|The Bunny's Nutshell Library by Robert Kraus.|
Harper & Row, 1965.
A belated Happy Easter to those who celebrated yesterday! I had planned to blog this on Friday, but surprise! School was canceled on Friday, due to a freak overnight thunderstorm. Very strong winds knocked power out all over the area - not at our house, thank goodness - and enough schools were affected that the district canceled class for everyone. I couldn't finish this post with the girls around, because the Easter Bunny might have been upset if they saw this gift before Easter!
Most children's book geeks know that Maurice Sendak's The Nutshell Library is not the only "Nutshell Library." It was the first (1962), and it's the only one currently in print, but Harper & Row published two more miniature book collections in slipcovers. A year after Sendak's came The Christmas Nutshell Library, an adorable set by Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight. Then in 1965, an Easter/Spring-themed set arrived, written and illustrated by Robert Kraus. Thanks to eBay, the Easter Bunny managed to get a hold of a complete set of The Bunny's Nutshell Library for a very decent price. Little Sis was thrilled. She doesn't know how rare the books are, but she does know that they are old and collectible, and her little antique store-loving self has promised to take care of her tiny little books.
The original Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak has remained in print. [See Melissa's recent post on it, in fact.] The books were incorporated into the television special Really Rosie, and its four books are available separately, in paperback. Knight's Christmas Nutshell Library is rare and collectible, but two of the books were reprinted as regular-sized hardcover picture books, in 2003. [You can read about an incomplete set at Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves.] They are out of print again, but still pretty easy to find. Robert Kraus's Bunny's Nutshell Library is the one I was least familiar with. For one thing, Robert Kraus isn't as popular as Maurice Sendak or Hilary Knight. None of the books in the set have ever been available separately, either, as far as I can tell.
Happily, we love our little set. The slipcase is adorable, as you can see in the above photos. The books themselves are sweet spring stories. Juniper is about a little bunny who lives in a pretty Easter egg with a front window. He has toys and the grass inside the egg is always green, but he is lonely. The glass swan and sheep won't talk to him. So he scales a crystal mountain, slides down, and finds a little girl bunny named Jeannette. She has no toys, so he convinces her to accompany him back over the mountain. There, they play and enjoy each other's company, and Jeannette realizes she has no reason to return to her side over the mountain.
In The First Robin, a little robin rushes north to be the first robin of spring, but he's too early. He catches a cold, but the Kindly Groundhog finds him. Mrs. Robin comes looking for him, and nurses him back to health. In the end, he is the first robin of spring after all!
A thin colt is informed by Mr. Rabbit that he is "too wobbly" to join his fantastic parade, in Springfellow's Parade. Springfellow heads to a tree to sulk, where he meets a little chick ("too fuzzy") and Mr. Rabbit's own son ("too silly") who are sad, too. They decide to make their own parade, and the music they make is so wonderful that other animals join, including Mr. Rabbit. Mr. Rabbit enjoys their music so much that he asks them to play in his official parade.
And finally, The Silver Dandelion is about a little bunny named Roger, who just wants to pick a dandelion. Alas, every time he finds one, a larger animal tricks him, or pushes him out of the way. Roger is kind enough to let a much smaller animal pick one ahead of him, but shames himself when he tries to push a much larger badger aside. Embarrassed and sad, Roger creeps away to his secret place, a hollow tree. There, he finds a silver dandelion! He picks it, and rushes outside in time to encounter a masked weasel, who wants the dandelion for himself. Roger blows the seeds at the weasel, who runs away. The seeds fall to the ground and more silver dandelions pop up.
The stories are simple, but the illustrations are lovely, and of course, the miniature presentation makes them completely darling.
I'll have more late Easter stuff to share soon.
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