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Literary Celebrity Guest Review: The Devil's Storybooks, written and illustrated by Natalie Babbitt, reviewed by Lesley M. M. Blume, 184 pp, RL 3

(While The Devil's Storybook and  The Devil's Other Storybook are both out of print, you can purchase both books in one volume under this title)

            The Devil's Storybook          The Devil's Other Storybook

To this day, one of my favorite books on the planet is The Devil's Storybook by Natalie Babbitt, who is perhaps better known for her bestseller Tuck Everlasting.  I far prefer the former book, however - and furthermore, The Devil's Storybook just happens to have been the first book I ever bought for myself.  When I was growing up, my family would rent a tiny house on Nantucket Island during the summers, and I was given permission to walk alone into town and visit a lovely book store called Mitchell's Book Corner on Main Street.  It was there that I spotted The Devil's Storybook nestled on one of the bookshelves, and a great love affair was born.  In fact, I'm sure that I learned more about writing for young readers from Ms. Babbitt (and Louise Fitzhugh, author of Harriet the Spy) than almost anyone else.  In the book, the devil isn't sinister or truly evil ... he's just a mischievous, charming rake, who's always trying to leverage human nature to his advantage - usually with amusing results.

Years later, I contacted Ms. Babbitt to contribute to one of my own books - a tome about lost words and phrases from bygone eras - and to my great delight, she responded and told me some tales about "Ohio-isms" used by her grandparents.  From these idioms, you could see where she got her own inventive vocabulary and point of view.  I'll always treasure my letter from her - and I still have my tattered, much-loved original copy of The Devil's Storybook, which now graces the shelves of my own baby daughter's bookshelves.

Lesley M. M. Blume is the author of five children's books including Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters, Modern Fairiesand The Wondrous Journals of Dr. Wendell Wellington WigginsHer sixth children's book, Julia, will be released by Knopf in 2015, and is best described as Grey Gardens meets On the Road for the younger set.

(This is one of my top-five-favorite books! Click here to read my review)

(For my review of this fantastic book, click here!)

In the pages of his thought-to-be-lost diaries, Dr. Wendell Wellington Wiggins, the greatest paleozoologist of all time, reveals the secrets of the ancient animal and plant world–a world before human beings; a world before dinosaurs; a world that, until now, existed well beyond the outer reaches of our imaginations.

Time drags in Rusty Nail and nothing ever seems to happen. Once it was the exciting American Coot capital of the world, but in 1953, it's just a sleepy backwater town with one dusty traffic light and a bizarre cast of characters. Franny has lived there all her life: ten whole years. On the surface, she seems like a regular girl. She goes to school, throws water balloons at her neighbors, and watches space movies at Hauser’s Movie Palace like everyone else. Her dad is an accountant who always forgets to take off his green eyeshade and her mother is the worst cook in town. But one day, a mysterious Russian woman arrives in town, turns the town upside-down, and changes Franny’s life forever.

It’s 1932, The Depression. Things are evening out among people everywhere.Fresh eggs are a luxury. Diamonds are a dream from another world. On the banks of the Mississippi River, Tennyson Fontaine and her sister, Hattie, play endless games of hide-and-seek and make up fantastical stories about the latest adventures of their wild dog, Jos. But when their mother doesn’t come home and their father sets off to find her, the sisters are whisked away to Aigredoux, once one of the grandest houses in Louisiana, now a vine-covered ruin. Their caretaker, Aunt Henrietta, becomes convinced that she can use the girls to save the family’s failing fortunes. But then Tennyson discovers the truth about Aigredoux, the secrets that have remained locked deep within its decaying walls. Caught in a strange web of time and history, Tennyson comes up with a plan to bring Aigredoux’s past to light. Will it bring her mother home and her family back together?

Inspired by Ms. Blume’s popular, longstanding Huffington Post column by the same name, Chronicle Books released Let’s Bring Back as a book on November 1, 2010. A sophisticated, stylish cultural encyclopedia of nostalgia, Let’s Bring Back celebrates forgotten-yet-delightful objects, curiosities, pastimes, fashions, words, landmarks, and personalities from bygone eras.

In the past, expressions like horsefeathers(nonsense), blinkers (see also: barnacles, peepers, cheaters, and spectacles), and coxy-loxy (good-naturedly drunk) were all the go around town, but they have since largely disappeared from the English lexicon in favor more pedestrian modern expressions.

Introducing Let’s Bring Back: The Cocktail Edition, a compendium of long-forgotten libations due for a revival. Culled from ancient times through the 1960s, these vintage cocktails are by turns fizzy and flat, sweet and sour, lethal and prim. Some of them are absurd, others sentimental, and yet others outright scandalous. 

It Happened Here
What do Salvador Dali, Alfred Hitchcock, and Diana Vreeland have in common? They all created, reveled, and rebelled at the St. Regis in New York City. It Happened Here – a convivial, social, and artistic history of old New York, as seen through the prism of one of its grandest hotels.


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