, variously -- a group of poems that RLS wrote that were specifically for children.  The collection first appeared (according to Wikipedia) in 1885 and contained something around 65 poems.

What I wanted to do was look at a few of the different illustrated editions that have come out over the years.  I happen to have several (wildly ) different editions of this book and I find the differences completely fascinating.

Starting off with this wonderful (but slim) volume :

Illustrated by Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata  - from  1969 - with a hologram on the front cover.

This second book is an over-sized, thin hardback book by Golden books
and features the stitchery of
Virginia Tiffany.
All the illustrations are
worked embroidery / needlecraft.
Very 1960's -70's but great!

Compare that to this:

This is a Pop-up edition (and unfortunately, it's sold, so I can't get a photo of the pop-ups).
This one is much more 1980's in style and very cutesy.

Even Tasha Tudor took a whack at the collection -- with a resulting compilation that reflects her wonderful detailed illustrations.

This book is one I've shown before -- it's part of the newest consignment  and it's illustrated by Maria L. Kirk with wonderful black and white illustrations. This compilation contains nearly all of the poems.

There are so many famous illustrators who have used this collection of poems to highlight their work -- This particular copy is illustrated by Martin & Alice Provensen.

 And finally (as I've run out of photos of different versions) -  this school text version of the collection which has about half of the poems, is illustrated by E. Mars and M. H. Squire. The illustrations in this collection are wonderful typical of the 1920's-30s.

This book is one that could make a great single-title collection (that's a collection that consists of a SINGLE title -- but with as many different editions / styles of the book as possible).

If you happen to have other editions for this collection -- send me a jpg and I'll be happy to post it.

Next time, I'll add some of the poems.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

X marks the Spot

What a week!

I thought it was going to be a great week -- I got to travel to the Bay area and meet a friend for a heavenly breakfast, and some book hunting at one of our favorite (well, not so sure if it's her favorite, but I always find fun stuff ) book hunting spots.

And then Sunday was a whirlwind of picking up tired, dirty scouts from camp and a tornadoes worth of housecleaning in expectation of visitors coming this weekend.  Everything seemed to be going according to plan.

And then on Monday morning -- the downstairs shower forgot how to drain properly.  And about an hour later, the downstairs toilet also decided that flushing water DOWN was just not a good thing.

From there, it was a simple (ha!) matter of grabbing the plunger and going at it with a will.  Except it didn't do anything but bring some dirt up into the shower. 

This was followed by a quick phone call to our friend who has EVERY TOOL KNOWN TO MAN who brought a toilet auger.  A few quick twists and the water was flushing just fine...or so we thought.
Two hours later the water forgot to flush again. 

This time the friend ported over a 20 foot toilet snake and proceeded to go at the shower and toilet as if it were a mortal enemy.  Unfortunately, this just brought up more water and more dirt.  That's when we knew it was not going  to be a regular day.

By the time the Roto-Rooter man got here I figured it was just going to be a somewhat costly day, but a few twists with the giant economy sized, industrial snake would fix everything and we'd be back in business.  (here's where I'm always at a loss for imagination when it comes to what could happen.)

We found out that it was not a simple clog that needed to be whirled away by flying blades, but a problem with the pipe that connects the house sewer line to the main line.  We found this out when the snake hit a block that was not to be moved, followed by the snake coming back up the line minus part of it's blade (it had snapped and was stuck down in the pipe).

The next move was one we had to think about -- the plumber told us that we'd need to send a scope down to see what the blockage was.  Of course, this costs more money. But there was really no way to determine what the blockage might be until the scope went down.  Our daring plumber started listing all the possibilities of what might be the cause for the blockage....   That's when my  imagination finally kicked in and the dollar signs  flashed in front of my eyes.  We decided that there was no alternative but to scope out the blockage (ka-ching $$$).   Luckily, daring plumber carried all the machinery on his truck and in less than 15 minutes we were looking at the place where the blade had snapped.  The pipe, which is normally 3 inches in diameter appeared to be about half that -- is was squished up from the bottom and down from the top.  The next step was to find out WHERE the blockage sat.  Was it within the property, or in the street (if it's off the property and into city territory, then it gets to be even more fun to deal with, I found out).  The next gadget came out of the truck -- a locator wand thingy that tracked the end of the scope to its resting point.

