Sunday, July 11, 2010

Brunch Behind the Wrong Doorknocker

Thanks for all the kind comments about my new library. It’s definitely a thrill to have a place –- after all these decades –- to store my entire collection of books in alphabetical order! Someone asked where I got the blue desk and chair. They actually belong to my father. He received the desk from his family when he was in high school and has refused to part with it ever since. Frankly, I’ve never cared for that old desk. The drawers stick, the handles rattle, and – until recently -- it was painted the ugliest shade of green you’ve ever seen in your life. Before bringing it here, I was plotting some way of accidentally “losing” it (i.e. the old “it fell off the back of the moving van” ruse) but I was reminded that my father’s family was – like so many others – horrifically poor during the Depression and it was a real sacrifice for them to save up and buy that desk for him. So I realized that there’s been a sentimental attachment making him drag the desk around from house to house for the past seventy years. Kind of like the sentimental attachment that has had me dragging all my books around….

I think I’m starting to get it.

And guess what: now that that desk is painted blue and ensconced in the corner of the library, I’m even starting to like the way it looks.


Winnie-the-Pooh lived, famously, in the Hundred Acre Wood “under the name of Sanders.”

I’ve been thinking of that a lot lately.

In fact, I think of it every time I enter my house.

Because I now live “under the name of Denyer.”

That’s the name engraved on the doorknocker on my front door.

“Denyer” was the surname of the elderly widow who last lived in this house.

Although I did not know her, it’s funny how much you can surmise about someone based on the things they leave behind. I think she liked the color blue (so do I!) based on the drapes and pillows that remained in the house. I know how she arranged her furniture because of the indentations still in the carpet. We think she must have been taller than average because of how high things were hung on the walls.

During the weeks I was carting boxes over here, passing under the Denyer doorknocker, I told myself that one of my first items of business at this new house was buying a brand new doorknocker with the name “Sieruta” on it.

Then I moved in and was confronted with having to buy some new furniture, connected to a wireless network, get a new washer and dryer…and of course replace a toilet on the very first day here!

After all that, who had money for a freshly-engraved doorknocker?

Because if it comes down to having the wrong name on your front door…or having to use an outhouse because there’s no indoor toilet…you can just call me “Mr. Denyer” every time!

So that’s why I live under the name Denyer…but why did Winnie-the-Pooh live under the name Sanders?

The book does not provide much of an explanation:

Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders.
("What does 'under the name' mean?" asked Christopher Robin.
"It means he had the name over the door in gold letters, and lived under it.")
"Winnie-the-Pooh wasn't quite sure," said Christopher Robin.
"Now I am," said a growly voice.
"Then I will go on," said I.)

I did a little internet detective work this weekend, but the best answer I could find to the question came from the Just Pooh website:

No one really knows who Sanders was. The best guess is that Milne used something he found in the woods near Cotchford Farm and incorporated it into the stories. In this case, a sign with the name Sanders was found on a tree, and it was decided that that was the tree in which Pooh lived.

Are there any Pooh-philes out there who have a better idea? Has anyone ever gone to Cotchford Farm with a shovel and looked beneath a tree for a half-buried sign with the name “Sanders” on it?

It would sure be a collector’s item if it turned up!


A friend sent me this Jon Muth poster and bookbag commemorating Children’s Book Week:


The same friend sent me this “preview edition” of David Wiesner’s forthcoming picture book , ART AND MAX:

The “Art” in the title has a double meaning, as the story is about a lizard named Arthur who is also a painter. And one of the things I found especially intriguing about this volume is that the two title characters, Arthur and Max, have names that are already associated with classic children’s books – Arthur from Marc Brown’s series and Max, of course, from WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE.

But if any author/illustrator can create brand-new characters named Arthur and Max and to stand beside their famous forerunners in the children’s lit pantheon, it will be three-time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner!


Looking at the preview edition of ART AND MAX today, I thought this picture of the paint-splattered protagonist looked vaguely familiar:

Oh yeah, I’d just seen a similar picture of two soccer fans on the CNN page this morning:

As Spain and the Netherlands battle it out for the World Cup, I thought a list of new and forthcoming soccer books might be of interest for kids who caught soccer fever over the past few weeks:

Hope for Haiti by Jesse Joshua Watson, coming in October 2010
Madlenka Soccer Star by Peter Sis, coming in September 2010
Shutout by Brendan Halpin, to be released next month
GOAL: Glory Days by Robert Rigby, just published
For the Love of Soccer! by Pele, just published
Breakaway by Andrea Montalbano, just published
Shoot-out by Mike Lupica, just published

Also, don’t forget the “Kickers” series by Rich Wallace and Jimmy Holder and the “Strikers” series by David Ross and Bob Cattell.


Last week I pondered which children’s books were printed in more than one color of ink.

Anonymous said “you gotta be trolling,” and added THE NEVERENDING STORY to the list.

