Why Do Some Great Books Make You Feel Like A Kid All Over Again?

Like the first day back to school… it’s hard to believe that the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair (BABF) is really just around the corner!  This highly anticipated celebration takes place Friday, September 9th through Sunday, September 11th at the Brooklyn Expo Center, located at 79 Franklin St., in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  With 100 dealers from all over the US and Europe, and many literary themed exhibits and events planned for the course of the three-day event, book lovers may just think they’ve found their own personal paradise!    

This year, the BABF extends a warm and very special welcome to families and young readers.  All kidding aside, folks of all ages will not want to miss a special free workshop which will be held on Saturday, September 10th from 3-5pm. Artist and author Esther K. Smith of Purgatory Pie Press will present her latest book, Making Books with Kids: 25 Paper Projects to Fold, Sew, Paste, Pop, and Draw, and will give a hands-on demonstration of how she designs and makes simple pop-up and movable books.  Esther's entire series of how-to books will be available for sale and signing at this can’t miss session.

In honor of the importance of children’s books over time - and the roles that they play in developing a youngster’s sense of imagination, adventure, and self-confidence - ANLAOB spoke briefly with two BABF dealers who specialize in fine vintage children’s literature.  Susan Weiser Liebegott, of Enchanted Books, ABAA, and Lee Temares of Lee and Mike Temares, LLC both not only sell important children’s books, but also love and collect the genre as well.  Let’s hear what they have to say.

ANLAOB:  Ladies, thank you so much for speaking with us today about children’s books.  To start things off, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you specialize in.

Lee:  I am a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves to travel, and tries to keep up with our fast changing world. Our main specialty is children's (juvenile) series books, followed closely by the Limited Editions Club. We also carry large selections of Modern Library, Heritage Press, and Books About Books.

Susan:  I am at heart an artist, painter, photographer, and am interested in all things visual.  Children’s books are the perfect fit for that.  My business specializes in fine illustrated books, children's books, illustrated Judaica, illustrated foreign language books, pochoir, pop-ups and movables, fairy tales, photography, and travel books.

ANLAOB:  How did you get interested in specializing in children’s books and literature?

Lee:  I loved these books as a child, and tried to figure out how many different authors there were for the same series - spotting discrepancies, and... not knowing at the time that there really were different authors and that the authors' names were mostly pseudonyms. Later on, with my sociology background, I enjoyed spotting the demographic and other trends.

Susan: Once I decided to enter the antiquarian book business, I started searching for a book I owned as a child.  Unfortunately, my mother gave away this wonderful book to someone younger in our apartment house to enjoy. That book was the incredibly illustrated Twelve Dancing Princesses, illustrated with tipped-in color plates by Kay Nielsen (a Danish illustrator who was popular in the early 1900’s.)  In my search for this title - a NYC bookseller showed me Rackham and Dulac (famous for their great fairy tale artwork) illustrated books and I knew that was what I wanted to deal in.

 ANLAOB:   What was your favorite book or books as a child, and why?  

Lee:  I never had a real favorite, but I did love The Brass Keys of Kenwick by Augusta Huiell Seaman. Books from the Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, Cherry Ames, and Hardy Boys series were all favorites as well.

Susan: Curious George, Curious George Gets a Job, the Madeline and Babar the Elephant books and Seuss’s The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins are absolute favorites.  I also enjoyed a Swedish series about triplets:  Flicka, Ricka and Dicka (girls) and Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr (boys).  All the characters in these books had grand adventures, got in trouble, and got saved - they all had personality. When I first went to Paris in the mid-70’s,  I felt right at home.  That was because of Madeline.  Today, my favorite illustrated book is Kay Nielsen's In Powder and Crinoline.  I also love JOB's ABC, a French book. I enjoy Volland Books, which featured numerous well know authors and illustrators, including Johnny Gruelle, who wrote Raggedy Ann.  Each Volland book is different and usually lovely.  However, I would stay away from Volland's Skating Gander because it has anti-Semitism in it - by the writer, not the illustrator.

ANLAOB:  In your opinion, what makes a child’s book “important”? 

Lee:  The old saw is that, "It lasts." My definition is that it says something about the times in which it was written, was written well, does not preach, and holds the child's attention, while not boring the adult.

ANLAOB:   If you were to advise a new parent on the 5 most important children’s books of all time to include in their child’s library, what would they be, and why?

 Lee:  Naturally, one thinks of Peter Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels, and tales from Aesop and Grimm. They have all stood the test of time.

Alice In Wonderland .jpg

Susan:  Well, in addition to my favorite books as a child, you could add to the list Little Toot, Make Way for Ducklings, Where the Wild Things Are, Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel and Little House, and Wanda Gag titles - the list goes on.   I think it is important to note that I like the books printed through the 60s because the paper and colors were so much better then.  I don't enjoy a picture book that smells of chemicals.




ANLAOB:  If you could add any “bucket list” child’s book or books to your collection or store inventory, what would they be, and why?

Lee:  I would add the best-selling books of each generation and try to analyze why they did or did not last, and what they told us about that group of readers.

500 Hats .jpg

Susan:  My bucket list would include first editions of Curious George, Curious George Gets a Job, Madeline, and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

ANLAOB:  What is the role of printed books for children today, given most of them are using hand held devices as early as they fit in their hands?

Lee:  Ah, a soapbox moment. First, from what I have seen and heard from the children I know - they like to read from books! Their devices are used for other things. They love the feel and look of printed books.  More and more schools are using devices in the classroom, making them seem like work rather than fun. The printed book has become fun. It can be passed around. Look around the next time you are at an airport. The kids (and adults) are using their devices to check e-mail, Facebook, etc., but they are not reading on them. On our last few long flights I walked the aisles of the planes looking at what people were doing besides sleeping. People of all ages were reading, overwhelmingly reading something printed. Television did not knock out radio and movies. I will get off my soapbox now.

ANLAOB:  And finally, what children’s book would you say is the best “goodnight reading book” ever written?

Lee:  There is no one book. But ideally, something fun that can be enjoyed by both the parent and the child. Nothing scary or that takes too much understanding. I tend to like shorter pieces that can be finished in one seating.

Susan:  From my son’s perspective, at bedtime he loved the Little Golden Book The Poky Little Puppy, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky, and The Shape of Me by Dr. Seuss - every night of course, and many times over.

Little Toot .jpg

ANLAOB:  Lee and Susan, many thanks for your thoughts and insights on fine children’s literature. 

 Come meet Lee and Susan and 100 dealers specializing in world-class antiquarian books and ephemera at the BABF!  This highly anticipated event, featuring over 100 world-class dealers plus many special events, will be held at the Brooklyn Expo Center, on Friday, September 9th from 6-9pm; Saturday, September 10th from 11am-7pm; and Sunday, September 11th from 11am-5pm.  A variety of ticketing options are available ranging from $7 for a Sunday only ticket to $25 for the preview opening to benefit 826NYC, a program which teaches children how to write creatively; for more information and to purchase tickets please click here.  

The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair is sponsored ABEBooks and brought to you by Book and Paper Fairs. Book and Paper Fairs produces the top book and ephemera fairs in the Northeast US.  Our professionally managed events have a long history of bringing together the finest buyers and sellers in the industry, and are held in major locations including Boston, New York City, Brooklyn, Concord, NH, and Lexington, MA. For more information and a calendar of our shows, please visit www.bookandpaperfairs.com.