Category Archives: Rare Books

Lovely Little Books

Stacked on top of our collectibles case is a collection of truly lovely little books, mostly poetry or novels from the 1880’s to 1920’s era.  Not expensive, not first editions, just beautiful little reprints meant to be given as gifts I believe when published.  They are still beautiful gifts.  Age and reading wear have only added to their allure! Like ancient churches that hold the echo of years of prayers, little old books of romantic poems have to magnify the love of all those previous adoring couples who’ve held them and read them!  Valentines Day is nearly here….

101 Holiday Gift Ideas: #83-88 Start A Series

One of my aunts (thank you Aunt Gayle), gave me wonderful stacks of children’s series books each year at Christmas for about five years, and I absolutely loved those stacks.  The Bookmobile never carried Happy Hollisters or Trixie Belden on its small shelves, so I  would have missed those great series without that special gift.  And the stack of Walter Farley Black Stallion books?  It was handed around to about every girl in Benton – you got your money’s worth on that gift Aunt Gayle! 

So in honor of my Aunt’s generosity, consider giving a stack of series books.  There are so many to choose from, from vintage and classic to new and cool….and they can appeal to adults as well as kids!  With some exceptions, like Harry Potter, few need to be read in order, so you can pick up an affordable handful from our shelves that may just spark a lifetime love of reading!

101 Holiday Gift Ideas: #59-64 Modern Author First Editions, Some Signed!

For serious book collectors, the closer a publication is to the author’s hand, the more valuable it is.  So a first edition, first printing is more valuable than the 90th edition.  Obviously an author’s signature is proof it was actually in his or her hand!  Even those of us who are not serious collectors though get a thrill  when an author we admire and read enthusiastically took the time to sign the book we are also holding.  It is a personal connection, and it is just special. 

We have signed copies and first editions through out the store, and one special shelf of the more collectable volumes.  Wouldn’t a signed copy by a beloved author make a great gift?  Come in and see what we have!

101 Holiday Gift Ideas: #54-58 More Vintage Natural History

Adding on to yesterday’s theme of beautiful natural history books…there is something about these illustrations that are just timeless.  There are several styles to choose from in this stack, and more on the shelves since I can never turn them down!  1934.  The color plates are soft and colorful, pastels I think, but I especially love the brown and white drawings that decorate each page.  This is a well read and inexpensive volume, but so fun to read through!  Another classic featured is the American Natural History book by W.T. Hornaday.  This book fell off the shelf and had a cracked hinge repaired with book tape, bringing the price down, but any one will love the detailed information and vintage 1926 drawings and photos.  Lastly we have a copy of Handbook of Nature-Study for Teachers and Parents by Anna Botsford Comstock published in 1922.  This 900 page volume has pages of “Teacher’s Stories” to be read, lesson plans, photos, you name it.  Wish I learned this much about birds in school!

101 Holiday Gift Ideas: #52-53 Amazing Wildflower Book Sets

We have two beautiful and authoritative wildflower book sets, one for the Pacific Northwest States and one for the Southwest states, that would be a wonderfully special gift for the botanist in your life.  These sets, edited by Harold William Rickett of The New York Botanical Garden, are oversized volumes with full color photos of each flower adjacent to the descriptions, always a plus in my opinion!  The northern Sierra Nevada is covered in the Pacific Northwest set, and the Southwest includes our more deserty southern areas. 

If you have an incurable gift box shaker, these heavy volumes out to cure her!

101 Gift Ideas: #16 Remembering a Local Hero

Here in the Owens Valley, we’ve all seen the iconic January 1955 Sports Illustrated Cover photo of Jill Kinmont preparing for the Olympic Trials. It was reprinted many times as we mourned her passing this past year.   As such a beloved and respected member of our community, and the subject of biographical films and books, you may know her life story.  Less likely that you have  been able to read the interview, see the rest of the photo spread, or appreciate the world of sports for women (barely any!) in 1955. It is fascinating.

  I currently have one copy of this rare Sports Illustrated magazine which would make a wonderful Christmas gift.  First come, first served, so don’t wait!

A Clue About Nancy Drew

“Bluffing about questionable information can often lead to people revealing juicy secrets.” –The Clue in the Old Stagecoach

I love Nancy Drew.

