Children's Works from Aleph-Bet Books
Rhode Island Red on the cover of Aleph-Bet's latest catalogue.
Aleph-Bet Books has issued its Catalogue 96 of Children's Books and Illustrated Books. Once again, they have compiled a collection of 600 items, all illustrated in color, almost all of which fit the "children's" part of the title. A great many are classic books or classic children's authors, while others are obscure but old, often subtly or not so subtly promoting the values of their day. Indeed, you can often best understand the values of adults of an era by reading the stories and parables they read to their children. Here are some of the books for children Aleph-Bet has available this time.
Item 59 is a rare L. Frank Baum book that most clearly makes the connection between Lewis Carroll's earlier Alice absurdist fantasies and Baum's own world of Oz. The title is A New Wonderland, and it was the first children's book Baum wrote, though not the first published. Various publisher issues kept the book on the shelf until this first issue here offered was published in 1900. Rather than Wonderland, Baum's first adventures were set in "Phunnyland." He used to make up stories to tell his children. His family encouraged Baum to write them down and take them to a publisher, advice which turned out be very wise. The illustrator for this book was Frank Ver Beck, and while John Neill would illustrate most of Baum's Oz books to great acclaim, the author believed that Ver Beck had done the better job of depicting his characters the way Baum saw them. Priced at $7,500.
Item 330 is sort of a first of perhaps the greatest children's message book of all time, one you undoubtedly read to your children. It is the 1930 edition "retold by Watty Piper" (a pseudonym) and illustrated by Lois Lenski of The Little Engine That Could. We say sort of a first edition as this story in various forms had been bouncing around for years, and this edition described it as retold from M.C. Bragg's Pony Engine. This is, of course, the story of the little switch engine that hauled the big train over the mountain when more powerful engines either could not or would not. The little engine kept repeating the classic mantra, "I think I can," until it finally made it to the other side. We all hoped our children would learn its message of determination and perseverance, but they probably just took it as another entertaining tale. $1,500.
That illustration you see on the cover of this catalogue is the original artwork for William Joyce's dust jacket illustration for Stephen Manes' 1989 book Some of the Adventures of Rhode Island Red. Rhode Island Red, as the artwork implies, was implausibly born to a family of chickens. In this drawing, he has just hatched from his egg, to the great astonishment of the chickens. Item 315. $5,000.
Children's Works from Aleph-Bet Books
Original artwork for Uncle Wiggly comics.
Here is another first of sorts. Item 153 is an 1858 publication of Clement Moore's The Night Before Christmas. It was not the first publication of the tale, but the first one to use that title by which the story is known today. Previously, it appeared under the title A Visit from St. Nicholas. $2,750.
Item 224 is one of the stranger examples of anthropomorphic stories. The title is Von Mauschen und Mettwurstchen (Mousie and the Sausage) by Elsa Eisgruber, published in 1924. As Aleph-Bet describes it, "the curious story tells the saga of a mouse and a sausage who live together and what happens when the mouse accidently gets cooked trying to make a special treat for the sausage." Curioser and curiouser. $450.
If humanizing a sausage sounds weird, this one sounds just plain disgusting: Mr. North's Maggot. Actually, it's not so revolting as it sounds. A "maggot" not only is the word for those sickening fly grubs found around decaying remains, but is also the name for an English dance. "Maggot" in archaic times was used to mean a whim, and "maggots" are whimsical dances. They are kind of free form, usually referred to as somebody or other's maggot, as each one is individual. That explains this maggot belonging to Mr. North, and undoubtedly he preferred having this type of maggot to one of the other kind. Item 172. $250.
Item 130 is original artwork for the enormously popular Uncle Wiggly comic strip circa 1920. The characters and stories for the Uncle Wiggly comics and books were created by Howard Garis, though the artwork here offered was drawn by Lansing Campbell. Uncle Wiggly was an elderly rabbit who always carried a cane, and who always managed to wiggle his way out of various difficult situations, usually of his own making. $600.
Aleph-Bet Books may be reached at 914-764-7410 or Helen@alephbet.com. Their website is found at www.alephbet.com.