18 December 2007

Books! They Do A Body Good.

When I was a kid, I loved books just as much as I loved movies and cartoons. I learned to read at a very early age, and would look at my collection of books over and over again. I even wanted to make my own children's books-- and often did, taking great care to crudely assemble them with copier paper and Scotch tape, complete with even cruder illustrations.

Obviously, old children's books are a one-way ticket to Nostalgia Land for me. They're also the easiest retro junk to find, and the cheapest to boot-- they're often only a dollar a piece. I assume that people get tired of their old books and leave them in Mom's attic for a few decades before they finally end up in a Goodwill or other second-hand store. So it's no surprise that I usually find some pretty cool books in places like that.

Today, I hit the jackpot.

About a block from my apartment there's a place called Second Chance Books and Comics. I've passed it several times, and today I finally decided to pay a visit. Boy, I'm glad I did because this place has everything. I found five books, four of which I had as a child and one of which I thought was too hilarious to pass up. They even had a huge collection of VHS tapes. I wanted to buy like, ten of them, but settled on just two, because I'm poor, dammit. All the items are things that would have ended up on my Retro Wishlist at some point.

The first book I found was...actually not a book I had as a child. However, I had it on a Golden Book Video entitled Three Mercer Mayer Stories. It was one of those weird "video books" that just showed pseudo-animated illustrations from the book with a voiceover. (Read more about the video on RetroJunk if you so desire.)

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This book, called Just For You, is about a little furry dude, aptly named Little Critter. It was always my favorite of the three stories on the tape. Basically, Little Critter wants to do things for his mom, but he keeps messing them all up, because that's what kids do. But he gives Mom a kiss and hug, and that makes everything all better. The end.

It's a simple story, as most children's stories are, but it's cute and has neat illustrations. I'm glad to finally have the actual book so I don't have to deal with the funky voiceovers, though I wouldn't mind seeing that video again, either...

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The next one was a Little Golden Book adapted from Disney's Cinderella. I barely even remembered it at all until I opened it and flipped through the pages. It's hard for me to put into words what I felt upon doing so. To someone else, this book probably would seem like nothing special, but I was flooded with memories of looking at the illustrations and marveling at them. I think I was only about four years old at the time. I don't know why it made such an impression on my little mind, but it's nice to have it around again.

Next, I came across a Super Mario Bros. book. I did a double take and then laughed out loud. A kid's story about Mario and Luigi? Comedy gold. Published in 1990, Super Mario Bros. 3: Happy Birthday, Princess Toadstool is as awesomely dumb as it sounds. In fact, I think I could write a better Mario story. But I just couldn't pass this one up, especially since it was only a dollar.

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Basically, Mario decides to go into an old, decrepit castle to find a Starman (called "Magic Star" in the book) to give to the Princess for her birthday. He picks a fireflower and shoots fire out of it at Goombas and Koopas, who are always described as "ghastly" and "creepy", respectively. The writer goes to ridiculous lengths to make sure Mario doesn't actually take anybody out, but we all know better.

I always thought you found stars in question blocks, but in this tale, Mario finds it sitting on top of a giant pile of coins. You'd think he'd be like, "Wow, a giant pile of coins!" but I guess Mario has seen enough giant piles of coins in his lifetime. So anyway, he gives the star to the Princess. And stuff. Oh, and Luigi is in there somewhere too. Man, poor Luigi. I always felt kinda bad for the guy.

The next book I came across was one published in 1965, entitled The Witch Next Door. This copy definitely shows its age, but at least it's not falling apart.

When I had this book as a small child, it was already 20-some years old and I think it once belonged to my sister, who is fifteen years older than me. I wonder if it's the same copy I had as a child, but I don't remember there being sloppy grade-schooler handwriting inside the cover of it.

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It's surprising to me that my mom let me read this book at all, because she was on this crusade against magic and the like, and wouldn't let me watch certain things because of it.

The book made a big impression on me. The illustrations are very simple, and are black-and-white except for little hints of green. I remember thinking someone had colored in my book until I figured out it was made that way, since the coloring style looks like green crayon. This was another one of those books I used to sit and stare at.

Anyway, the witch wears the stereotypical witch hat and black robe and even paints her house black, but she's all nice and stuff. She makes friends with the neighbor kids. Two cranky old people get all up-in-arms about a witch living in their neighborhood. So what does she do? She casts a spell on them!...and turns them into a young prince and princess, and they frolic off somewhere to live happily ever after.

Okay, so this book is weird. But I did a dance when I saw it, because I totally forgot it existed until I saw the cover. I love that "holy shit I haven't seen this in 20 years" feeling.

The last book I found was The Doll in the Garden. It's one of those elementary-school-type chapter books, and it's a ghost story.

When I was in the third grade, we read a story called Stonewords, which I'll write about in detail another time. It was also a ghost story, and started a fascination with them. So not long after, I found The Doll in the Garden, read it, and loved it.

It's not bad for a kid's book, but definitely not a masterful work of literature. A girl named Ashley discovers-- surprise --a doll buried in the garden. The doll belongs to a little dead girl. Et cetera. Like I said, no great work of art, but entertaining enough for a nine-year-old.

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I read it approximately seventeen times as a kid. I remember writing my own alternate ending where Ashley rescues the ghost girl. God, I was a weird kid. Anyway, I've collected the other two ghost stories I liked, but this one has been elusive as hell. I've been looking for it for at least two years. It was a little expensive for this sort of thing-- four dollars --but totally worth it.

And now for the VHS tapes. One of them is The Lion King, which I've been looking for forever, but didn't want to shell out 30 bucks for on the internet. I was fine with paying $12.50 for it, though, so it's finally mine. However, I am not going to write about it at length right now, because everybody knows how awesome it is. But "Be Prepared" for a post about it sometime in the future. D'oh ho ho, I'm so funny.

The other tape I got was The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Now, this saw a DVD release not too long ago, but I couldn't talk myself into paying 20 dollars for it. So, needless to say, I was happy when I found this. Besides, it being a VHS tape adds major nostalgia points.

There have been many Disney cartoons about Pooh Bear, but I think these are the best ones-- at least, they are according to my memory. It's actually three stories in one collection. The one I remember the most is the one about the honey tree, and the thing I remember most about that is the "I'm Just a Little Black Rain Cloud" song. My dad used to sing it to me sometimes. Oh, and the Tigger song. Who could forget that?

Needless to say, I'm definitely going back to Second Chance. Who knows what treasures are waiting to be discovered?


Mel Morgan said...

WINNIE THE POOH!!! Yay! I love that movie ... and those songs ... yay!

(Yeah, I'm in Christmas-Zombie mode.)


Chris said...

I love stores like that, there's a few around here that I like to frequent as well. Whenever you find something your vaguely remember from years before, you just get that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Love the blog!

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