Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Return of Sunday Brunch


When I finished my blog on Sunday, May 14, I figured it would probably be the last one I'd write at my old residence...but I assumed I'd be back online the following Sunday to write a new blog from my new house.

Well, you know what they say about ASSuming!

How naive was I to think I'd have everything unpacked, put away, and be organized enough to write a blog just a couple days after moving in?

Heck, it's now nearly two-and-a-half weeks later and I'm STILL living out of boxes and bags, still pounding nails into the wall with the back of an ice cream scoop (the hammer isn't unpacked yet), writing letters on the back of paper plates (neither is the typing paper), and getting lost walking to the bathroom at night.

Not that this new house is huge. It's just a small condo. But the layout is a bit confusing. I even have a hard time describing it to people.

This condo is on the side of a hill.

You enter from the street level (and let me admit right off that this place has no "curb appeal" -- the front door is actually hidden behind the garage!) but by the time you walk from the front to the back of the unit, you have gone -- without climbing any stairs -- from ground level to the second floor. A balcony looks down on this pond, which is full of ducks, geese, and the occasional wild animal. I don't know what kind of animal because I still haven't unpacked my "mammals of North America" book, but it's brown, furry, and has a long thin tail. And a bullfrog in the pond clears his throat all night long.

This is all very new to me, since I grew up in the city where the only animals I saw were squirrels and rats.

The very first day we moved in one of the toilets died and had to be replaced.

Now the washer and dryer are terminally ill and I just ordered new ones.

The joys of homeownership.


A few weeks back I wrote about the grandfather clock and calico cat doorstop that came along with the condo. At the time I did not have photos, but they recently agreed to pose for pictures.

Here's the grandfather clock, being guarded by the cat. (Actually the cat is probably looking around for any hickory, dickory, dock mice who might be planning to run up the clock.)

You probably think I took this photo at 10:00 o'clock. Actually, I haven't figured out to start the clock, can't afford any expert to come look at it (that new toilet cost $707!) so the clock is permanently set at 10:00 clock. It's one of those "right twice a day" time pieces.

As for the calico cat, I guess he got a bit kicked around during all those years he served as a doorstep. One ear is hanging and he's split on the side with stuffing coming out, but I think that's befitting for the fightin' feline from Eugene Field's poem.


This house also has a basement but, because it's on a hill, the basement is at ground level with a walk-out entrance/exit. The basement came with a set of built-in shelves and I hired someone to install shelving on all the other walls as well.

I was really hoping to feature photographs of "my library" in this blog (though I rarely say the words "my library" out loud because the phrase sounds kind of it should only be spoken by someone with an English accent...who smokes a pipe...and has patches on the elbows of his tweed jacket...and since I don't qualify there, I feel kind of uppity when I utter the phrase. Maybe I'll get used to it over time.

Whatever the case, the shelves have been installed and (mostly) painted, but there is still some work to be done on them. And even though I've spent the past two weeks shelving my volumes, I'm still not quite finished, so I'll have to save pictures of the room for another blog.

I do have to say that it's great fun to open my boxes of books and place them on roomy, freshly-painted shelves. All along I planned to just place everything in alphabetical order by author, but immediately ran into the problem of oversized books. (Should have thought of that earlier; it's an issue in every library.) Then there are other problems. For example, take a look at this shelf of titles by Gary Schmidt:

The books are arranged alphabetically, but I hate how his "four seasons" titles are separated using that format. So I had to change them to keep the series together. And you'll notice that even there I couldn't alphabetize them. Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter may be alphabetical, buy that's not how the seasons run. So I made another change:

And you see that kind of thing throughout the collection. Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books are interrupted by his other titles that begin with intervening letters. Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart edges her way between the volumes in the author's "His Dark Materials" series. And Susan Beth Pfeffer's end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it series is broken apart by her other novels:

Guess I need to move those around too. They'll no longer be alphabetical, but her apocalyptic tales will be together, this time in publication order.

I guess this is the kind of thing you can do when your library only has one patron!


My bookstore friend just showed me the coolest thing: a boxed set of YA ARCS (advance reading copies) which will be published by divisions of Penguin this fall.

The titles are:

THE REPLACEMENT by Brenda Yovanoff
SAPPHIQUE by Catherine Fisher
THE ETERNAL ONES by Kirsten Miller
NIGHTSHADE by Andrea Kremer
MATCHED by Ally Condie

I'm always astounded by how much money and effort goes into book promotion long before a title is published and the general reader sees it on the shelf at the library or bookstore.


I never got into LOST, that mysterious TV show which just ended its run a couple weeks ago. However, I was intrigued to learn that one of its stars, Evangeline Lilly, now wants to write children's books.

Boy, another celebrity children's book author!

Just what the world needs!

Recently, Ms. Lilly appeared on Craig Ferguson's talk show and shared a portion of her rhyming (of course) children's story called (of course) THE SQUICKERWONKERS.

Here is what she read (warning: the section below has proven to have an emetic effect on readers with good taste.)

The name is Squickerwonker, perhaps unknown to you.
But that's it, Squickerwonker, and this is what Squickerwonkers do.
Squickerwonkers like to rule, be chief and head of things,
And have the name and number that everybody rings.
Squickerwonkers like the wealth and inheritance of old folks,
And Squickerwonkers are quick to think and have the answers to all jokes.
But there's a secret that lies behind the Squickerwonkers name,
It's a horrible secret that gives Squickerwonkers shame....

She left off reading at that point (thank heaven!) so I have no idea what the "secret" may be. But I can guess the "shame." It's a shame to think that some agents and publishers undoubtedly called the actress the next day offering her a book contract!


