Being a family of bibliophiles we naturally gift each other with a goodly amount of books on a regular basis. Here be the new books received in our house this Christmas, commencing with Jonathan's:
That large stack on the top left is a grand pile of music I happened upon at a church thrift sale. As he put it, 'A pretty good stack of used music including two scores of Messiah, Judas Maccabbeus, and a book of Strauss useful for dinner music gigs.' Piano Servicing is to go along with the piano tuning tools he received. He added some Chesterton to his collection with The Club of Queer Trades, 'seemingly an earlier work illustrated by the author of interesting short stories sort of leading towards Father Brown' and The Four Faultless Felons which he described as 'four long short stories (short long stories?) more enjoyable with better endings' than the previous title.
I couldn't possibly resist getting the long awaited Hobbitus Ille, though I briefly wondered which Tolkien fanatic/Latin scholar in the house I should get it for. As you will see below, the others received some interesting Tolkien variations and thus Jonathan scored the Hobbitus Ille. I wondered how he would like it, being accustomed to Church Latin and not Classical which this work is. He reports, 'Let's see, the sentences don't start with capital letters and it never uses v or j. It seems very nicely done and every now and then there's a nice sentence that you can understand every word of! And actually Latin suits Gandalf pretty well.' I also found him a vintage copy of The Road Goes Ever On, a book of Tolkien's poetry set to music. He says this is 'an odd collection of art songs; one of the melodies is just actually what Tolkien had in mind and the fellow used it'.
The other Tolkien is a paperback set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings which his sisters were thrilled to find at a used book sale. This was presented to Jonathan as a Grand Amusement, as these are the books with the covers so detested by Tolkien himself. As he describes in one of his letters referring to The Hobbit, "I think the cover ugly; but I recognize that a main object of a paperback cover is to attract purchasers, and I suppose that you are better judges of what is attractive in USA than I am. I therefore will not enter into a debate about taste - (meaning though I did not say so: horrible colours and foul lettering) - but I must ask this about the vignette: what has it got to do with the story? Where is this place? Why a lion and an emu? And what is the thing in the foreground with pink bulbs? I do not understand how anybody who had read the tale (I hope you are one) could think such a picture would please the author. ...When I made the above points again, her voice rose several tones and she cried: 'But the man hadn't TIME to read the book! ...With regard to the pink bulbs she said as if to one of complete obtusity: 'they are meant to suggest a Christmas tree'. Why is such a woman let loose? I begin to feel that I am shut up in a madhouse..." - letter of JRR Tolkien to Rayner Unwin, 12 September 1965, as published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.
And so you see why the girls were so happy with this great find and were greatly rewarded by the hoots and guffaws of their brother upon being presented with the horrible colours and foul lettering with emus and the pink bulbous tree and all the rest, drawn by the man who hadn't read the book.
Next up is Josiah's pile:
I found this great oversized book of NC Wyeth artwork at that same library book sale. As Josiah is the Dickens collector in the family I was happy to also score these lovely fat hardcovers of Bleak House, The Old Curiosity Shop, and The Pickwick Papers, the latter of which is regarded by Chesterton as the best Dickens. He also received the compelling Autobiography of a Hunted Priest, and the small but wonderful classic Fulton Sheen's Wartime Prayer Book. As Josiah continues to study French in college, this Tolkien fan received Bilbo Le Hobbit.
I thought I had a really great and unique idea to get her The Lord of the Rings in French! I was so happy to find a used copy online of the one volume version Le Seigneur des Anneaux with the famous John Howe illustration (stolen at an art exhibition in France) of Gandalf on the cover. Completely unbeknownst to me, Jonathan had the same idea and got her a boxed set of the three books! The two of us often think alike but this was truly funny as we both thought we were being so very clever. Ha!
She also received some book sale Tolkien finds: an unusual movie cover Fellowship with a picture from Return of the King, The Hobbit with Tolkien's illustration on the front to complete her set, and the one you can't see is a Return of the King to complete her set with covers illustrated by Ted Nasmith.
The Rachel Carson is another book sale find. The Blue Book of Irish Session Tunes is full of welcome new music to play on the harp. While looking online for some Gene Stratton-Porter I was delighted to find this first edition of The Keeper of the Bees at a reasonable price - I knew my vintage book lover would prefer that to a modern paperback.
Here are a few more bird books she received, including some vintage finds - World of Birds has illustrations by the favorite Roger Tory Peterson. She really enjoyed reading Gifts of an Eagle, the story of a golden eagle raised by the author and his father in the fifties (see more info here). She said 'it was not hateful' by which I reckon she means it was a story of people caring for wildlife without having any of the anthropomorphic or new agey gobbledygook of modern tales of the same genre.
