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Old 01-15-2008, 06:56 PM
Scarlett67 is offline
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What were your favorite OBSCURE(?) children's books?


Honest to God, I thought of this thread idea last night, and only just now saw Cartooniverse's thread. I popped in there and didn't see a lot of overlap, so I hope I'm not treading on any toes.

Anyway, the other day I finally retrieved a book I had loaned to a friend. I have a small collection of treasured children's books that were given to me over the years by my "book aunt." What made them special to me, besides their intrinsic interest, was that she always inscribed them with the date and something like "Happy Birthday Scarlett, from Auntie Bookworm." One she even had inscribed by the illustrator. That was a big deal to a little girl. I've loved them all for years, and now that I have a young niece who devours books as voraciously as I did, now I get to be the book auntie , and along with new books, I have started passing these heirlooms along to her.

Most of these books are ones I've never encountered outside my own experience with them. It occurred to me last night, as I was re-reading my recent re-acquisition (which seems much more charming than ever, all of a sudden), that perhaps some Dopers might also have enjoyed these rare treasures.

I'm not looking for classic, well-known favorites like those in the other thread: Little House, Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. In this thread I'd like to promote the "sleepers" and see how many of them we have in common. (I saw only one of mine listed over there.)

I'll start with the book I already mentioned (only the first two are "book aunt" books; they just spawned the idea):

Chimney-Top Lane, by Gunnel Linde
The Doll Who Came Alive
No Flying in the House
Me and the Terrible Two
No Such Thing as a Witch
Striped Ice Cream
The Pushcart War, by Jean Merrill (Newbery winner, may be better known than I think)
The Figure in the Shadows, by John Bellairs (also may be better known)

That's all I've got off the top of my head. (If you've read any of them, pipe up!) Now it's your turn!
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Old 01-15-2008, 07:11 PM
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I have two I usually throw out in these threads:

The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death --- by Daniel Pinkwater, which you can now get packaged with a few other novels which I haven't had the pleasure of reading. But most Pinkwater is good. Utterly engaging, evocative, and laugh out loud funny.

Secondly: Mr. Bliss --- by some author named J.R.R. Tolkien. One of the characters in this book is the Girabbit, a hybrid between a giraffe and a rabbit. My young precious mind was thoroughly captivated by this crossbreed.

Those are my two nominees. Anybody familiar? None of yours ring any bells, Scarlett67, so sorry!
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Old 01-15-2008, 07:17 PM
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I had a book I used to love as a child called "Lottie". I've never seen or heard of it since, and I have no idea who the author was or even remember much about it.
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Old 01-15-2008, 07:58 PM
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Boswell's Life of Boswell, by Evelyn Leavens. An absolutely wonderful picture book about a thoughtful, philosophical dog. It was published in 1958 and is now long out of print, but you can read the whole thing here.

Best Basset Hound, ever!
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Old 01-15-2008, 08:24 PM
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Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, was my very favorite book as a child. It was my mother’s favorite, also, and I still have her worn and well-read hardcover edition.
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Old 01-15-2008, 08:30 PM
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Scarlett, I loved The Pushcart War, and No Flying in the House is recently back in print. Doctor Who, my favorite Pinkwater was always Lizard Music.

RachelChristine, is your book possibly the same as Lisa and Lottie (original title - the Two Lotties) about the little twin girls who are separated and then meet at summer camp?

Some more obscure ones I read over and over:

The Spettecake Holiday- a little boy goes to live with his grandmother on a farm. I think this book is bigger in Sweden where it was originally published.

The Viaduct - sort of creepy yet dreamy time travel about locomotives.

Go to the Room of the Eyes - A family moves into a big Victorian house in Seattle(?) and discovers clues to a treasure hunt

Winter Cottage - this is maybe not so obscure, because it's by Newbery winner Carol Ryrie Brink. About an itinerant family during the Great Depression who takes up residence in a vacant summer cottage.

Trudy Terrell, High School Freshman This is one of those books I got for a dime at a garage sale. Very 1950s. Trudy goes to high school and is involved in wholesome activities. It always seemed like it should be a series, but I've never ever seen another copy of this, or any similar book.

The Stars for Children This is a truly amazing book, published in the 1930s. It's a very basic introduction to how to locate constellations, and it explains the myths behind their names. It also has a lot of information about things like how an eclipse works. Despite being written for kids, the content is very clear and accurate. I actually chucked the terrible textbook and used The Stars for Children for my college Intro to Astronomy course, and got a B+.
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Old 01-15-2008, 08:53 PM
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No flying in the house was a favorite of mine, too.

