Six Hundred Children's Books from Aleph-Bet
By Michael Stillman
Aleph-Bet Books has issued their Catalogue 89 of Children's Books and Illustrated Books. That "and" in the title should be read quite literally, as most of these items are both children's and illustrated books, rather than one or the other. Unlike "adults'" books, illustrations are crucial to most children's books, much of the reason these items are so popular among the children emeritus who become book collectors. The amusing fantasies and captivating images still draw us in long after we have, at least in theory, grown up. Here are a few of the 600 items, each with both description and picture, that Aleph-Bet is presenting in this latest catalogue.
The logical starting point for children's books is the ABCs. Aleph-Bet offers a whole host of alphabet books. Here's one for those whose favorite toys are cars: Motor Goose Rhymes for Motor Ganders. Each letter is accompanied by two automotive related illustrations and a parody of some old Mother Goose rhyme updated to an automotive scene. For example, "B stands for Breakdown / They happen every day / If you're far from home / For a tow you have to pay." We've all had cars like that, though breakdowns were probably more commonplace in the year this book was published - 1905. Item 7. Priced at $250.
Item 22 is an alphabet book designed to get kids onto a lifetime habit of consuming sugar: Alphabet Book of Coca-Cola. Every letter comes with a rhyme encouraging kids to drink Coke, as if they needed more encouragement. "V is for Value / Though the dollar's depressed / A nickel still buys / The drink that is best." The dollar is still depressed, but you won't be buying Cokes for a nickel anymore, as you could in 1928. $875.
Not all alphabet books were meant to encourage bad habits. Here is one intended to stop a bad habit: ABC Way to stop smoking Cigarettes. Author Conrad J. Dammann enunciated the dangers of cigarette smoking and how tobacco companies deceive the public long before the Surgeon General did. In 1950, he advised "A stands for "ABANDON" / So, abandon cigarettes." Dammann suggests reaching for a candy, preferably a longer lasting hard candy, when the urge to smoke arises. Recognizing the drawback of this solution, he explains, "You'll gain weight, - but tobacco's loss is your gain." Item 19. $250.
Item 47 employed a most unusual alphabet. You might think it was something from Russia or eastern Europe from the look, but actually it is the Deseret alphabet. This alphabet was developed by Mormon linguists with the encouragement of Brigham Young in the early days of their settlement of Utah. While it looks difficult if not incomprehensible, it was meant to simplify English for the young, as well as Mormon immigrants from other countries not very familiar with English. The Deseret letters are merely English sounds, creating phonetic spellings much easier to read than the convoluted standard English with silent letters and others with multiple sounds. For all its logic, Deseret never caught on. Church leaders soon discovered that the cost of reprinting the world's books in this new language was economically unfeasible. It was abandoned after Young's death. Only four books were printed in the new language, and this is one, the first part of the Book of Mormon, published in 1869. $475.