Before I quit work to stay home with my son and have a go at writing, I spent my early career in book selling and publishing because, quite simply, I love books. I love the smell. The cut of the cover. The guts and the mysteries they hold. So when my son August was born, it was only right that I begin to build a classic book collection for him. Slowly, I picked out special gems ~ starting with Where the Wild Things Are and moving on from there. Very quickly, however, I found that buying my son all the favorites I’d loved as a child was beginning to put me in the poor house — dropping around $25 for a quality hard cover.
Even though I am somewhat of a thrift nut, it never occurred to me to buy vintage until one day – perusing at a used book shop – I stumbled across a copy of Why I Built the Boogle House written by Helen Palmer (aka Mrs. Dr. Seuss) for $1.25. Written in 1964, it is a fabulous book. A hilarious book. A classic book. It is no longer available in print and was only (did I mention?) $1.25. From there, the floodgates opened. I realized there is a world of books out there just waiting to fill my son’s imagination… at yard sales… library sales… junk shops… thrift stores… online. Books that are not only classics, but that can be purchased for as little as 25 cents if you find them before the for-profit collectors do.
That epiphany was over two years ago, and August’s collection now is somewhere in the thousands. Though my car is a veritable book mobile, and August’s many cases are stuffed two rows deep, I figure, what the hay. You can never have too many. Really, children’s books are the ultimate conduit for teaching us not just about the world, but design and illustration and how words flow from one into the next to form a perfect union of communication. They are art on the go, and inspiration in your pocket.
I do buy August new books for holidays and birthdays, just so he has some in his collection that aren’t inscribed “To Cousin Willy, Love Aunt Edna, Easter 1971”. For the most part though, he’s falling in love with books that some other child already adored. Which is a pretty sweet thought, after all.