Which was here:

X marks the spot (well, it's supposed to be an X)

 Doesn't look like much but a lump of ground and a few blobs of roots, right?

That X is the ground view of this:

The tree in our front yard

The tree is lovely.  It's about 30 years old (we figure it was put in when the subdivision was added, which was 1980).  It also belongs to the city.  The tree  I mean.  Which adds all sorts of layers to the problem.   You can't  do stuff to city trees without getting permission from the city -- at least, that's what I've been led to believe.


Another view of the tree roots and bright green X

So, daring plumber suggested I call the city RIGHT AWAY  to find out what we needed to do.
 Because in order to fix the pipe, a trench is going to have to be dug up -- right next to the tree.

And we need to know what the city needs to do about this, and whether the tree will actually survive the damage to it that it will sustain in the process.   Here's where my brain explodes.  I am, however, quite calm on the outside.  We spend a bit of time trying to figure out where the sewer connection links to the main line in the street.... this is not only confusing (because it doesn't make sense to angle the line across someone's front yard and smack dab under an TREE) but involves continued talks with the City of Modesto Forestry division.

A fine upstanding city worker comes out to join the party.  Unfortunately, he's not a forester - he can't tell me what sort of tree it is, or whether digging roots this close to the actual tree will do any lasting damage to the tree (or weaken it enough that it will topple onto the house during the first windstorm of the year). What he can do is mark the spot where the sewer connection should meet.  

See that faint green line in the street - that should be the sewer line connection (approximately).

And  the fine upstanding City worker's answer to most questions is -- you'll have to rip up the ground yourself before we can do anything.


(Head exploding continues).

Did I mention that this happened on May 14th, Honored Husband's birthday?  I was planning on taking him out to dinner with the gift certificate I had gotten for being the Soccer coordinator for Son #1's mini season team.  Yeah.    That didn't happen last night.

Not much else was learned after the fine upstanding City worker left.   Daring plumber gave me his contact info and said he'd be happy to help when we figured out what we were going to do.

I got to spend time today calling our homeowners insurance to find out if this is covered.

It's going to take a few days to find out.  In the meantime, we do have some constraints on what can go down the sewer (I won't go into the gory details, but the idea of my mother-in-law coming this weekend just got that much more stressful. There's no WAY this will be fixed by Saturday night).


Now I need to sell a ton more books to pay for the deductible.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

R.I.P. Maurice Sendak

Not much more to say on this than -- he will definitely be missed.  I know that obituaries and tributes are going around the net today so I'll leave all that to the others.

For me it wasn't only his writing and illustrating that made him stand out as an author and a person - it was the fact that he spoke his mind, and didn't talk down to children. He did scare the pants off me the first time I read Where the Wild Things Are, but frankly, I got over it just like most kids did (and do).  He didn't worry that his readers would be scarred for life or that we weren't able to handle ideas that were for adults.

Thank you, Maurice Sendak, for all that you did.

And for those geeks like me -- here's the basic Wikipedia potted biography of Maurice Sendak, just because:

Maurice Sendak

Rest in Peace (or... in a wild rumpus).

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cinco De Mayo Sale!!!!

Wow -- didn't realize it's been that long since I posted a blog entry.  It's been a weird and generally harried week though.

The good news, however is that I'm having a sale.

Here are the details:

S. Howlett-West Books is having a sale in honor of Cinco de Mayo this weekend (I suppose I'll have to buy some dos equis and churros to celebrate).

All stock on my website is 50% off today through Monday May 7th (Cinco de Mayo will last all weekend long here, so the sale will too)

the sale is through my website at : Just use the coupon code: CINCODEMAYO during checkout to receive the discount.

If you  have any questions, please shoot me a comment, or an email, or give me a call.  Tell your friends too.

Thanks so much!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Monday, April 30, 2012

updated the website....

Today is one of those days....

So I'm taking the update that I added to my website homepage and sticking it on the blog just because.

Honestly, I don't have any research finished on some good blog posts at the moment, and don't have the brain power (stayed up late last night reading again.... sigh) to come up with two bits of writing (one here, one on the website), so I'm cribbing today.

