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"vintage" mass market...I'm not supposed to love Rand Mc Nally Jr Elf

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Heather Hatch

Of course there's Little Golden Books.  I'm not  talking about the wimpily produced, but cutely cheap, 'vintage bestsellers'  book carrousel in BN's stuffed animal space. I'm talking shorter. Remember the Rand Mc Nally Jr Elf books, the Whitman Tell a Tale books-  little richly colored near-squares stacked covers out near the last-minute-birthday-present-crayon-and-coloring-book aisle in the once-upon-a-time grocery store?  These were even cheaper than Golden Books, meant for read, read, read, rip, ruin, repeat purchase. For just a bits of a dollar.  (fill me in- this was full color printing. How was that price structure possible?! Will we ever again buy books as often as we buy bananas and crackers?)

 Way, way before I could read, young toddler stage, I remember 'reading' the yellow boxed backs of those books, recognizing the titles of my owned copies, fully aware that whatever else was on that list, that was what I wanted to own. Whitman Tell a Tale's matched their size. They were generally more wordy, lots of licensed characters, but backs were cuter, bordered with  a ribbon of animal characters. There are millions of reasons they fall short of literature as a group. Any handful could be a wry lecture on what not to write. Their stepchildren doomed the slush piles. They gave mass to 'mass market'.

But my 3 year old daughter- the youngest of many, a giant home library of  pb  critical best at her perusal, just discovered them  last month at a thrift shop. She LOVES them! Their tiny handhold size. Their saturated colors, large font and white space. Their happy fifties farms and families.  Their short short but satisfying (to her, absolutely) plots. (quick bedtime read!).Tons of trite no one will touch today.

 I shouldn't love them.  I had forgotten them.  But that was before the thrift store trip, which led, many bedtime  re-readings later, to bidding on several big  lots on ebay today. Not all are keepers. But Middle America, take a look: Any of these covers bring back booklove memories? Which ones? Why?

 I have been revisiting some of my old favorites. They surprise me. They are actually bare bones good story, super simple.  I have a hunch that part of the appeal of these books to my daughter (who can't know nostalgia) is the simplicity of story opposed to the sophisticated, multi-layered picture book of today.

 I'm a sucker for happy-happy, but that's not the only thing happening. I'm going to think  through the triggers, isolate the keys here.   You know, everything old is new again, and nothing new under the sun. What do you think?   What is the appeal
#1 - May 25, 2011, 09:34 PM

I have several of these books from my childhood.
We've shared them with our kids!
Off the top of my head we have:

The Animals Train Ride
Benjie Engie
Little Deer
Little Lamb's Hat
Noah's Ark
The Puppy
The Animals Tea Party
What Can I Do?

Ah, a trip down memory lane with lots of books to read along the way!
#2 - May 25, 2011, 10:46 PM
Hold hands and stick together


I love looking at old book covers. Thanks for sharing.

Do police officers still wear gloves? I'd want gloves issued if I were a police officer. Imagine what they have to touch in the line of duty. But you just don't see those white gloves anymore.
#3 - June 08, 2011, 10:01 AM

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I'm not supposed to like these? really? Is there a law? Then just call me a rebel rouser. :)

I remember several of those. They always made me feel cozy and warm when I looked at the covers. I distinctly remember the Baby Jesus book! Soooo sweet!
#4 - June 08, 2011, 10:20 AM
Being Frank (Flashlight Press)


Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!!  I've been wondering about a beloved picture book from my childhood for *years,* and thanks to you, I Googled "Whitman Tell A Tale" and found it!   :bluebunny:

I have all the picture books that my *mother* considered worth saving... JOHNNYCAKE HO and DOWN DOWN THE MOUNTAIN... but the inexpensive, read-to-pieces mass market ones... yeah. They're long gone.  :cry2
#5 - June 08, 2011, 02:03 PM


Oh - The Cap That Mother Made! I had forgotten all about that book. Now I have to track it down somewhere. :)
#6 - June 08, 2011, 02:39 PM

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Completely off topic...but fallpeople, I'm always delighted to meet someone who knows about being eaten by grues.  I spent a lot of hours playing Zork/Dungeon on my dad's TRS-80 (and now y'all know how old I am!)

On topic--I loved seeing those covers...and a few jumped out at me with memories, like the yellow covered "The Gingerbread Man" and "The Hideaway Puppy".  However, "Yip and Yap" looks like an early reader zombie story.
#7 - June 08, 2011, 03:01 PM
The Leland Sisters series: Courtship and Curses, Bewitching Season, Betraying Season (Holt BYR/Macmillan)


Here's a similar page for the Whitman Tell-a-Tale books:
#8 - June 08, 2011, 03:07 PM


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