As a toddler, my very favorite book was The elephant who liked to smash small cars, by Jean Merrill (mentioned above as the author of The pushcart war). It's the best picture book ever, and now I have a battered old copy that I read to my kids.

Besides some of those that have already been listed, I'll contribute The mummy market, which was about some kids who went looking to buy a mom.

I also loved anything by Daniel Pinkwater or Diana Wynne Jones, and also William Sleator. Oh, oh, and there was this fantasy quartet about this prince, Kerish Lo-taan, who goes on a quest for seven keys. Children of the wind was one of them, I think.
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Old 01-15-2008, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RachelChristine
I had a book I used to love as a child called "Lottie". I've never seen or heard of it since, and I have no idea who the author was or even remember much about it.
Maybe Lotta? By Astrid Lindgren, best known for Pippi Longstocking.

I loved Lotta... I vaguely remember her and her little sister skating down the frozen river to visit friends, which was very foreign and mysterious to us in tropical northern Australia!
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Old 01-15-2008, 09:19 PM
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The Space Child's Mother Goose by Winsor and Parry.

Flappity, floppity, flip,
The mouse on the Möbius strip
The strip revolved
The mouse dissolved
In a chronodimensional skip.
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Old 01-15-2008, 09:21 PM
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Between Scholastic's classroom catalogs (the sheets we could bring home to order books), the library and the doctor's office, I had a lot of children's books I loved.

Helga's Dowry
The Giant Jam Sandwich
There was one called "Who Filched Fletcher?" that had a sassy girl detective looking for a missing dog, which I can't find anywhere on Google.

A little older (tween years), one of my favorites was Johnny's In The Basement, about a kid and his huge bottlecap collection.

Last edited by jayjay; 01-15-2008 at 09:22 PM. Reason: Last URL was wrong
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Old 01-15-2008, 09:26 PM
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I LOVED No Such Thing as a Witch! That's the one with all the trippy brownies that make you like/talk to/act like/turn into animals...and the woman with all the animals in her house. I read that so many times back in second grade.
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Old 01-15-2008, 09:47 PM
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I can remember loving The Otterbury Incident when I was about 11. Can't remember it at all these days, maybe I'll see if I can dig up my old copy.
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Old 01-15-2008, 10:05 PM
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I don't know if it was obscure or not, but I really enjoyed Shade's Children by Garth Nix.
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Old 01-15-2008, 10:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scarlett67
The Pushcart War, by Jean Merrill (Newbery winner, may be better known than I think)

My whole 3rd grade class read this one. Loved it!

Two books that I've never seen anyone else reference before are:

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, and Farmer Goff and his Turkey Sam (which I have signed by the author/illustrator).
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Old 01-15-2008, 10:38 PM
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When I was in kindergarten i got a book called David and the Phoenix. I loved that book, but we moved in 1960 and I hadn't seen it since. Looking it up on Amazon its ranking is 346,185 in books, so I guess that qualifies as obscure.
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Old 01-15-2008, 10:51 PM
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One of my favorite books when I was a child was Silver Pennies, a collection of poems for children, edited by Blanche Jennings Thompson. Unlike many such books, the poems are not trite or cute. Some of them are sad, some are scary, and almost all of them are thought-provoking. One of these poems, "The Vinegar Man," by Ruth Comfort Mitchell, haunts me still. More than fifty years after I first read "The Vinegar Man," I still remember every word.
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Old 01-15-2008, 10:58 PM
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Herman the Helper, and any of Jack Kent's books. I think Jack Kent is out of print now.
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Old 01-15-2008, 11:04 PM
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My Dad had a shelf of boys' adventure novels, including all the Tarzan books and Burroughs' Mars and Venus books. But there was a series of 4 novels by Harold M. Sherman, and one of them was "Tahara, Boy King of the Desert". It's been probably 50 years since I read those books and I just checked at ABE books and I can order them if I want.

Pulp fiction, but good fun as I recall.
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Old 01-15-2008, 11:10 PM
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I wanted to find a picture from "Pua Pua Lena Lena and the Magic Kiha-Pu" but I can't seem to. I loved that book as a kid. My dog kinda looked like Puapualenalena. Here's the basic story. They actually have that shell at the Bishop Museum but can't display it due to threats from certain Hawaiian groups. "Kamapua`a" was also a good book. "Kahala" was good too but sad. Sadly they're all out of print. I did manage to get a copy for my nieces 7 years ago.