She is currently in the middle of Gathering of Angels, which is all about transgulf migrants at present. When I ask how that is she gets a bit moony and gives me a sheepish grin as she beams, chuckles slightly and replies, 'It's great.' Score.
Being a lover of fairy tales and a rightfully wonderful illustrator herself, I knew she'd enjoy this collection of Rackham's Fairy Tale Illustrations. Her A Girl of the Limberlost is also a first edition, found along with Lydia's from a private collection. That's an old edition of Tolkien's Mr. Bliss, a charmingly illustrated children's picture book published posthumously. She also added to her Tolkien collections with The Return of the King and The Hobbit with her beloved Alan Lee illustrations on the covers. She also had wanted a one volume book of The Lord of the Rings and so I found her a nice copy of that with which she was well pleased. And while she's not a harpist she is an Irish music lover and so she received The Green Book of session tunes.
Naturally we had to get Legends of Zita the Spacegirl - you have to love graphic novels that start off with Chesterton and Belloc quotes! Current favorite Zita quote in my house: And she had these terrible little flat teeth gibbin me nightmares that sounded kind of bad. Did that sound bad to you? You should hear Eliza reading Zita out loud! She does the funniest voices and sound effects, I think even Ben Hatke would crack up.
Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin by favorite author Marguerite Henry is one that we didn't have; I was happy to find a vintage hardcover, and my illustrator girls were happy to read a book about an illustrator. Christmas is a collection of seasonal stories selected by Alice Dalgliesh; Mary Rose says the best were the ones where the little kids knew how to make their own presents for other people. :-) I waited patiently to get Melissa Wiley's new book The Prairie Thief so I could give it to one of her biggest fans for Christmas. Mary Rose also received Irish Session Tunes - The Orange Book and The Book of Kells.
I got Michael The Price to Pay: A Muslim Risks All to Follow Christ which he recommends as a very good and informative book. I also got Fr. Lasance's wonderful little books on Kindness and Patience for the family to read and share, which we will most likely do during Lent.
From the book sale are Animals in Winter, an old Children of the Northern Lights, and Birds in Their Homes, the latter of which has illustrations highly approved of by Lydia. She also got the delightfully funny reprint of The Bear that Wasn't , Always Room for One More and the audio Jim Weiss' Just So Stories. Some Dover coloring books and a new copy of The Fellowship of the Ring (hers is so tattered it is falling apart) round out her pile. (And no, she hasn't read the entire Fellowship, but she does love to open it at random and read passages aloud. You know, she's one of us.)
And finally Kateri's books. She received The Lion in the Box, a lovely Christmas story by Marguerite de Angeli and The Bird's Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin. (Thank you to Christine, whose book lists I always enjoy, for leading me to these new treasures along with Mary Rose's Christmas book.) Kateri got some new Dovers and a Jim Weiss CD as well. As Kateri loves to draw and wants to be an artist when she grows up, I thought she would enjoy The Boy who Loved to Draw, a picture book about Benjamin West.
I think it's safe to say that her favorite book she received by far is The Thirteen Clocks. When I asked her about it she just said, "I love it." I think we all agree with her on that one. I read this aloud to the whole family in two tea sittings during one day of our Christmas break. It's one of those books that you read and wonder how you didn't know about it for all those years. It's witty, it's beautiful, it's classic, it's clever. It had all of us from the nevermindhowold grown ups down to the six year old laughing out loud. It has the most wonderful language that begs to be read aloud and to be read over and over. I read it aloud but every kid has since grabbed it to read again and savor it by themselves. Unless you wear a green tie and don't like fairy tales or have absolutely no sense of humor you just have to love this book. (Or maybe I shouldn't say that? Your expectations will be too high and then you'll be disappointed. You can't possibly like it as much as we do. There. That's better.)
And if you don't like the book, beware! The Duke will feed you to his geese!
Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn't go, there lived a cold, aggressive Duke, and his niece, the Princess Saralinda. She was warm in every wind and weather, but he was always cold. His hands were as cold as his smile and almost as cold as his heart. He wore gloves when he was asleep, and he wore gloves when he was awake, which made it difficult for him to pick up pins or coins or the kernels of nuts, or to tear the wings from nightingales. He was six feet four, and forty-six, and even colder than he thought he was...The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber
(Net gain sixteen - huzzah!)