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Best Books for Babies – the Top 10 Board Books

Snack Time for Cow by Michael Dahl

Hello readers. I have been off for the past year, giving birth to and caring for a delicious baby, so please forgive my blog absence. And while some things never change – I am still a reader through and through – there are a couple of key differences.

First, it seems that my preferred position in bed may be altered forever. While I was growing my son, my usually-favored choice to read in bed on my stomach and elbows stopped being an option early on. Unwilling to give up my nightly read-to-sleep, I resorted to the more pedestrian choice of sitting up, against the headboard with pillows, and I’m afraid it stuck and I’m now a convert. Apologies to my tummy-sleeping comrades for the defection.

More importantly, my reading habits have evolved. Pre-motherhood, I read for a minimum one hour every night, racing through two books a week. Now, the grown-up reading portion of my night more typically consists of 11 minutes of reading the same paragraph repeatedly, struggling to grasp it, until exhaustion overtakes me. It isn’t pretty, and I laugh mirthlessly, if fondly, at the naiveté of the statements I enthusiastically made whilst pregnant about how much reading I was going to get done on maternity leave.

At least I can say I read a full book every night now, however…but it’s a board book. Board books for babies are sturdy cardboard, designed perfectly for little hands, and more resistant to exuberant smacking and accidental tearing than standard paper.

We’ve been reading to our son every night since he was 5 months old, and it’s been so fun. At first he just listened. Now at 12 months he listens, looks, turns pages, laughs, and even turns back to see favorite pictures again. The nightly book is family time, a signal that it’s bed time, and an important part of our routine. While some of the books aim to impart various lessons in alphabet, colors, shapes and the like, our favorites are just the silly fun ones, particularly those that rhyme. We know we’re helping him develop language, and hope we’re laying the foundation for a future full of passion for books. We’ve read approximately 200 board books now, and these (below) are the top 10 best books for babies we’ve found – the criteria being these are the ones my son giggled at and smacked the most. If you find you like one of them, definitely check out other titles by the same author, as many of them are quite prolific. Sandra Boynton has many very fun ones including the Little Pookie board books, Eric Carle has written and illustrated scads, and Michael Dahl has several, as well. If none of these float your boat, there are countless other marvelous board books for babies to enjoy. The main thing is the quality time spent reading.

Very Hairy Bear by Alice Schertle             Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton           The Big Eating Book by Guido van Genechten

Dinosaur Roar by Paul & Henrietta Stickland             Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig           Farmyard Rhymes by Clare Beaton

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson            I Kissed the Baby by Mary Murphy            Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle

Want more like this? Check out our Tips For Reading to Children post, as well as Best Books to Read Aloud to Children.

Beautiful rare antiquarian Swedish books from Mats Rehnström

Welcome to Mats Rehnström Rare Books from Stockholm, who has recently joined the AbeBooks marketplace. Founded in 1991, Mats Rehnström Rare Books is an antiquarian bookstore specializing in old and rare Swedish books from the early days of printing up until 1860.

This seller also offers a wide variety of reference books on bibliography, books about books, and history of literature. They also have a selection of post-1860 books that are inscribed or feature  beautiful bindings.

A member of ILAB, Mats Rehnström Rare Books is located in a building owned by the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts. Below is a selection of rare books from this bookseller. Find books from Mats Rehnström.

First Danish translation of Alice in Wonderland from 1875 featuring John Tenniel’s illustrations

Neues Kriegs- Ingenieur- Artillerie, from 1757, the most comprehensive military dictionary of the era

Sweriges rijkes siö-lagh, from 1667, a first edition of ‘The Maritime Law of Sweden’

Essai sur l’histoire naturelle des corallines, from 1756, containing a printed dedication to Queen Lovisa Ulrika of Sweden. This is a work on corals along the coasts of England and Ireland.

Introducing Crap Taxidermy, the must-have coffee table book

Badly stuffed animals

The blog Crappy Taxidermy has spawned a book, Crap Taxidermy. If you thought no more damage could be done to an animal after its death, think again. This book features many examples of oddly posed animals, badly stuffed animals and bizarre animal hybrids created on some person’s kitchen table.  If you enjoy this book, then you may also be strangely drawn to Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy… and require help.

A badly stuffed cat

2014 Booker Prize shortlist announced

The shortlist for the 2014 Man Booker Prize has been announced. The six books shortlisted are:

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma Death Railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his affair with his uncle’s young wife two years earlier. His life is a daily struggle to save the men under his command from starvation, cholera and pitiless beatings. Until he receives a letter that will change him forever. Moving deftly from the POW camp to contemporary Australia, from the experiences of Dorrigo and his comrades to those of the Japanese guards, this novel tells a story of love, death, and family, exploring the many forms of good and evil, war and truth, and guilt.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and our narrator, Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. “I spent the first 18years of my life defined by this one fact: that I was raised with a chimpanzee,” she says. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share with someone. I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern’s expulsion, I’d scarcely known a moment alone. She was my twin, my fun-house mirror, my whirlwind other half, and I loved her as a sister.”