For older kids I also loved "A Walk In Wolf Woods" about 2 kids who go for a walk in the woods while on vacation in Europe and see a crying man run past them down the path. Only he was dressed in very odd colored clothing. "The Forgotten Door" about an alien boy who falls through a forgotten door and winds up on Earth.
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Biffy the Elephant Shrew
The Space Child's Mother Goose by Winsor and Parry.

Flappity, floppity, flip,
The mouse on the Möbius strip
The strip revolved
The mouse dissolved
In a chronodimensional skip.
Ohhhhhh, I want a copy of this.

Good to see other Pushcart War fans. True story: I got my copy (sadly, I no longer have the original) in a box of hand-me-downs from my cousins. Years later I was working at a print shop, showing the recently hired kid how to do something. For some reason I was reminded of pea-pins, which I mentioned more or less to amuse myself. Kid said, "Huh?" and I called across to the other guy, "Hey, do YOU know what a pea-pin is?" To my utter shock (and secret joy) he shot right back, "Pushcart War, right?" Turns out that he had read it in his own childhood, a good 10 years or so before I did.

I've been married to Other Guy for going on 18 years. We both feel that discovering that we had both read and loved that silly little book so long ago, and still remembered it, was one of the things that drew us together. In 1996 we sent off our copy to Jean Merrill with a letter telling our story and asking her for an autograph. She graciously obliged us with a very sweet and funny inscription ("By Hand") and a charming two-page letter with tidbits about some things in the book. The book and now-framed letter are on display in our living room.
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Old 01-16-2008, 05:54 AM
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The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek

Although my memory has it as Sunset Creek. I have to assume they are the same book so I wonder if it is due to poor memory or maybe they released it under two different names or something else...
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Old 01-16-2008, 06:08 AM
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I nearly listed No Flying In The House in the other thread! And I did list No Such Thing As A Witch.

I had a book called A Witch In Time that I loved, but I only read it once or twice before I loaned it to a friend and never got it back. I've never seen anywhere since.
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Old 01-16-2008, 06:47 AM
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The Golden Book Encyclopedias, as seen in this eBay auction. If I did eBay, I'd buy this set - ours were severely worn. My Mom bought them, one each week, at our local Kroger grocery store when I was about 5. It was the first thing to make my parents think I was 'a scary-wierd kid', when they realized I was reading the volumes cover-to-cover, in sequence. They never tried to discourage me, though...when I finished the set, they bought the Golden Home and High School Encyclopedias; by the time I was in 8th grade, they bought the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia. I know they considered buying Encyclopedia Britannica (I remember lusting over the sample volume when the salesman was at our house), but it was just too expensive for them.

I was also quite fond of spending hours sprawled on the living room floor, reading our Random House Unabridged Dictionary. You couldn't hold it in your lap; it was so huge that it would cut off the circulation in your legs and you'd fall over when you tried to stand up.
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Old 01-16-2008, 07:02 AM
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When I was about 12 years old and sick with the measles, my mother picked me up an old book at a church rummage sale, White Patch, about a little boy who is turned into an ant and spends the day having adventures with all the insects in his back yard. I loved the book and re-read it many times. Whenever I see a copy in a used book store, I buy it and give it to a young niece or nephew. It isn't easy to find. The book was originally written in Italian and then translated into English and published in the US around 1910. As far as I know, that is the only Enlish-language edition. But it is worth looking for.

Last edited by Ronald C. Semone; 01-16-2008 at 07:02 AM.
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Old 01-16-2008, 08:45 AM
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I'm glad you started this thread! I couldn't post in the other because I was just paralyzed by the long list of books that came to mind, and then so many people had already posted, I'd probably just be repeating them.

One of my favorite books ever is The Wily Witch by Godfried Bomans. It's a book of somewhat bizarre fairy tales by a Dutch author. I wish I could remember who gave it to me, because I'd like to know how they happened to find it!

These were some dark and strange tales, and the illustrations are incredible. My favorites were the picture of the executioner and the severed head, and the one of the king taking a dump in the cornfield. The best stories were probably The Lady of the Lake, and The Innkeeper of Pidalgo. Is this stuff ringing any bells to anyone?

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Old 01-16-2008, 08:47 AM
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I also have fond memories of The Mummy Market and David and the Phoenix. It'd be great to read those again.
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Old 01-16-2008, 08:58 AM
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Collier's Junior Classics.

