Vintage Book Wednesday: More Soviet Pop-Up Magic

Last week, I shared an amazing vintage Soviet children’s book that I found in a used book store.

Who's That? (Soviet Pop-Up Book)

Today, I’m sharing the companion to that book that I bought at the same time. It was published later – in 1984 – by the same company in Moscow. It’s a great deal simpler than Early, Early in the Morning, with the illustrations being the focal point.

Who's That? (Soviet Pop-Up Book)

Each page show a mother animal and her offspring, and the text simply gives their names. “Sow and piglets” or “cow and calves,” for example. The animals pop from the page, and are depicted in an idyllic farm setting. My favorite detail is probably the very European haystacks on the cow page.

Who's That? (Soviet Pop-Up Book)

Compared with the previous book, these illustrations are sedate. There are no wild psychadelic colors, and no stereotypically Russian characters. Instead, there are soft tones and sweet details of plants, farm buildings, and extra critters. The paper engineering is confined to the animals, and nothing moves.

Who's That? (Soviet Pop-Up Book)

I’m still on the prowl to learn why these books exist, but I did read online that there were Soviet books published in English for audiences in India. I wonder if these were part of that? Don’t worry – the research continues.

Vintage Book Wednesday: Soviet Pop-Up Book

I’ll bet you read that title and were expecting a little waving Lenin, weren’t you?

As you may have noticed, Russian culture and I have had a long and enduring relationship. I blame Anna Karenina and an outstanding college history professor (hi Dr. Ramer!). A Russian expedition is on my bucket list, and if there’s a Chagall painting in a museum, I will find it, by smell if necessary.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that when I saw this amazing little pop-up book at McKay’s in Knoxville, I had to have it. Since it was less than a dollar, it’s not like I made a risky investment.

soviet children's book

What was surprising was what I found on the back: a 1977 copyright from the Soviet Union. Apparently, in the late 70s, someone collected a few Russian nursery rhymes, had them translated, and made English-language pop-up books. This is before glasnost, so I don’t think it’s some sort of public relations ploy. My limited Google research has not led me to any easy answers about why these were published, but believe me – I’m curious!

The translator’s name is Dorian Rottenberg, who was, according to Wikipedia, “a noted translator of Russian literature, specializing in the translation of poetry and children’s books.” That’s all it says, but I want to know more! He translated a lot of Mayakovsky, but other than that, I’m not recognizing much of his work.

paper engineering

Anyway. Enough geeking out. This book is GORGEOUS. The colors are kind of a crazy combination of traditional eastern European tones and psychedelic 70s neon. While the translations can get kind of bizarre, and the rhyme schemes are sometimes forced and sometimes ignored, the actual nursery rhymes seem kind of sweet to me. Maybe I just like variety?

paper engineering

And, of course, they pop up! All of the pages have some sort of paper engineering, so the books are interactive. Clara, in particular, is drawn to them, and I let her use them knowing I risk a cardiac episode every single time. I mean, they’re Soviet-era, right? It’s not like they’re what we would call sturdy…

paper engineering

This one is my favorite. The dog and puppy slide under everyone’s feet, and the according moves back and forth. There’s a babushka! There are flowers that would be a perfect fit for Marcia Brady’s bedroom! And the rhyme isn’t half bad, either.

I have one more of these books to share with you next week, in my Russian kiddie lit lead-up to the Olympics. In the meantime, I would love to know if there are more of these, or what their history might be. Why were the Soviets publishing English-language children’s books???

Vintage Books Wednesday: Gyo Fujikawa’s Mother Goose

Recently, I realized that I’ve been more than remiss in reading nursery rhymes to Clara. I read them daily to Bethany, but as Bethany has grown into ‘older’ books, Clara has gone along for the ride, which means she’s definitely missed out on some things. Today’s book choice is helping me remedy this very bad mothering.

best nursery rhymes book

Conveniently, my mother has been ruthlessly culling the children’s books at her house, and I saved this one from an uncertain fate. I’m not sure what my favorite book of nursery rhymes was when I was little, but this is definitely the one that I remember most now. Gyo Fujikawa created the beautiful illustrations for this [amazon text=Mother Goose&asin=1402750641], and was ahead of her time in showing children of diverse racial backgrounds. Modern versions of other classics (like Gerda Muller’s) have often been slightly altered to include non-white children, but Ms. Fujikawa did it from the start of her career as an illustrator.

best nursery rhymes book

I love this page for singing the alphabet song. The letters are large enough for easy pointing, but more importantly, the “and” is included. It helps explain that it’s not an extra letter. Here, you can see that there is a bit of diversity among the children.

best nursery rhymes book

This spread shows The Old Woman in a Shoe, one of the traditional [amazon text=Mother Goose&asin=1402750641] rhymes included. Pictures like this are the ones I remember most about this book, because there were so many details to study. Other nursery rhyme collections tend just to show an old brown boot from the outside, but Fujikawa took the time to consider what it would mean for the old woman and her children to actually live inside a shoe.