And here it is:

I've continued to steamroll through the old stock -- I'm up to the "CU" section now (and by the way, the letter C is one of bigger areas -- Lots of people have names that start with the letter C).
After that, it's on to the D's etc.
I've already made some space.  However, the new system I'm trying to implement, with all the areas by subject / genre is putting a kink in that new space available... and  I've realized that I have to take all the books that are on portable book shelves (these are generally my better stock -- which gets boxed up and taken to book fairs -- that's why their on the portables) and add them to my list of books to re-list as well. Then I have to find room for them.  This is indeed a long, slow process, no matter how I go about it.
However, progress is being made. I'm happy with the books that I'm keeping. I still have to find homes for all the books that are going away.  I have some idea how I'm going to accomplish that portion of this exercise,  but only a vague idea at the moment.  I'm piling up alarming numbers of boxes of give-aways in the garage at the moment.
So far, I think that the process is not only making the listings more current (as far as price, condition, and jpgs are concerned) but that it's promoting some sales.  Not great sales as of yet (the last month was April - tax month - and that's a notoriously bad month for book sales anyway)  but I'll keep plugging away anyway because it's helping clear out the cobwebs in my house, my stock, and in my head as well.

 If you'd like to wander on over to my website and poke around, here's the link:  S. Howlett-West Books

Let me know if you find anything you like.

Now it's off to figure out what to do for Son Number Two for his birthday tomorrow.  OMG - he's going to be 12!!!!!

I don't have any little one's left. As of tomorrow I will officially have a teen and a pre-teen in the same household.  (where's a wall to bang my head against!)


Friday, April 27, 2012

Somedays it's more fun to read the book....

The Great Taos Bank Robbery And Other Indian Country Affairs- Tony Hillerman

I tucked a few books from the mystery category (actually, the portable shelf with the collectable mysteries) into  my pile of books to be reworked the other day and this title (pointing upwards) was in the pile.

I've read Tony Hillerman books before (when I had time to read) and really liked them. But I never got around to reading this particular title before. Partly because it's made up of short stories and I'm  not really that fond of short stories, and partly because I always seem to have something else to read.

BUT -- since this was in the pile -- AND because I was futzing around at the time and not really putting my nose to the grindstone the way I ought to have been, I decided to check out the first story.

The first story happens to be "The Great Taos Bank Robbery".  

I had completely forgotten how good Tony Hillerman's writing is.  This story featured the landscape of New Mexico and had a bit to do with the Indian country there, but was actually a small town humorous bit of fluff that made me snort out loud several times.

I decided, after finishing this story, that I needed to get to work -- frankly, I'm both the slave and the slave driver in this operation; if I don't force myself to get the data entry stuff done, then it just plain doesn't get done.  But I kept noticing the book out of the side of my eye.

Tony Hillerman is tempting me away from work, darn him.

So I'll make a compromise.

I won't put the book right back on the shelf.  I'll stick it in my pile of books to be read (carefully as it is a first edition) so I can enjoy it when I have time.

I have to say, this is one of the nicest bits about my work.  There are days where I come across wonderful books to read and new (or old, nearly forgotten) authors to add to my favorites.

And while this isn't relevant to anything in particular, I found out, not too long ago, that my dad actually met and worked with (well, they were both teachers at the U of NM but in two different subject areas so not buddies) Tony Hillerman back in the early1970's.  It was back before Tony Hillerman became the Tony Hillerman.    Not relevant, sure, but cool to me - in a proxy sort of way.

Maybe tonight I'll get to read another story or two.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Cleaning, Moving, and Updating kind of day

Today is a day for cleaning shelves, Moving things around on the shelves and updating old listings.

I don't know if you remember, but I've been working on a project to go through each and every shelf of books and update the listings -- taking new photos, updating the descriptions, tossing the books that are no longer good for my stock--  that sort of thing.

Well, I've been working on the project for the last couple of weeks with a passion.  And I'm up to..... "CO". 
(here's a hint - the books are in alphabetical order by author's last name on the shelves).  For me, that's actually good progress.  I've cleared out four shelves in the last week and a half - like Speedy Gonzales.  I have bags of kids books to give to local schools (I decided that they'd go out in bags instead of my good boxes since I NEED the boxes for book fairs -- I learned this the hard way a few weeks ago when I handed over five bankers boxes of books at a local donation site... then realized I was handing away a really necessary part of my business.)

