Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter! With Just a Little about CPSIA and Vintage Books

This Easter, as I have for every Easter I can remember, I read The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward, with illustrations by Margery Flack (the author-illustrator of the Angus books I've written about before), and as always, the book warmed my heart and gave me a burst of energy and determination to be kind to children in need.

The main character of this 1939 classic is well-ahead of her time. She's dark-furred, raised in an impoverished environment, left a single parent of 21 children - yet she manages to succeed in a privileged, white-furred all-male world as one of the five designated Easter Bunnies. She triumphs because not only is she wise, kind, and swift, as all Easter Bunnies must be, she is unusually sensitive to the needs and abilities of children and possessed of courage and determination (okay, and she's the timely recipient of a pair of magic gold shoes, but a stroke of good fortune has cemented many a success story). 

The copy of this book from my childhood technically belonged to my older sister, and when she left home to raise her own family, she took it with her. (The country bunny was a role model for all the females in my family, so I couldn't really blame her.) I immediately acquired the used paperback (below, in pink) because it wouldn't be Easter without the country bunny! And I was delighted when I found the used hardcover a few years later. My own kids have grown up loving the book - and peeky eggs, which are a prominent object in the story.
Both of these books predate the 1985 "safety date" under CPSIA (and the paperback is actually older) but both are in good shape, and I'm planning to pass them along to my future grandkids. In fact, I'm probably going to order a few more hardcovers this week while they're still easy to find, because these old ones are so much nicer than the new ones. You can get a new hardcover from amazon for about $12, but there are vintage ones beginning at $4, and even a 1939 edition for a mere $10. 
The old ones are bound in a lovely yellow bookcloth. The above is a close up of the bunny image from the cover. I do not have the dust jacket for my book, but it looked a lot like the paperback cover I believe.
Margery Flack's illustrations have the same beautiful graphic quality that they do in the Angus books, and I'm so impressed with how much she manages to do with the color in spite of the limitations of hand-done color separations. Flack's work is always notable for the way she integrates the text and illustrations and the expressive postures of her animal characters, and this book is no exception. I particularly loved the detail in these books - each of the 21 offspring of the country bunny is a distinct individual. In the vintage copies, the paper is heavy and the colors rich.

I was so enamored of the peeky egg in this book that I eventually learned how to make them with my kids. In fact, one of my first ever blog entries was about making them - you can read it here.  (By the way, I no longer worry about getting salmonella from eggs, since I learned about how remote the chances are - see this post from Deputy Headmistress.)
The peeky egg on the shelf above was made by Jacob, the son of my kids' book collaborator Julie Stiegemeyer (see her blog here). He did a great job, and I bring it out every year to enjoy again. The eggs will last ages as long as you keep sugar fiends like my dog (and me) out of licking range.
Children's books are always a key feature of my holiday decorating. This year I also decorated my shelves in different colors - but I didn't have a good Easter book for the blue shelf above - any suggestions?
The nice thing about having a late Easter was that we had so many things in bloom to brighten the table.

I realized this year as I finished my reading of The Country Bunny that she not only influenced my career choices and the attitudes I've tried to cultivate in my own kids, but apparently my choice of house - I noticed that her little cottage with its arched door and leaded windows looks an awful lot like my own home. Even her kitchen hutch is mighty familiar. 

Those old kids' books really pack a wallop. (Be sure to check out the reader reviews on amazon - I'm not the only one with strong feelings about this book!)


sassypackrat said...

I had this great book too as a child. I'm not sure where it is now. My mother probably donated it to a thrift store. Wish I still had it and am going to look around and see if I can find a copy.

Carol Baicker-McKee said...

Fortunately they're still pretty easy to find - I suspect a lot of kids have loved this book over the years. And one good thing about holiday books is that they tend to have been used relatively gently, since they only come out for a few weeks a year.

Try the amazon sellers if you can't find a local copy - there were tons available when I checked, and plenty that were inexpensive.

Lisa J. Michaels said...

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mimi said...

Your blog is great. I'm sending to my kids; they will love the Easter centerpiece. They are coming to my home for July 4. Will you post any suggestions for July 4 decorations in advance?
mimi in atlanta