Sorry, Anonymous, I wasn’t trolling. I really am that dumb. I didn’t know NEVERENDING STORY was a tale told in two colors! (Liz B points out that the typeface was changed to plain and italic, rather than multicolored, in the paperback edition)

Daisy Banana asked which edition of THE PRINCESS BRIDE was printed in two colors. It was the Harcourt edition of 1973.

Sam added THE POPULARITY PAPERS by by Amy Ignatow to the list.

And anonymous said that William Faulkner had wanted to use different colors of ink to indicate the various narrators in THE SOUND AND THE FURY. Oh, if only he had! Then I might have understood the novel a little better!


This past week I read the play RABBIT HOLE, which won a Pulitzer Prize for playwright David Lindsay-Abaire in 2007. This suburban drama will soon turn up on the movie screen starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as parents mourning the accidental death of their young son. One of the things that fascinated me most about the play were its frequent references to THE RUNAWAY BUNNY by Margaret Wise Brown. This was particularly striking because 1999’s Pulitzer winner for drama – a work that also focused on death – also used THE RUNAWAY BUNNY as a motif throughout the play. In fact, I believe that most, if not all, of the picture book’s text is read aloud in that work.

It appears that Margaret Wise Brown’s text has continued to inspire and influence a later generation of writers.

Perhaps this is not surprising considering that Ms. Brown based her picture book based on an even older work of literature. According to Leonard Marcus’ biography of Margaret Wise Brown, AWAKENED BY THE MOON, the author was influenced by a medieval love ballad, whose lines include:

If you pursue me I shall become a fish in the water
And I shall escape you.
If you become a fish I shall become an eel.
If you become an eel I shall become a fox
And I shall escape you
If you become a fox I shall become a hunter
And I shall hunt you.

From a medieval ballad to amid-twentieth century picture book to contemporary Broadway plays, the message of this verse continues to inspire audiences….


A couple weeks back, I wondered if this year’s Newbery and Caldecott winners would get a standing ovation from the audience at the ALA Banquet. Roger Sutton wrote in to say, “standing ovations for the Newbery and Caldecott winners have been required elements at the banquet for several years. They used to be occasional, but I guess children's lit has suffered from the same grade inflation as everything else!”

Of course this caused me to have a panic attack because I started thinking about how I’d feel if I won the Newbery and didn’t get one of those “required elements” at my banquet? What if everyone refused to stand because they hated the book? Or what if I only got a tepid partial “sympathy standing ovation”? That would be just as painful.

I was really getting upset considering until it dawned on me…oh yeah, I haven’t won the Newbery….

Sometimes I think I daydream too much.


I had big plans for today’s Sunday Brunch. I figured that, now that I’m unpacked and my books are shelved, I’d have plenty of extra time to blog away to my heart’s content. I even planned to finish a couple of the books on my nightstand review them here.

What I wasn’t counting on was…computer troubles!

Earlier this week I spent four hours on the phone with my local wireless network, as well as with Hewlett-Packard’s Tech Support (not so local, unless you live in New Delhi.)

This morning – when I should have been blogging – I spent two more hours working through computer issues with Ms. Moumita and Mr. Parveen. They were very nice and they DID get my computer back on track…but it put me way, way behind in my blogging.

And it got me thinking about, of all things, the fantasy world Philip Pullman created in the “His Dark Materials” series. Remember how every character had his or her own daemon? Lyra’s daemon was still changing forms throughout the books, but Will’s was a cat and Mrs. Coulter’s was a golden monkey.

I’ve decided that if I’m transported to Pullman’s world in my next life, I want a daemon who wears glasses, a pocket protector, and carries a tangle of USB cables in his back pocket.

Yeah, I want my daemon to be a computer geek…so I will always have someone a few feet away to solve my constant stream of computer problems!


I shouldn’t complain too much. After a spring full of major issues and family problems and an early summer mangled by moving, things really SHOULD be settling down now. Now it’s time to return to blogging more than once a week…read books that are eligible for the LA TIMES Book Prize…work on my chapters for the book I’m writing with Betsy of Fuse #8 and Jules of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast…catch up on correspondence…and pull out my other freelance writing projects.

In the words of Harriet M. Welsch:


Real work.

I can't wait.

And I plan to stick to that goal, too...or my name's not Peter Denyer!

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


Lisa Yee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa Yee said...

I've been to Cotchford Farm twice and tromped around the 100 Acre Wood, but alas, no sign of who Sanders was. I also went searching for the original Roo who was lost in the woods, but could not find him either. Though I did see his sandy pit and Pooh Sticks Bridge, and more. Amazingly, Shepard depicted them exactly as they were and still are.

Z-Kids said...

I'm drooling over that Wiesner preview...

Anonymous said...

So happy you're back in the swing of things. Loved the story of the blue desk. You have wonderful friends -- such great gifts.

Anonymous said...

Always enjoy reading your blog.

But today, the comments made me giggle.

I mean to say, even your spammers are polite and leave flowers!

Maybe a column on books featuring India could be a future theme? :)


Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves said...

I love that soccer comparison!