Nursery rhyme books are great for the attention span of a toddler. If they want to sit, great – you can read pages and pages of rhymes. If their minds and bodies are hopping, then you can read three rhymes on three different pages and close the book without a problem. Now that I’m back in the swing with these, I feel even sillier for having neglected them.

As always, I love to know your favorites, so feel free to drop me a line and tell me about your favorite nursery rhyme or Mother Goose collection.

{The book link in this post is an affiliate link, and for once you can actually find an affordable vintage or modern copy of this book through that link. Any purchases you make using it benefit Read It, Make It! Thanks!}


Animals Everywhere!

This week’s vintage book comes from Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire.

d'aulaire animal book

I grew up reading some of the d’Aulaires’ better-known books, including [amazon text=George Washington&asin=0964380315], [amazon text=Abraham Lincoln&asin=1893103269], and their [amazon text=Book of Greek Myths&asin=0440406943]. However, when I started teaching, I realized that these classics often included outdated history and viewpoints that today we consider racist. As a result, I chose not to use these books in my classroom.

When I saw Animals Everywhere on the shelf at Bound to Be Read Books, I was curious. The d’Aulaires’ illustrations have always been magical, and their writing is both accessible and engaging for children, so I was hoping that this book would live up to those expectations without some of the inaccuracies I’ve come to expect.

animal bookI was thrilled to find this book filled with gorgeous illustrations, and simple but accurate text about animals in different parts of the world. It’s a great introduction for young children to the idea that different animals live in different climates, without going into too much detail.

Animals Everywhere does include some unusual animals, like the narwhal and the eider duck, and my girls had fun finding each one on the page. They also spent some time laughing at the authors’ descriptions of the sounds that the animals make.

animal book for kids

The book was reprinted in a [amazon text=new edition&asin=1590172264], making it easier to find than I would have anticipated. If you’re a d’Aulaire fan looking for one of their books you can use without worry, this is one worth considering.

Santa Mouse

Before I get started, I need to offer an apology. Santa Mouse, by Michael Brown, was THE Christmas book in my house growing up. It is zero percent religious, but still manages to get the point across that Christmas is about giving, not getting.

children's christmas book

Anyway, I had originally planned to feature this much earlier in December, but my cursory research showed it to be out of print. And not just inconveniently-out-of-print-you-have-to-buy-it-used, but expensive-to-buy-at-all-out-of-print. [amazon text=Don’t believe me?&asin=0760703558] Just take a gander.  Something made me look specifically at Barnes and Noble, though, and you can find it there, but only for Nook, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Then, the girls started requesting it. A lot. Multiple times a day. We went to my parents’ house, where my brother’s copy still lives, and they wanted it there, too. This made me realize that I need to tell y’all about it, even if you’re going to have to do some detective work to find it. So, I’m sorry I’m recommending something so awesome that you’ll have so much trouble locating.

In a nutshell, Santa Mouse tells the story of a young mouse who wants to give a gift to Santa. He wraps up his most special piece of cheese, and puts it under the tree on Christmas Eve. He wakes up suddenly to find himself “looking right in Santa’s eye,” and Santa gives him a name, a suit, and a job. Santa Mouse becomes Santa’s special helper, and they travel together delivering gifts.

The story is written in rhyme, and it’s just a joy to read aloud. There is an unfortunate reference to playing as “Eskimos,” which I (poorly) edit to be “Inuit,” and I think a newer edition (!!!) with a slight change there would be a great additional to the canon of children’s literature. You basically can’t dislike this book, and it has worked in my family for two generations to make little ones think of what they could give – to Santa, or to others – instead of focusing on that all-important Christmas list.

children's christmas board book

A few years ago, I found this board book version at a used book store. The paintings are gone, replaced with some sort of 1970s era puppets, and the overall effect is lost. The text is in prose instead of rhyme, and the magic just isn’t there. The girls don’t grab this one at all, despite the obvious attempts to make it attractive to children. To quote Mystic Pizza, “you don’t monkey with tradition.”

Moral of the story: get out there and find yourselves a copy of Santa Mouse. The children in your life will thank you, and you’ll get to start leaving a piece of cheese for Santa Mouse right next to the cookies and milk.

{Should you unwisely choose to spend upwards of $40 on a single copy of this book, Read It, Make It! will earn a small commission. While we will shake our heads at your choice, we will also say thank you.}