Weekend Reading With Mary Blair

Ah, Friday.  I know Big Sis is relieved, but it's already promising to be a busy weekend.

We have a large sack from the library - we always do! - so our wind-down, chill-out bedtime routine is intact.

While we should be continuing On the Banks of Plum Creek, we are taking a break to read the 3-in-one My Father's Dragon, which I picked up after reading this post on Julia's Bookbag.  We are only two chapters in, but the girls seem to be enthralled.

Some of the highlights in our library bag include two Disney-related titles.  I tend to go on binges at the library.  As much as I adore the look and feel of the old card catalog system, I admit, I am the library patron who logs onto her public library account at midnight to put 10 books on hold.  (I became a Friend of the Library member because the dues added up to less than my hold fees!)  Mary Blair is not a new obsession of mine - see Pinterest - but this month finally saw the release of the Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books, which collects Baby's House, I Can Fly, The Up & Down Book, The Golden Book of Little Verses, and many pages from The New Golden Song Book into one glorious over-sized collection!  While I probably shouldn't have spent the money yet, I ran to my local bookstore to buy it this week.  I just couldn't wait any longer.
Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books.  New York: Random House, 2012.
The endpapers!

Having an unabridged copy of I Can Fly has been a dream of mine.  The edition currently in print (via Random House, current owner of the Little Golden Books catalog) is incomplete, and of course, that is the one we bought new for Big Sis when she was a toddler.  As much as I would love to have a lovely vintage copy of this Little Golden favorite, the large format of this book makes the spectacular illustrations pop.  

                                     I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair.  1950

I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair.  1950

I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair.  1950

I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair.  1950

 There is a foreword by John Canemaker, author of The Art and Flair of Mary Blair.  I'm afraid our library doesn't have that one, and it's very much out of my price range, but oh, wouldn't it be nice...  For more on Mary Blair, you can visit the Magic of Mary Blair, a lovely website maintained by her nieces.

Mary Blair's bigger claim to fame was her connection to Walt Disney.  She was an important concept artist for Disney, and her own visuals ended up in more avant-garde films such as The Three Caballeros.  Possibly her crowning achievement was the design of Disneyland's It's a Small World.

Back to our library bag!  This week, we checked out Walt Disney's Cinderella, retold by Cynthia Rylant (love her) and illustrated with Mary Blair's original concept art, and Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, retold by Jon Scieszka (love him, too) and also illustrated with Mary Blair's original concept art.  The colors!  So happy!

Merry Weekend and Happy Reading!

Paper Dolls

Little Sis made these for me.  Her daddy cut them out.  They make me happy.

My favorite is the freckled one with glasses.

Little Sis likes the one with long curls.

She also made a second set for her daddy.  "All boys.  Only they all have hair."

(Mr. B doesn't have much hair.)

Elf, Junior Elf and Tell-A-Tale Books

 I love my Little Golden Books.  They are - pardon me - GOLDEN to me.  They may have been started as a cheap way to get more books into the homes of post-war youngsters, at a time when children's books were expensive and only marketed at Christmas.  But the art!  The details!  I cannot recommend Leonard Marcus's book Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way highly enough.  (Random House, 2007)

Little Golden Books were not the first cheap, mass-market children's books - the first were published by the same company, Whitman, and called the Big Little Books - but Golden Books were of a much finer quality, and not restricted to popular movie, comic, and radio tie-ins.  And of course, they were not the last.  They ushered in a whole new era of children's publishing.

Some of the most popular mass-market picture book lines to emerge in the wake of Little Golden Books' success were the Elf and Junior Elf series, published by Rand McNally, and the Tell-A-Tale books by Whitman.  Between my grandmother (and her beloved yard and estate sales) and eBay, I've amassed a decent collection of Elf and Tell-A-Tale books.  I have more than these - somewhere I have the adorable Owl and the Pussycat - but as you can see, these books are rather small and tend to walk away from our designated spot between the deer bookends.

Autumn Dreaming

The weather is so bearable now.  It isn't even September, yet our nasty heat wave has broken, and we have been enjoying highs in the 80s.  Big Sis is back in school, and Little Sis heads to pre-K next week.  My head is dancing with visions and smells and textures of apples, crunchy jewel-tones leaves, snuggly cardigans, pumpkin...