The other books that are not going back on the shelves are in boxes (of course) or piles in my work room right at the moment.  I haven't decided exactly what to do with them yet.  I could have a garage sale and overwhelm Modesto with my extras.  Or I could put on a cape and a mask and drop them off at the local donation site where the proceeds go to cancer research.  or....

At any rate, they're not going back on my shelves.

Some of the books have been sitting in my stock for 15+ years.

It's time for them to go - hopefully this will encourage NEW books (good new books) to arrive and take their place.

In the meantime, here are a few photos of books that I intend to keep around for a while longer.

The Blind Pig - Jon Jackson (yeah, it's not a CO book, sue me)

The Blank Page - K. C. Constantine

The Looking Glass War - John Le Carre (David Cornwell)

 I'm uploading them to my website now, so if you find one you'd like to take home with you (and add more space to my shelves) that's fine with me! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monty the Mouse -- or How did she DO that?

There's an Australian author by the name of Esta de Fossard who, in the 1970's wrote a few books about animals.

Sounds pretty normal, right?

Let me give you a hint about the types of animal books she wrote --

Monty the Mouse Looks for Adventure 

Ok -- take a close look at the photo.

There in the center of the photo, drugged by a sugar overdose, is Monty the Mouse.

Yes, Monty is a real mouse, fur and all.

Here's another peek at him -

Monty the Runaway Mouse

Turns out Monty is quite an adventurer.  He is the featured character in at least three books (though the quality control for Worldcat takes a dive for the one listing that calls Monty a Moose).   Monty gets into all sort of scrapes and out of them just as easily.

Monty is, as far as I can tell, a stuffed mouse that has articulation abilities (i.e.: his arms and legs can be moved ).  I have no basis for this assumption, but I honestly can't come up with a better answer for how the photos for this series of books was accomplished. 

The stories are fairly basic and for young readers.  The images are the main appeal of the books and they are a wild amalgam of kitsch, standard issue kids book styling and pure genius, all rolled up into a package that becomes more appealing with each read-through. 

And Monty was not the only animal that Esta de Fossard featured in her books -- but Monty is, by far the most interesting (as far as I'm concerned).

Frisk, the Unfriendly Foal

Huff the Grumbling Pigeon

Catkin, the Curious Kitten

It's been a while since I read the last three - but I believe that Huff the pigeon is a stuffed beast, just like Monty the mouse is.  The other two, I'm not so sure. And there are other books in the series as well that I have never been privileged to have in hand.

In my research regarding these books I found out that Esta de Fossard is a well respected educator and speaker.  She was, at some point, an actress in Australia.  She has written text books for educators on how to incorporate drama and independent thinking into writing and she has written at least one book on how to write for film and television.  That's pretty much all I could come up with. 

I was hoping to have some background into how she created Monty the Mouse.  I really wanted to know if Monty was alive and just  well trained for his photo-shoot.  If not, the taxidermist who stuffed Monty did a great job. 

Either way, this series of books have wormed a permanent place in my heart. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who would'a thunk it....

Book fairs are a good place for a book dealer (such as myself) to actually talk - at length - to customers / collectors and ask them about what it is they collect and how they started their collections.  These discussions are, to me, fascinating glimpses into the workings of other minds.    Sometimes I can completely understand and associate with the types of collections we chat about. Sometimes, I will be blown away by a collector whose thought processes are very different from mine (this is not a bad thing, mind you, it just goes to show that we all have different ways of seeing the world).


About a year and a half ago, I spoke with a customer who was looking for picture books to add to her collection, but there was a twist - the books had to be by well known collectable authors who were NOT generally known as children's authors.  This customer was specifically looking for Modern Fiction Authors, but when I started to go through my stock, I found that this is an area ripe for the picking.

Today I thought I'd show a few of the books that I currently have in my picture book stock by authors you wouldn't normally expect to see. 

9 Magic Wishes by Shirley Jackson

First, a double dose --

By Shirley Jackson. She was known for her horror and supernatural fiction, including The Haunting of Hill House.

Famous Sally by Shirley Jackson

Yup - she did stuff for young people as well.