Picture: http://livinghigher.com/ColliersClassicsII.jpg

They were an adjunct of the Collier's Encyclopedia. I read them continuously when I was a kid. My brother ended up with them & they were lost in a storage unit fire.

I found a mint set in a bookstore in Bethlehem, PA - still in the original box with the packing slip intact. The nanosecond I opened the first one, I was 8 years old again. They even *smelled* like I remembered. They are one of my most treasured possessions.

VCNJ~
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Door
When I was in kindergarten i got a book called David and the Phoenix. I loved that book, but we moved in 1960 and I hadn't seen it since. Looking it up on Amazon its ranking is 346,185 in books, so I guess that qualifies as obscure.
You might be interested to know that it's not that obscure anymore; the author David Weber has a great enthusiasm for it, and features it in his latest Honor Harrington book ( she reads from it several times ). Note that his At All Costs is listed under "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought"; the book she's reading from in the cover illustration is David and the Phoenix.
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:11 AM
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J.P. Martin's Uncle the Elephant series. Lovely surreal fantasy, gorgeously illustrated by Quentin Blake.
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:12 AM
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I had Me And The Terrible Two as a kid but I believe I donated it and a ton of other kid's books I had to the local library.
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:23 AM
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My Father's Dragon was a favorite of mine when I was young.
A boy befriends a stray cat and in their conversations the boy expresses his desire to fly. To repay the boy for his kindness the cat tells him of a flying baby dragon held captive on an island overrun by mean wild animals.
The boy packs a backpack with random stuff (hair ribbons, toothpaste, suckers, etc.) and stows away on a ship to get to the island.
He then proceeds to have encounters on the island with various mean wild animals and outsmarts them with the objects in his backback.
A lot of fun.
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:36 AM
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Friendship Valley
Amanda
and
Sir Archibald
all by author and illustrator Wolo, aka Wolf Von Trutzschler.
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:37 AM
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Ooh! That reminds me of another one I loved as a kid, but that's fairly obscure. Andre Norton's Dragon Magic. Four boys from four different ethnicities (Scandinavian, Welsh, Chinese and African) discover a magic box that transports each of them to a past event in their ancestral history/mythology.
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Khadaji
The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek

Although my memory has it as Sunset Creek. I have to assume they are the same book so I wonder if it is due to poor memory or maybe they released it under two different names or something else...
Oh, I had that book! I loved it.
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:52 AM
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The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber.

Sailboat
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:54 AM
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The Tell Me Why series. I believe I had three. I could still use 'em today!
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:01 AM
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Ratsmagic by Wayne Anderson and Christopher Logue. Great, creepy illustrations. I checked it out of our public library dozens of times when I was a kid.

Also, The Rainbow Goblins by Ul de Rico. It has a similar tone in many ways.

Last edited by toadspittle; 01-16-2008 at 10:02 AM.
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:10 AM
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I used to love a book (still would, if it hadn't been lost in a move) called Herbert the Blotchy Great Snapper, about a fish who became a celebrity. Trust me, it's not as trite as it sounds; it's hilarious!

There was also a book called Just For You, about a very clumsy hamster, or rodent-ish creature. Also a favourite.

Incidentally, some genius at Amazon submitted the following review of Just For You:
Quote:
Originally Posted by No Shit, Sherlock...
This Is A Child Book, October 11, 2001

I think this book was a bore for me.It was not a good book.If I was 3 I might like it.This book is not my catagorie of reading.I don't like to read but I read this book because I thought it might be good, but it wasn't.
What can I say? I'm sorry this wasn't in your 'catagorie of reading', but clearly you are too immature and idiotic for this book.

Another favourite was The House Mouse. I drove my dad nuts by asking for this book to be read out at bedtime, every night.

I also had an illustrated version of The Wendigo and Custard the Dragon, which is clearly at the root of my lifelong love for Ogden Nash's poetry.
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Der Trihs
You might be interested to know that it's not that obscure anymore; the author David Weber has a great enthusiasm for it, and features it in his latest Honor Harrington book ( she reads from it several times ). Note that his At All Costs is listed under "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought"; the book she's reading from in the cover illustration is David and the Phoenix.
Sorry to use this method of messaging, but I was hoping you might be willing to particapate in The SDMB Mock election and you have the Email & PM functions off.
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:48 AM
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How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen
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Old 01-16-2008, 11:00 AM
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For me, I loved Shadow Castle and The Westing Game.