As a kid, nothing was better than crawling under the covers with a flashlight and a new Nancy Drew mystery. I started collecting the girl detective series written by Carolyn Keene for my own daughter shortly after her birth. I’ve dressed as Nancy Drew three times for Halloween–twice as a child and once as an adult. And I am not ashamed to admit to rereading a Drew mystery now and again. (I am still scared silly when Nancy heads into dark alley to follow the shadowy figure who may or may not be selling fake jewels to the housewives of River Heights. “Don’t go, Nancy! For once in your life be a coward and dial 911!”)

So, it came as a blow when I discovered that there is no Carolyn Keene. All these years I have imagined Keene at her typewriter–an older version of Nancy–tapping out the adventures the titan-haired sleuth. The truth is this: the Nancy Drew mystery series have been penned by no less than sixteen different authors.

“When confused, sit back and try to arrange the facts into some kind of order.”  —The Ghost of Blackwood Hall

Nancy Drew is the brainchild of Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer was one of the first publishers to print books marketed for children. In 1926, he created the popular Hardy Boys series. Even though Stratemeyer believed that a woman’s place was in the home, he was savvy enough to realize that a series featuring an amateur girl detective might be a success as well. The first four Nancy Drew mysteries, published in 1930, were an instant hit.

“When forging a letter to nab a perp, be sure to use grammar and spelling appropriate to the education level of the person you’re impersonating.” –The Ghost of Blackwood Hall

The initial manuscripts featuring Nancy Drew were plotted by Stratemeyer himself, and written by hired writer Mildred Wirt. Wirt wrote the majority of the early Nancy Drew books along with Stratemeyer’s daughter Harriet Adams who eventually took over her father’s publishing company. The later Nancy Drew mysteries were written by numerous ghostwriters, but the characteristics of the girl detective remained consistent throughout the years.

“Lipstick is not just for looking glamorous; it can be used to signal for help on windows or other surfaces.” –The Mystery of the Fire Dragon

Growing up, Nancy Drew was the girl I wanted to be. She’s the girl I want my daughters to be. Not only is she attractive and slim, but she is smart and talented as well.  She speaks French, paints, can drive a motorboat, skies, swims, ice skates, sews, plays golf and tennis, is a gourmet cook, and can hold her own at bridge. When in a jam, the amateur sleuth keeps her cool and relies on her nerve, intellect, and intuition to find a solution. Nancy is a loyal friend, an adoring daughter, and has a handsome and supportive boyfriend. Despite the many trials she undergoes during her investigations, she has never taken any monetary compensation. Plus, she drives a convertible. It doesn’t really get any better than that.

“If you can prevent it, do not chase after thieves when you are clad only in a leotard. It’s unseemly.” –The Scarlet Slipper Mystery

I’m not the only one who admired Nancy’s calm, intelligent demeanor. Powerful women such as Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Sandra Day O’Connor along with Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush all cite Nancy Drew as their girlhood hero and looked to her as a role model. Over 80 million copies of her books have been sold world wide, and her mysteries have been translated into more than 45 languages.

“No one is so jaded that they don’t appreciate praise for mysteries solved or jobs well done, no matter how small.” —The Hidden Window Mystery

My girls are now old enough to enjoy Nancy Drew, and they have fallen in love with her as well. As disappointing as it is to learn that the author of Nancy Drew is really just a pseudonym, I realize that Nancy is still as timeless as ever. . .with or without Carolyn Keene. If anything, the veiled authorship might even add a bit more intrigue to the aura of Nancy Drew.

East Side Books is always well-stocked with the Nancy Drew mystery series. Her books are located in on the Children’s Mystery Series shelves adjacent to the Vintage Children’s Books section.

(The italicized quotes are from the book Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life by Jennifer Worick.)

Wonderful Vintage Girls Series Just In!

Most of us (women anyway) grew up with Nancy Drew (although I confess a preference for  The Hardy Boys myself), but do you remember The Bobbsey Twins, Happy Hollisters, or maybe Trixie Belden or Cherry Ames?  Well the spunky mystery solving girl series are even older than those classics, and we just got a huge batch in of wonderful 1900 to 1930 editions.  We have 18 titles from  The Outdoor Girls by Laura Lee Hope and about ten volumes of  The Campfire Girls series by Hildegard G. Frey.  Numerous other authors wrote for the Campfire Girls, but we only have books by Frey.

