In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A small funny book

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Oh, I want more dispatches from the front!  I'm glad the craziness is feeling good to you.

We stopped by a local independent bookstore (the excellent BookCourt) last weekend to browse and Christmas shop a bit.  Found out that Anna Hibiscus (which you and I have both written about recently) is already out of print -- how does this happen?  So frustrating.  I was able to find it quite easily via Alibris, but it still makes me sad.

Every time we go into a bookstore, Eleanor wants me to buy a book for her, and I can't really help myself.  We've come to a happy understanding: while I browse, she sits in the children's section and pores over all the crap Disney princess books, and then when it comes time to leave, we buy something else.  This time it was, as I promised months ago, the wonderful The Backward Day.  Still insanely funny to Eleanor.  So much fun to read aloud.

Then, at the library, we found another very simple concept/ extremely funny picture book: When You Were Small, by Sara O'Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad.  (Argh.  I just checked.  It's out of print too.  Here's the Alibris link.) [See comment below -- another print run is about to come out!]

The book begins:
Every night at bedtime Henry and his father have a chat.
It always begins the same way.
"Dad," says Henry.
"Tell me about when I was small."
On each succeeding page, Henry's father tells him:
When you were small we used you as a chess piece, because our chess board was missing one of the knights and you were the perfect size.
 When you were small we let you sleep in one of my slippers.  The left one.  You used a fuzzy wash cloth for a blanket and a tea bag for a pillow.
 When you were small you wore a thimble for a hat.
And so on.  Like The Backward Day, When You Were Small is charming and warm without being cloying.  The humor is deadpan.  The illustrations, simple pen drawings with lots of cross-hatching and minimal color, have an almost Edward Gorey feel to them, though far less sinister.  A good find.

Good luck with the weekend shoppers!  I look forward to hearing about it.

Love, Annie


  1. Hi Annie,
    When You Were Small is just going into another print run and should be back in stores soon. Thanks for the great review!

  2. Oh, good! I'm happy to hear it! Thanks for letting us know. And thanks for writing such a wonderful book!