How about a bit of Vonnegut?

Sun Moon Star by Kurt Vonnegut  (and yes, I need a new jpg of this book - it will come)

Best known for Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions, he took some time to pen a book for younger folk as well.

Then there are the authors, who are familiar, and seeing a children's book coming from them isn't a stretch --

My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me (Maya Angelou)

Maya Angelou is a poet and author and her books are for all sizes and shapes -- including children.

But what about the non-writers?

The Blue Spruce by Mario Cuomo

That's right - the Governor of New York - Mario Cuomo

The Bridge by Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman is an artist / illustrator, so I guess it's not too far astray from his normal work, but.... he was the preferred illustrator for Hunter S. Thompson (of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas fame)  - which is not your normal kid lit.

Swan Lake with text by Margot Fonteyn

This one makes much more sense -- the plot of a ballet interpreted by a premier ballerina.

And just for the fun of it -- one last author for today.

Me  by William Saroyan

This last book, along with one of the Shirley Jackson titles you see above, are both part of a series called Modern Masters Books for Children --  I plan on writing a blog post about this series as soon as I can gather enough information about it. 

Unfortunately, while I was hoping that I'd see the customer who collects these sorts of books at the fair last month in Sacramento, it was not to be.  In the meantime, I'll continue to hunt out more picture books that might make it into her collection.  I might even make another blog post about it if I find some really intriguing items.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wild Ideas...

Sometimes, I get these wild ideas about things I'd like to do.  One of these wild ideas has been kicking around in my brain for a while now -- but I haven't figured out how to put it into operation, and I know I'll need other book dealers who will chip in to make it work (no, not money!)

So a while ago, a book dealer friend of mine wrote a great description of a book he happened to have in stock.  It's one of those sad, sad books that should have been, would've been, could have been great at one point in time but is no longer a contender.  Here's a link to the book description he wrote:  Not-So-Great Gatsby.

I love this description.

I also love the idea that we as book dealers can take some of the books that we have picked up over the years because they are GOOD books, even though they are in rough (to say the least) condition.

I have several books like this Gatsby of Howard's.

Ok.... enough of the build up.  Whoops, not so fast.  Before I can get to the idea I had, I have to fill in one other little blank.

If you've never heard of Cakewrecks, here's a link to the Cakewrecks site:  Cakewrecks

What Howard did for this Gatsby,  the Cakewreck crew has done for professional cake decorators.  It's a hilarious look at all the wacky, weird and just plain wrong things decorators can do to the stuff they work with on a daily basis.  (note- this site is best observed when you are not guzzling a beverage of any sort. Especially if you want your keyboard to continue working).

So - here's my idea:

I would like to start a blog (or use this blog, depending on how things go) to write up, or upload descriptions that other dealers write up, the books that could have been contenders -- just like this Great Gatsby.  Then include photos of the book to show just how awful the book is.

There are a couple of rules though -- (and I'm making these up as I go)

1) It has to be a book that would have had a fairly nice value (though this is relative and dependent on whim).

2) The description  has to make you want to smack your head, or groan outloud, or snort tea through your nose (or all three).

3)  The photos need to have a bit of pizazz as well. (ok, still fuzzy on this point too).

That's it so far. 

I do have a book that would fit very nicely into this category -- I just need to pull it out of the box where it's mouldering and find some snazzy descriptive phrases to jazz it up.  That might be my project for the week.  (note- see the previous blog post for allergy symptoms -- which means that I don't have much of a brain this week so it might not get done as soon as I'd like).

Anyone want to take a whack at it with me? 

An interesting week for online conversations about all sorts of stuff

This has been an interesting week all the way around so far -- and it's only Tuesday!

First, the reviews for the ABAA mega-book fair in New York have started trickling in from people who attended, exhibited, and or stood around and had photos taken of them. (I'm almost ashamed to admit that I recently "Liked" Steve Martin - yes, the "wild and crazy guy!"-on Facebook a few weeks ago, and yes, this does relate to the ABAA book fair.  Yesterday he posted a picture that a fan took of him with a book he might or might not have found at the ABAA book fair. ) There's the photo of Yoko Ono checking out photography material / Japanese material at the book fair. She even parked herself in front of a booth to take closer looks at something.  There were rumors that other celebrity types made at least a cursory run-through of the event.  If you'd like links to some of the fair reviews by dealers, just comment and I'll grab them and fling them up here for you.