As summarized in, The Outdoor Girls series is a product of the Stratemeyer Syndicate and was published from 1913 to 1933 by Grosset & Dunlap and focuses on the various activities of a group of girls who form a Camping and Tramping Club.  As a result of the girls’ outdoor activities they become known as the “Outdoor Girls” in their city of Deepdale, a city located on the Argono River in New York.  Apparently tramping had a kinder connotation in those decades.  Laura Lee Hope, or the multiple writers using that penname, also wrote the Bobbsey Twins series, and while I have not yet read the Outdoor Girls, I imagine they share a similar sweetness and the demonstrations of good characters with those sets of twins.  The frontis piece art is wonderful, and portray some action packed adventures, in ladylike bloomers of course!  We have 17 great titles to choose from, a few loose hinges and frayed corners, but  generally in good  or good plus condition.

An ad for the Campfire Girls series from Grosset & Dunlap states:

These are the tales of the various adventures participated in by a group of bright, fun-loving, up-to-date girls who have a common bond in their fondness for outdoor life, camping, travel, and adventure.  They are clean and wholesome and free from sensationalism.

I’m not sure how “up to date” these girls will seem now, but they are still charming, and fairly spunky, and apparently clean despite their outdoor lifestyle.  Our 9 copies have a few loose pages, but again are generally in good condition with attractive covers and frontis piece art.  I particularly appreciate the alternate titles, The Campfire Girls Do their Bit, for example, is alternately titled Over the Top with the Winnebagos.  The frontis piece illustration shows a campfire girl rescuing a pilot from a plane crashed into a swamp…Now that title combination is intriguing! Most of these books are priced at $9.00.

Don’t you know someone who would love these series?  They are so much fun!

The Rare Book Bug

Owner Diane Doonan and my husband have a thing going…

for rare books.

While I am a quantity girl when it comes to books–large numbers of unread books obtained as cheaply as possible–Diane and my husband definitely seek out quality.  I have learned that when my spouse asks sweetly, “Can I use some of your East Side Books credit to get just one book?” that I need to inquire, “How much?”  His rare book purchases can often equal an armful of new reads for me.

My youngest daughter has also caught the “rare book bug”.   Just recently as I hustled her past the Rare and Vintage Children’s Book section on our way to the Children’s Room, she planted her feet, came to a full stop, and plucked a book off the shelf.  “No, not from there,” I said, but she ignored me, turning pages carefully.

“Can I have this one?” she asked, holding up a book with a ink and watercolor illustration of a frog on the cover.  It was called A Roundabout Turn by Robert H. Charles with drawings by L. Leslie Brooke.

I took a deep breath and checked the price.  It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated (because Diane tends to mark down the books she loves so they find a good home), but still, it wasn’t a deal like you could find a few feet away in the Children’s Room.  “Are you sure you want that one?” I asked.  “You could get two or three books instead of just one over here in the children’s section.”  I took a couple of encouraging steps that way.

“I want THIS one,” said Clara, her eyes shining. I sighed in resignation because I knew that look.  It was the same look my husband has when he comes home with a new rare book purchase that cost most of my credit, and it is the same excitement Diane has when she shows me a new treasure she has just uncovered.

“But why?” I asked.

“Look at the pictures, Mom,” said my daughter rubbing her hand over each page gently.

Yup, I’d seen Diane do that very same thing. But I had to admit, the pictures were beautiful–simple black and white line drawings with plenty of empty space that seemed to give the illustrations room to come alive.  When you ran your hand over the page you could almost feel the raised lines of the drawing, and the paper was soft and thick.  On the flyleaf there was a handwritten inscription: to Carl from Granddad and Grandmother, Christmas 1965. I have to admit, I am a sucker for the handwritten inscriptions by strangers.

“Plus, it has this nice crinkly paper on the outside,” said Clara.

I had to laugh.  Clara even liked the protective clear mylar paper the staff uses as a protective covering.  She was hooked for sure.

I don’t think I will ever become a book connoisseur like my husband, my daughter, and Diane–I tend to read for speed, seeking new knowledge or a good story, and when lucky, both at once–but since that day, I have found myself slowing and often pausing as I pass East Side Books well stocked shelves of Vintage and Rare Children’s Books (located direction across from the Young Adult section.)  The other day I stopped and picked up 003 1/2: The Adventures of James Bond Junior.  On the cover a teenage boy fights off a vicious looking Doberman with just a flashlight.  The subtext along the top read: The Daring Exploits of the Nephew of 007.  Who knew that James had a nephew?