J by Howard Jacobson
J by Howard Jacobson
Set in the future, J is a love story of incomparable strangeness, both tender and terrifying. Two people fall in love, not yet knowing where they have come from or where they are going. Kevern doesn t know why his father always drew two fingers across his lips when he said a world starting with a J. It isn’t the time or place to be asking questions. Ailinn too has grown up in the dark about who she was or where she came from. On their first date Kevern kisses the bruises under her eyes. Brutality has grown commonplace.Hanging over the lives of all the characters in this novel is a momentous catastrophe – a past event shrouded in suspicion, denial and apology, now referred to as What Happened, If It Happened. J is a novel to be talked about in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World.

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee
It is 1967, Calcutta. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in student unrest, agitation, extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind is this note. ‘Ma, I feel exhausted with consuming, with taking and grabbing and using. I am so bloated that I feel I cannot breathe any more. I am leaving to find some air, some place where I shall be able to purge myself, push back against the life given me and make my own. I feel I live in a borrowed house. It’s time to find my own… — Forgive me…’.’

How to be Both by Ali Smith / signed copies
How to Be Both by Ali Smith
A novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance. Smith can make anything happen, which is why she is one of our most exciting writers today .

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris / signed copies
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris
Paul O’Rourke is a man made of contradictions: he loves the world, but doesn’t know how to live in it. He’s a Luddite addicted to his iPhone, a dentist with a nicotine habit, a rabid Red Sox fan devastated by their victories, and an atheist not quite willing to let go of God. Then someone begins to impersonate Paul online, and he watches in horror as a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account are created in his name. What begins as an outrageous violation of his privacy soon becomes something more soul-frightening: the possibility that the online Paul might be a better version of the real thing.

The winner is announced on  October 14.

The 2013 Man Booker Prize was awarded to Eleanor Catton for The Luminairies. Just 28 years old when the prize was awarded, the Canadian-born New Zealander was the youngest winner in the prize’s history. Signed copies of The Luminaries are still available.

Classic Children’s Books Re-imagined by Artist Anna Bond

Even if you don’t know the name Anna Bond, you might recognize her trademark hand-painted flowers. Her company, Rifle Paper Co., has been making stationary, art prints and even wallpaper in her signature style since 2009, but her colorful flowers and painted gold letters had not adorned a book cover until her recent collaboration with Puffin Books.

The Florida-based artist has designed a hardcover series called Puffin in Bloom, featuring the children’s classics Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

I couldn’t imagine a more fitting artist to re-imagine these beloved books, and I’m hoping there’s more to come (The Secret Garden, Little House in the Big Woods, and Black Beauty, please, Ms. Bond) but for now, enjoy these…

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. MontgomeryHeidi by Johanna Spyri A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Treasures Abound at the 2014 Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair

Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair

The 2014 Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair is just around the corner, on Saturday, October 11, and Sunday, October 12. The fair will take place at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, on the north side of Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle and site of the 1962 World’s Fair. Get directions.

Tickets are just $5.00 at the door and are good for both days. Kids under 12 are admitted free.

Sponsored in part by AbeBooks.com, the fair will feature 88 booksellers from the United States, Canada and Europe. There will be no shortage of antiquarian books, maps, prints, and ephemera to tempt you, with many well-known rare booksellers in attendance, including Bauman Rare Books, John Windle, Rulon-Miller Books, Ken Sanders Rare Books, Voyager Press Rare Books, Books Tell You Why, and Peter Harrington.

See amazing rare and collectible books from all over the world. Learn more.

Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair


Blood, violence and grit in real life Little House on the Prairie

Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s books about life as a pioneer girl have been enjoyed by children and parents for decades for their wholesome and entertaining tales about farm boy crushes and making syrup in the snow. The books are autobiographical, but as the LA Times reports, Wilder’s series sheltered young readers from the grittiness of the pioneer girl’s real life. In the 1920s Wilder wrote a true-to-life memoir that exposed real-life’s horrors, but it was deemed too violent and no one would publish it.

Nearly a century later, the University of South Dakota State Historical Society Press will release Wilder’s drafted memoir in September as Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. According to the LA Times, the memoir includes a sour love triangle, and a scene where a drunk man douses a room in kerosene, lights in on fire, then drags his wife through it by the hair. As a child I adored and devoured every book Wilder wrote. I doubt I’ve read any book since that I’ve loved as much as I loved hers. In part, I’m hesitant to read the memoir for fear it will spoil my innocent adoration for Pa and Laura and Almanzo, but I know I’ll devour it just as I did Little House in the Big Woods and every book that came after it. In the meantime, I’m lusting after these vintage books by Wilder.