Then there was the wait in the LONG line at the post office yesterday.  I knew better.  Honestly, I did.  But, between making a mistake on what sort of packaging a particular book would fit into, and having to readjust my postage charge after the fact, I ended up in line for thirty minutes, having interesting chats with both the USPS personnel (I don't know about you, but my post office is a wonderful place to visit and has a very caring, helpful staff, even on stressful days) and with a couple of the people in line.  What I did notice was that this year there were less people who were sending in IRS forms (using every additional form of confirmation, etc. to make sure that the information arrived) and more people who were trying to mail big packages of all sorts.  A mixed blessing, I suppose -- it was great that people were using the Post Office and still had stuff to send out, but with the online tax forms, that means less mailing done at the P.O. during tax season, which generally means that the post office continues to make less money.   Sigh.

I belong to several online newsgroups / chat groups -- one of them is the Bibliophile newsgroup -- a group that costs $30.00 a year to join and puts you in contact with dealers and collectors all over the world (currently, I would guess there are approximately 1000 members).  If you've never heard of this group, or never participated in the group, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in books, book collecting, or book selling.  It's worth it's weight in gold just from the tidbits of information you pick up -- not to mention the offers of books for sale, etc.

Anyway --  the reason I mention this newsgroup is because of a couple of interesting discussions that have popped up in the last several days.  The first one is regarding Amazon and it's influence on the world of bookselling in the modern era.   Dealers have been opening up about their chances of survival in this business with and without the use of Amazon's third party selling site  -- i.e.: the used and collectable / rare book listings offered there.  Fascinating stuff and very thought provoking too.  Personally, I'd love to say that I could do without listing my books via Amazon's site, but frankly, I need to keep all my bookselling channels open -- to give myself lots of baskets in which I can put my eggs (as it were).  I don't have an open shop as an alternative.  What I sell online and via catalogues or book fairs is it -- those are my revenue sources for better or worse and I'd be foolish to drop one of them without thinking very hard about it first.

The other conversation that has come up is an off-shoot of the original vs Joe the Bookseller  conversation.  And it has to do with business models, and how each of us perceives the model that we have, the models that others have, and how we intersect.   It's moved into the type of buying (including approximate amounts per year spent on inventory), etc.  Again, fascinating stuff.  I would love to add my two cents worth, but my head is stuffed with allergies and allergy meds to counteract the fuzziness and I know it's just not a great thing to do today.  But it certainly gives me much to think about.

Speaking of allergies -- I have to say that this year has been a doozy for allergies for me. Especially the last three weeks or so.  I don't know if it's just my area, but it's really not a great thing to have to deal with when you're trying to get normal life taken care of.  Carrying a box of tissues around with you all day long is really not an option. AND, I've been out trying to get the yard stuff done (well, parts of it. And garage cleaning, and other miscellaneous bits of outdoor housework, etc), which works well for about ten minutes, then the drippy nose and fuzzy head really kick in.  Add to that that my daily walk has also been compromised by this drippy-iness and I'm not really a happy camper this week.

I suppose, since this blog post isn't  filled to the brim with erudite musings on book history, etc. I'll post the default photo for the day --


Izzy on a good day

Friday, April 13, 2012

Boyhood Photos of J-H Lartigue

Lartigue, J.-H. (Jacques-Henri): BOYHOOD PHOTOS OF J.-H. LARTIGUE : The Family Album of a Gilded Age. 1966. Ami Guichard Publisher. Switzerland. Hardcover. 1st Edition/ 1st Printing. VG+ / B&W and sepia toned Illustrations by: J. H. Lartigue.

Lartigue was given a camera of his own at the age of 7 (some references mention age 8) around about the year 1900. From  that point on, the boy became, for all intents and purposes, an avid amateur photographer -- though the quality of the photographs was professional level.  Lartique's love of the photographic medium continued throughout his lifetime, though he only thought of the finished photos as family remembrances and snapshots of his life and the life of the the world in which he dwelt, it was only in the 1950's  that his creative outlet became interesting to the world around him.

