Vintage Treasures

Eliza Clark
September 3, 2010

As summer winds down, and we return to reality, what do we bring with us? What treasures from the summer can we stow away in our suitcases and our minds to tide us over until next year?

The kids, no doubt, have been stuffing their pockets full of shells, rocks, sticks and other finds all summer long. Whether or not to keep all those "treasures" can be a tricky question. But you will definitely want to hold onto to the new/old books they may have picked up along the way. Summer, it turns out, is a great time to find vintage children's books. Perhaps you came across a stash in a grandparent's attic, or at a neighborhood yard sale. Perhaps there were some lying around in a vacation cottage or awaiting readers on the shelves of a small town library.

Stumbling on a good cache of vintage children's books is a reminder of just how many amazing books have been written and illustrated for children. The bookstore shelves only begin to scratch the surface. (Just ask Burgin Streetman, author of one of our favorite blogs ever: Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves.)

We were lucky enough to come across several great vintage books this summer, and they are family favorites already. Several are out of print -- what a shame! But all the more reason to keep our eyes peeled for more vintage finds in attics, thrift stores and libraries everywhere.

The Sky Dog by Brinton Turkle (1969)
A beautiful story about a boy, a dog, the clouds and the end of summer. A boy spends his summer at the beach, surrounded by sand, sea and sky. He sees a sky dog in the ever shifting clouds - one day the sky dog is smelling a flower, another day he is upside down, wearing a hat. And on the best day of all, a real dog, as white and fluffy as a cloud, appears! Mother and son search for the dog's owner, but this boy and dog were clearly meant for each other. We love this dreamy little boy, and his mom's 1960s Jackie O style clothes are to die for!

Katy No-Pocket by Emmy Payne, Illustrated by H.A. Rey (1944)
What is a mother kangaroo without a pocket? A very sad Mama, that's what! Poor Katy sheds lots of tears over her inability to carry her baby. Freddy is a good sport about it, but there's no way he can keep up with his mother's big jumps. Katy asks every animal she meets to help her find a way to carry her little one, but it's the owl, of course, who has the answer: Get a pocket! How she does, and from whom, makes for an absolutely charming book. Especially so because of the bright illustrations by the brilliant H.A. Rey (of Curious George fame).

Tell Me Some More by Crosby Newall Bonsall (1961)
Library lovers will be this book's biggest fans - and so naturally, that means us! A boy has his buddy hooked on some pretty tall tales: "Tell me some more! Tell me some more!" his pal cries. When he runs out of things to tell, he lets his friend in on a secret: the place where all of these stories come from: the library. And from there, the boys are hooked on books, and eager to spread the word. Fantastically imaginative pictures make this a memorable read for the little ones. We can't believe it is not in print these days!

Hamilton Duck by Arthur Getz (1972)
Bold, expressive illustrations and simple words make this book of seasonal exploration a treat for toddlers and preschoolers. Arthur Getz is famous for having drawn hundreds of New Yorker magazine covers, but his children's books are another kind of treasure. Hamilton Duck, in the kick-off to a series, discovers the landscape of winter on a farm. A frozen pond can only mean one thing, though it takes this young duck several moments to figure it out: winter has arrived. He says hello through the ice to his friend Fish, and returns to his nice warm barn. A bit of cartoon-like humor gives the kids a laugh along the way - but not enough kids, as this title is also, sadly, out of print.

Dogger by Shirley Hughes (1977)
An absolutely sweet tale of a little boy, David, who loses his favorite toy, a plush dog named Dogger. The family turns the house upside down to find him, but to no avail. David's sister Bella offers him one of her collection of bears, but he cannot be consoled. When he spies Dogger for sale at a school fair, David must find a way to get him back. Bella comes to the rescue in story of self-sacrifice and sisterly love. Hughes' illustrations are one-of-a-kind: warm and realistic, full of the messy, homey details of neighborhood life. What a treasure, and still very much in print, we're happy to say!

From the Parents

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