Vintage Children’s Books

I collect children’s books and had a bright idea to get some inexpensive ones to cut up in use in my collages. But, who am I kidding. I cannot take a pair of scissors to a book, regardless of the purpose! So, after a trip to Half Price Books last week, I have a few more books for my collection.

“Up and Down the Merry Go Round,” by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault. I love the watercolor look of Ted Rand’s illustrations.

Hard to go wrong with the Beatrix Potter and Quentin Blake combo. “Kitty-in-Boots.”

I love the red, white and blue limited color palette here in “New at the Zoo,” by Peter Lippman. I also want to immediately run out and get a curly-haired dog to name Joshua.

“A Nose for Trouble.” I loved these Golden Scratch ‘n Sniff books and probably have this at my parents’ house somewhere. (We are not a family that parts with our books!) But I didn’t have it at my house, and now I do. Clara kind of reminds me of Molly but looks more like Stinky, the family cat (RIP.) But, she didn’t have a nose for trouble as much as she had a bias toward fury and an appetite for blood. In other words, she was pretty great. Anyway, the sniff stickers have held up surprisingly well in this book, and I’m enjoying being transported not only into the mischievous Clara’s world, but back to my childhood bedroom. I think one reason I loved this book is because like Clara, I could walk out the door and disappear into an exciting world of lilac bushes, tangles of violet and mint, and candy at the home of a friend (where, as everyone knows candy is always sweetest.)

In My Room

“After Curfew” Stephanie Khattak. Ipad and Apple Pencil. Animated with Photoshop.

My story begins, like many teenage girls’, in the hours between midnight and sunrise, aka, when you have to be home after curfew, but you’re not sleepy, so you retreat to your room with your books and your stuff, and if you’re lucky, a phone line. And if you’re very lucky, or if your uncle works for the phone company, like mine did, you have a private phone number and answering machine. After we shut the door and said goodnight to our parents, it was time for Act 2.

If no one was spending the night (rare!) I would read, or write stories or letters to my pen pals. Eventually the phone would ring or I’d call someone who had likely been doing the same, and just as likely had been out with me an hour earlier.

My friends and I were prolific writers and creative thinkers. We passed notes all day long. My best friend went to a different school, so we’d write notes and stockpile them, and trade the stacks at church on Sunday. We wrote about everything, folded up the notes in elaborate origami shapes and palmed them back and forth like contraband. I still have many of those notes, and my some of my closest friends today are the writers. The interesting thing is that their words haven’t lost importance at all. It would be easy to look back and say “we were so silly,” but what we worried about – our fears, celebrations, observations and our questions – are still so important to who we are today. Even then, we wanted to be loved and accepted. We wanted to be good people and make good choices and have interesting lives.

If we could have written notes to each other while talking on the phone, we probably would have, but instead we would collaborate on stories, write poems about boys we liked and then read them to each other, and design elaborate games, worlds and alternate realities for ourselves. As a young adult home from college, I found some of that stuff in a forgotten trunk. My friend, as serious as I’d ever seen her, said “Burn it.” So, with privacy in mind, I won’t share any real details, but suffice it to say, in a different world, we might have combined D&D with that “Girl Talk Date Line” game and become millionaires.

I’m an only child and I grew up in the country so I was, and still tend to be in my own head a lot. These days, I’m afraid to sleep in my childhood bedroom, because it is too quiet and dark. I typically stay at a hotel when I visit home. But back then, my room was nothing less than a sanctuary and an incubator for the person I would become.

Tacky Party

This painting was inspired by a photo of my great-grandmother, auntie, grandmother, great-great-auntie and their church lady friends. I grew up in a small, unincorporated community outside a marginally larger town, so the people who are your friends as children are usually your friends your whole lives. These ladies were no exception, and neither am I. We are lucky like that.

We’ve had to say goodbye to most of these ladies over the years, and the ones still with us are in their late-80s, so time is a gift. I, like many in my generation, left home at 18 and only return sporadically. This gives time the illusion of stopping, then speeding up in fast-forward. I feel that the “Tacky Party” days were just yesterday, not 30+ years ago.

One of my favorite poets, Faith Shearin, articulates this feeling perfectly in her poem, “My Grandparents’ Generation.”

If there is a consolation prize for having so many wonderful people in our lives only to lose them, then it is that they are together wherever they are.



Polka Dots

I was in dance lessons from preschool until junior high. Recitals were part of that, with hair and makeup. For me, recital days meant early-80s pan-cake makeup and applicators as rough as kitchen sponges. I can still hear my grandmother yelling “You’re going to take all the HIDE off her face!” as my mom spackled away. Oh, no! Not the HIDE off my FACE! I, of course would then cry and we’d have to start all over again.

Gold Dancer

When I was around 4, my friend Missy and I were in a dance recital. Missy’s a bit older than me, and I always coveted her “grown up” style. This gold number that she wore in her “big kid’s” performance on stage back in 1980 was no exception. I don’t remember what my costume was that year, but I’m sure it looked childish and unsophisticated in comparison.