 This whimsical scrapbook style book appears to be the first book which features his photographs.  

DESCRIPTION: This book is in Very Good+ condition and was issued without a dust jacket.  This copy is missing the accompanying slipcase.  Purple / Burgundy cloth covered boards have gilt lettering and decorations (in the style of the Gilded Age) to the front cover and spine of the book. There is some light / faint spotting (water spotting) to the top edges of the book cover which can only be seen if you hold the book at an angle.  The book and its contents are in clean, bright condition.   The text pages are clean and bright. The book is illustrated throughout with reproductions of actual photographs by Lartigue. The photographs are in black and white and sepia tone on matte gray card stock paper. The book mimics a family scrapbook with text by Lartigue along with an essay by Jean Fondin. This copy has a previous owner's inked gift notation (dated 1969), and also an ink stamped name and address of Robert Pease & Co. Advertising.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's Easter Vacation time again... and you know what that means...

This is a quick note  to let you know that this week is a no-go for blogging for me.

Two teenage boys in the house produce more noise than one would imagine, and since the newest computer game (StarCraft) entered the house -- combined with the fact that we're down to two computers -- the time I have available with brainpower and access to the computer is down to zip. 

Better yet, it has been raining this week.  That's a great thing for the Valley, but bad for tossing the boys outside to play.

So (and I realize this is late notice as it's already Thursday) that's why the blog posts have dwindled to nothing.

Hopefully, we'll all be back to normal next week.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A day for funny (as in weird) book titles / covers....

Since my schedule took a turn today (in a good way), I got to sit and let my mind wander.  As I hadn't had a good idea for a blog post, my mind made one up for me instead.

As a book dealer, I get to handle a large number of books over time.  It was a heck of a lot more when I worked in an open shop, but I still go through boxes and boxes of books on a regular basis.  Mostly the books are either stodgy run-of the mill types (those are the ones I tend to toss back) or cool, or awe-inspiring -- but occasionally I come across books that just hit my funny bone.

Like this one:

Hetch Hetchy and its Dam Railroad (Ted Wurm)

The author's pun hinges on the dam / damned usage -- though I'm not really sure if he meant it the way it scans.  Some railroading buffs have senses of humor. Some don't.   The dam in this case is not a curse at the problems that surrounded the making of this railroad line, but the fact that it had to go over the Hetch Hetchy Dam.

Then there are the books that just look goofy -- at least to me.  Like this one:

The Super Cops Play it to a Bust (By Dave Greenberg)

I just happen to have picked up this book last week -- this book is so 1970's that I couldn't help myself.

The colors.

The mustaches.

The posing.

 They all scream the height of the 1970's.  It's actually a true crime story of two cops in Brooklyn who took on crime with a vengeance which was really big at the time (think Joseph Wambaugh, or Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, or Angie Dickinson as Police Woman).

Then there are the books that have the goofiest of story lines:

I need to take a new picture of this book, obviously.

Here's my description of it for you:

Carmona, Al: ANDY THE FIRST SWITCH-PITCHER 1982. Al Carmona. Encino, CA. Hardcover. 1st Edition/ 1st Printing. Signed By Author NF / VG+.  Self Published   "In baseball there are many switch-hitters. But there has never been a switch-PITCHER...until now. Andy begins his development at the age of seven when he helps his Paw build a daily pile of rocks for the local cement company."    I found very little about this book except that it is listed in McCue's Baseball by the Book bibliography.  There is one small bit about the book elsewhere which I found it is:   "The plot is fairly standard. Andy, a hick who's never heard of baseball, can throw rocks around corners with both hands. He leads a team to World Series Victory. It's the style that sets this one apart: the first 45 percent of the book is a fairly poorly written children's book followed by one chapter of near pornography before reverting to a children's book."   Take from that what you will.

See - just outright Goofy.

And then, just to round things out, there are the goofy books that I find hysterically funny and wouldn't do without.  Here's a trio of books on subjects that... well, kids need to know about, but parents really don't want to talk about.

The Truth About Poop (by Susan Goodman)
The Gas we Pass (by Shinta Cho)

Everyone Poops (by Taro Gomi)

I've got tons more of these  -- but I figure I should go out with a bang.....

or a fart.