After a long search, I was able to get both books for my children to read. It's like finding a long-lost friend again!
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Old 01-16-2008, 11:10 AM
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Chippy Chipmunk's Vacation (volume 5 of the Woodland Frolics Series). Chippy goes on an adventure and learns, through a series of mythological tales, such things as how the buffalo got their humped backs, how the Painted Canyon got painted, why aspens tremble, and so forth. I read and re-read that book to death when I was a kid.

I also loved loved loved the subject specific Golden Guides (like Reptiles and Amphibians and Geology). I had dozens of them, on all kinds of subjects (they were all science-related in my day; I don't know if they still are). I don't think those are very obscure, though.
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Old 01-16-2008, 11:10 AM
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Ooh! I loved the Westing Game. Completely forgot about that.

The movie sucked, though.
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Old 01-16-2008, 11:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3acresandatruck
The Golden Book Encyclopedias, as seen in this eBay auction. If I did eBay, I'd buy this set - ours were severely worn. My Mom bought them, one each week, at our local Kroger grocery store when I was about 5. It was the first thing to make my parents think I was 'a scary-wierd kid', when they realized I was reading the volumes cover-to-cover, in sequence. They never tried to discourage me, though...when I finished the set, they bought the Golden Home and High School Encyclopedias; by the time I was in 8th grade, they bought the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia.
If it weren't for your location and the reference to Kroger's, I'd be asking if you were my brother. We had that same set (bought by my parents at the local A&P), and I read them cover to cover as well. That cover in the EBay auction took me right back, I'll tell you. And then my folks bought us a set of Funk & Wagnalls' encyclopedias, although ours was bought used and was a bit dated by the time I used it.

My username here is taken from an obscure children's book, although one I didn't read until I was an adult. I'm a huge fan of Theodore Sturgeon, and this was one of his favorite children's books.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ivylass
For me, I loved Shadow Castle and The Westing Game.
I just bought Shadow Castle before Christmas, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.
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Old 01-16-2008, 11:58 AM
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The King, the Mice and the Cheese by Nancy and Eric Gurney. It's about solutions that wind up being worse than the problems they were intended to solve, and really resonated with me later in life.
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:01 PM
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Quote:
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I just bought Shadow Castle before Christmas, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.
It's very charming. I loved the imagery.

Just make sure you hide the butter.
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:05 PM
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Cinnabar, The One O'clock Fox
The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, about a boy who flys off on the back of a large goose
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailboat
The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber.
Okay, that is tragic, tragic, that that book should be considered obscure.

Hmm ... I always loved The Ship that Flew by Hilda Lewis. It was very hard to find a copy again after I grewed up, but it was worth it.
  #49  
Old 01-16-2008, 01:03 PM
Anastasaeon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Veuve_ClicquotNJ
Collier's Junior Classics.

Picture: http://livinghigher.com/ColliersClassicsII.jpg

They were an adjunct of the Collier's Encyclopedia. I read them continuously when I was a kid. My brother ended up with them & they were lost in a storage unit fire.

I found a mint set in a bookstore in Bethlehem, PA - still in the original box with the packing slip intact. The nanosecond I opened the first one, I was 8 years old again. They even *smelled* like I remembered. They are one of my most treasured possessions.

VCNJ~
YAY! I had the whole set growing up, along with the big red encyclopedias (I "studied" art in my teens in spare time from those very volumes - no, not for dirty reasons, I really adored art - it inspired a lifelong love and appreciation for it). I loved those children's books, and read them all inside and out until eventually, one by one, they were all lost or damaged.

Two years ago, I purchased the entire set off of eBay, and I read them over and over again. They are like long, long lost friends. Some of them inspired me to hunt down a few of the stories they only provided "teasers" for - like Miss Hickory. I love that book!

My favourite of all the stories in that massive collection, even today, is Mischief In Fez. Whenever my husband and I go to the zoo, I have to go see the fennec. I've named him Baha.

The only thing truly missing from my new collection? A big jam stain on the pages of the story of The Three Bears in A B C Go!.

Last edited by Anastasaeon; 01-16-2008 at 01:03 PM.
  #50  
Old 01-16-2008, 01:13 PM
anu-la1979 is offline
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The Talking Parcel/Battle for Cockatrice Castle (it was renamed from The Talking Parcel ) by Gerald Durrell.
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