Vintage Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Vintage edition of Little House on the Prairie with illustrations by Garth Williams, 1953

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

First edition of The Long Winter, 1940

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Vintage copy of By the Shores of Silver Lake illustrated by Helen Sewell and Mildred Boyle, 1939

These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Vintage edition of These Happy Golden Years illustrated by Garth Williams, 1971

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

A vintage edition of Little House in the Big Woods, published without a dust jacket and illustrated by Helen Sewell, 1946

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

First edition of Little Town on the Prairie, 1941

1951 manual to the first computer game sells for $4,200

The Ferranti Nimrod Computer Manual from 1951 (pic supplied by Any Amount of Books)

A copy of the manual for the first computer game has been sold for £2,500 (around $4,200) by Any Amount of Books in London via AbeBooks. The Ferranti Nimrod Digital Computer Manual is a key piece of technology and gaming history. The game in question is a long way from Minecraft and Angry Birds – it’s a match-stick game called Nim that was played in the French movie L’Année Derniere a Marienbad and is said to have originated in China. Here’s a link to a game.

The computer was built to play the game alone. The manual was used at the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the cover offers a little early branding with the words ‘Faster than Thought’.

To quote the manual:

 The game is for two players, being played nowadays with matches. At the beginning of the game one of the players arranges the matches in any number of heaps in any way he chooses. The players then move alternatively taking any number of matches from any one heap but at least one match must always be taken. In the normal simple game the player who succeeds in taking the last few matches wins but in the reverse simple game the player who takes the last match or matches loses.

At the exhibition the public could play against the machine. The famous Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing beat it. At the conclusion of each game, the machine flashed up the message ‘Computer Wins’ or ‘Computer Loses.’ It’s interesting to hear that the manual referred to ‘memory’ as ‘storage’.

Any Amount of Books posted about the manual at its excellent Jot 101 blog – I love the picture of the two dancers from the Windmill Girls playing against the computer.

L’Année dernière à Marienbad is a cult 1961 film known for its hard-to-understand narrative. Two men play the match game as the movie explores the relationship between them and a woman through flashbacks. Ferranti was an electrical engineering firm that began in the Victorian era but went bankrupt in 1993. The best bibliography of computer literature is The Origins of Cyberspace by Diana Hook and Jeremy Norman but it’s not cheap.

My used bookstore find – a vintage Penguin edition of The Gun by CS Forester

The Gun by CS Forester

During my family’s recent road-trip vacation, I picked up this beautiful vintage Penguin paperback of The Gun by CS Forester in a little used bookstore in Cranbrook, British Columbia. It’s a 1959 edition and looks as if it has not been read as the spine is not creased. Not bad for $2 used book. I cannot wait to read it.

I had been reminded about this novel after recently reading a biography of Cary Grant.

Poo-Poo and the Dragons by CS Forester

Grant starred in the movie adaptation of The Gun in 1957 along with Sophia Loren in her first English language role. The movie was titled The Pride and the Passion and also stars Frank Sinatra with Stanley Kubrick directing. I watched a lot of Cary Grant movies in my childhood and The Pride and the Passion was often shown on Sunday afternoons.

This historical novel, first published in 1933, is about an 18-pound cannon during the Peninsular War (1807-1814) where Spain and Portugal struggled to free themselves from Napoleon’s all-conquering French forces.

The 1933 Little Brown US first edition has a lovely dust jacket. I tend to think CS Forester is rather forgotten these days in the era of Game of Thrones, but he is  the man who wrote the 12-book Horatio Hornblower series,  The African Queen and, my personal favorite, Poo-Poo and the Dragons.

(Poo-Poo and the Dragons is the story of a little boy called Poo Poo (real name Harold) and how his family’s life is changed when he brings home Horatio the dragon for a pet.)

Paws for thought: bronze Scottie dog bookends sell for $6,000

A pair of bronze Scottie dog bookends sculpted by famed animal artist Marguerite Kirmse (1885-1954) have sold for $6,000 on AbeBooks. They are the most expensive bookends to ever sell on AbeBooks and were the 10th most expensive item to sell on the marketplace in July. The Scottie pictured to the right is signed by Kirmse.

The English-born artist contributed drawings and etchings to many magazines and books, including Eric Knight’s classic children’s story, Lassie Come Home. Her prints and illustrated books are very collectible.

Kirmse lived in Connecticut where she raised Scottish Terriers with her husband George W. Cole. They also bred Airedales, Irish Terriers and other breeds. Kirmse was often drawn to hunting dogs and this is reflected in her art. Dogs in the Field, a limited edition book produced by Kirmse in 1935, offered many studies of hunting dogs in action and is treasured by collectors of canine art. Only 685 numbered copies were printed.

Although etchings were her forte, she began to sculpt dogs in bronze in the 1920s. Lassie Come Home was published as a book in 1940 with the movie version following three years later. Kirmse’s artwork adorns the memorable front cover.

A 1940 first edition of Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight featuring artwork by Marguerite Kirmse

FoxhoundA 1931 print of a foxhound etching produced by Marguerite Kirmse

The FoxA 1931 print of a fox etching produced by Marguerite Kirmse

Tyke the Little Mutt by Dorothy L’Hommedieu and illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse

A 1926 first edition of My Friend, The Dog by Albert Payson Terhune illustrated by Marguerite Kirmse

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