I love fall.  (In fact, I have a Pinterest board for that...  You knew it was coming, didn't you?)  And as tolerable as these 85-degree days have been, they are nothing compared to a cool 65-degree day.  Or 55-degree day.  Or a snowy winter day, but that's another season.  (Well, not always, but I do want a chance to enjoy fall first!)

This weekend, I decided to treat the family to a taste of autumn, even if it's a bit early.  Pumpkin muffins!  Big Sis and I use this recipe, but we make three changes.  We substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil, use  3/4 cup all-purpose flour and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, and use 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup butterscotch chips.  This is one of our favorite brunchy things in all the world.

And they are that good.  Truly.

I asked the girls for some of their favorite fall book titles.  We want to save some for later, since we have another month until the season actually arrives, but here are two of our favorites.  I know both of these books are super-popular selections, but when two books are so beloved, there are reasons for that, no?

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.  Big Sis has fond memories of this book from her preschool days.  She was simply enchanted by it.  I used it for a storytime at my old bookstore job.  I loved making fall crafts with the kids.  (Stained glass leaves using crayon shaving, wax paper, and an iron?  Awesome sauce.)

Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper has been on my mind lately.  I am a pumpkin fiend, and pumpkin soup is one of my very, very favorite things.  Last year, I made a divine pumpkin soup with a Queensland blue pumpkin.  It was magical.  And I made large garlic croutons to float in the bowls of creamy soup...  I'll share when the time to make it again rolls around.

Now I'll leave you with a little Disney.

Obsessive Nostalgia Disorder Monday: My Friend Dolls

I didn't have a My Friend Mandy when I was little.

I forgot I ever wanted one.

Then one night, while researching some unrelated Fisher Price toy on the internet, I found this wonderful website, and out of curiosity, clicked on the year "1977."  What Fisher Price products were out the year I was born?

And there she was.  In her pink dress and hat, looking like she was on her way to church.  I remembered her!  I'm almost positive a friend of mine had one.  And there were more of them, too.  A brunette.  A redhead.  I started combing the site, year by year.

My Friend Mandy was introduced by Fisher Price in 1977.  She wasn't a baby doll, but a doll meant to be a little girl's own age. She was given a friend, a brunette named My Friend Jenny, in 1979.  Three years later brought Becky into the fold.  And eventually, the dolls were redesigned, more were added, and that was the end.  (The cheerleader Mandy?  I know I remember her.  I know I missed her church dress, and I wasn't interested in the cheerleading doll.)

But back to the first three dolls.  How cute are they?  This commercial is from the early 1980s, after Becky was introduced.  Mandy and Jenny have new outfits, but that wasn't such a big deal.  You could buy new outfits for the dolls already, and they even came with real sewing patterns!

I never had a Mandy or Becky or Jenny of my own.  But...

I love eBay.  Because you know I have a doll now, don't you?  In fact, I have three. I bought a My Friend Mandy first.  Her hair is shorter, and she has the original pink rosebud body.  I'm not sure if her hair was cut, or if the earliest dolls had slightly shorter hair.  Anyway, this doll came with an assortment of clothes, although she has no tights or shoes.  And while I bought her for myself, she was immediately incorporated into the daughters' playthings.  When I found a great deal on a second Mandy doll, I pounced on her.  She's probably from 1979, judging from the yellow rosebuds on her body.  Our Jenny joined us soon after Mandy #2.  I set a low limit on what I'm willing to pay on eBay.  Becky has been difficult to find at our price limit.  She was a slightly later doll, and more Becky dolls seem to be in better condition.

I love Mandy's camping outfit and her awesome '70s coat.  Granted, I would rather have cords or khakis, instead of scratchy polyester pants.  But her plaid shirt!  And, oh, yes, the coat!  When I was little, my sister and I would imagine we had some sort of magic beam we could shine on our Barbies' clothes to make them grow to fit us.  I would love a magic beam to shine on Mandy's coat - for myself, of course.

I must take a moment now to once again express my love for vintage Fisher Price toys.  There is something about the design, the colors, the feel of these toys that make them so completely special.  I'm sure I'm seeing them through the rosy glasses of my own childhood experiences, but I think I could have shelves full of old Little People and pull toys and music box radios, and my house would be a very happy place.

And a big thanks to Big Sis, who took five of the photos used in this post (including some in the collage)!

[P.S.  On a completely unrelated note:  I have finally made a gmail account especially for this blog.  Contact info has been added to a new page.  Speaking of new, why yes, I re-designed!  I hope the blog looks a bit cleaner and easier-to-read now.]

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