Packing boxes, I came across this long-lost item from my childhood:

Okay, it kind of looks like a body recovered on a TV show called CSI : CHILDREN'S LIT DIVISION, but I immediately recognized this toy from my childhood.

It's a wooden figure of Pinocchio, based on the children's book character created by Carlo Collodi. I couldn't wait to put it together again, but was dismayed to discover that all the cords that held the pieces together had...disintegrated!

Okay, if things are handled and played with, they sometimes break. That I understand. But to have one of your toys actually rot with age is something else altogether!

I've never felt so old in my life!

Still, I laid it out on my bed so you can see how it used to look:

Back in the day, he could sit up and his jointed knees could hang over the edge of a bookshelf. No more. The poor guy really has "got no strings" these days. The only part that still works is his nose, and that's because it wasn't attached by cord, but screwed in.

The figure came with two noses. One for when he told the truth:

And another for when he told a lie:

How ironic that, even though Old Pinoke is now a broken boy, his most distinguishing feature still functions.


You may be wondering why I didn't tell Pinocchio "rest in pieces" and just give him away, rather than carting him to a new location in his shoebox casket.

I'm wondering myself.

Moving has made me think about the things we hold onto and the things we let go of.

Why are there certain things we can easily gave away and others that we carry around with us all our lives?

I can't remember if I mentioned in previous blogs that my parents were moving into this new house with me. They are now my tenants while I'm the equivalent of Fred Mertz, their cranky but lovable landlord. My folks really needed a new place to live at this point in their lives as well. No longer able to negotiate stairs, they needed a one-floor space with a walk-in shower and other amenities for the elderly. Helping them pack their belongings, I was surprised to see my mother wrapping her childhood doll and tiny teddy bear. She also brought a children's tea set that someone once gave her and which she still dreams about setting up on a little side table. Then there's my father. One of the items we argued over were a set of sawhorses. Years ago, when relatives came to visit in the summertime, we'd set boards across these sawhorses in the backyard and serve outdoor meals and picnics. I'll never forget the exciting feeling of "company's coming!" as we set up the boards as long tables and waited for our relatives to arrive. However, my father seemed to think these sawhorses would still come in handy today, ignoring the fact that most of the people who came to our summer picnics are now, well...dead. He also brought along a big fancy kite that someone gave him about twenty years ago. He never took it out of the box, never flew it. But he brought it with him to this new house. I am wondering how someone who would have a hard time navigating the steeply-inclined driveway down to the mailbox would ever be able to run across a field with a kite in hand.

But who am I to say he's wrong?

I'm the guy who brought along his Pinocchio doll and his old scrapbooks...and a couple thousand children's books.

I guess we hang onto such things because they're meaningful to us...and keep us attached to our pasts...who we were...who we are....

Right now my father is sleeping in his chair in the living room. Maybe he's dreaming about the past -- those exciting summer Sundays with "company coming, company coming," when we'd set up sawhorses and boards in the yard and serve hamburgers and corn-on-the-cob and macaroni salad. Or maybe he's dreaming about the future -- the possibility that, no matter how old he gets, someday he'll break open that box, take out the kite, and run across the lawn behind the condo with his kite soaring high behind him.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children's Books. Hope you'll be back.


Nancy Werlin said...

This is a lovely post, Peter. Thanks for writing and posting it.

Nancy Werlin

Anonymous said...

Good to have you back - it didn't seem like Sunday without your post. I have taken several classes taught by Gary Schmidt and I think he would approve of the way you so thoughtfully arranged his books.

Vonna said...

Congratulations on your new library! It doesn't sound stuffy at all; just the opposite--warm and comforting.

Bybee said...

You can say "my library" all you want and I will *never* think you're stuffy or uppity. I'll just think: "Lucky guy!"

Sarah said...

Welcome back, and welcome to your new home! Even without the reference book, I would guess that your neighbor is a muskrat.

Nicole said...

I had that Pinocchio as a kid! I have no idea what happened to him. I think he must be packed away somewhere.

Natalia said...

I totally GET your parents! Wouldn't it be great if their son could host a get-together at the new house with new friends, using those sawhorses? And take his dad kite-flying at the park or beach, but do the running for him to get it airborne, then hand it over? And go shopping with his mom for that perfect side-table for the tea set? I hope I still have dreams when I'm much older too. (not that I'm that young!)

Summer said...

I totally appreciate the quandary of organizing one's personal library! I have the same mental conversations with myself every time I'm unpacking boxes of books after a move. Glad to know I'm not alone!

linda urban said...

I love this post. Thank you for it.

P. J. Grath said...

You sound different in your new house. My feeling from this post is that it is more YOU. I like that. I love reading about the books you read and collect, but your feelings for the books will mean more to me with this story of Pinocchio, the doll and teddy bear, the sawhorses and the kite. Bookshelves, too, of course! Happy housewarming to you all!

Anonymous said...

You didn't ask -- but to get the clock started is really easy. There are weights on the chains. If the weights are already at the top just start the pendulum swinging from side to side. If the weights are at the bottom gently lift the weights as you pull the other end of the chain down. Then start the pendulum. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Happy new home, Peter! I'm so glad you're back. Good luck with the rest of your unpacking. It is a lot of work, but a lot more fun and satisfying than the packing up.

Linda said...

I love your grandfather clock and the "Calico Cat" below is just perfect.

Nase said...

Congratulations on your new home!

Nine Mile said...

They're even more charming than I imagined! So jealous. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

yes, sort order priority is always

1. Author
2. Series
3. Title

except for multi-author series (like Star Trek) where it is simply done by series