“This is great,” I said, holding it up so Diane, who was at the counter, could see.

“Isn’t it?” she answered, hurrying over.  “I think someone will love that book.”

I put the book back on the shelf, a steal at $4.00, and just went ahead and asked her. “Diane, what is it that you love so much about these vintage and rare children’s books?”

Without hesitating, she said, “I like the pictures.”  It is as simple as that.

With a little more coaxing she gave me a brief history of the Golden Age of Illustration, a period of time between the turn of the century up to the 1930s when well known artist were creating children’s illustrations, some becoming rich and famous because of it.  Within this Golden Age there are a number of styles and movements including ornate color plates to simple black-and-white prints influenced by woodcuts and silhouette to art deco style.  Wanda Gag is one of Diane’s favorite illustrators.  Even if her name isn’t familiar, you have seen her work.  She is the author/illustrator of the Newbery Award Winning book Millions of Cats with its wonderful cover an old man and a line of cats striding across rolling hills in bold colors of black, yellow, and red.

Another well known illustrator from this time is Boris Artzybasheff.  His wonderful drawings are simple and in the style of woodblock art.  To show me his style, Diane pulled two of his books from the shelves: a large picture booked entitled Seven Simeons and a simple, beautiful volume of illustrated Aesop’s Fables. Even to my untrained eye, I could see that both are treasures and minor works of art.

When I asked Diane how she became interested in vintage and rare children’s books, she brushed her fingertips over the spines of books on the shelves and said that these were the books she grew up with, the books that came on the Mono County bookmobile out to the ranch in Hammil Valley where she was raised. She tugged from the shelf a tan, cloth covered picture book called The Big Rain by Francoise.  The illustrations are colorful, childlike, and charming.  “Picture books like these are my favorite.  I know they are simple,” Diane shrugged. “But I just love them.”

Diane also said that part of the appeal of vintage and rare children’s books is the nostalgia–finding a favorite book from childhood in the original edition.  East Side Books has a number of classic or first edition children’s collectable books such as Swiss Family Robinson and The Phantom Tollbooth. Diane pointed out a number of classic series that bring back fond memories to many: the brightly colored covers of The Bobbsey Twins, Tee Vee Humphrey, and The Happy Hollisters.

While checking out the very bottom shelves, Diane showed me the incredible My Book House set that she sells individually.  Each book contains classic children’s stories with the original illustrations included.  “When I was growing up everyone had a set of My Book House,” she said. “It was like owning a set of encyclopedias.  It was just someone each household bought.”  Eastside Books also carries a set of Child Craft, which is a similar but even more popular series.

My Book House The Treasure Chest book cover


A stack of vintage and rare children’s books teetered before me when Diane dipped into the bookshelf one more time and holds up with a ragged edged book. “Now, you will like this,” she said.  She handed me a book with the title Easy Steps in Sewing for Big and Little Girls. On the inside flap, written in pencil in big loopy handwriting, is the inscriptions: Charleen Norris Oct 4, 1933 From Love Mother.  On the next page are two more inscriptions with later dates.  Inside is a manual written for girls with illustrations and advice from fairies, birds, and thimble people on how to sew for dolls.  It is a terribly sweet book, and Diane is right, I couldn’t help but love it.

Easy Steps in Sewing for Big and Little Girls vintage book cover

When other customers needed her assistance, Diane left me with my pile of books.  On my own, I found a few more that were irresistible, like a copy of Dick Tracy Meets the Night Crawler with wonderful black and white comic strip-like illustrations from that time period, and Jolly Jack Wollopor, a children’s picture book with a cover depicting a brightly painted picture of a squirrel dressed as a farmer following a plow pulled by a snail.  It was with some reluctance that I return each book to the shelf.  Although not yet a convert, I am beginning to understand the appeal.  The pictures are beautiful.  And there is something about holding a really old book in your hand that makes you wonder about all the hands that have passed this particular book along its journey.  And sometimes it is important just to own something because it is charming or reminds you of a happy time or creates a little delight in your day.

I encourage you to slow down and take a look at the wall of vintage and rare children’s books at East Side Books.  Ask Diane to be your guide.  Perhaps you can find a special gift for someone who has a taste for rare things. (One of the best baby gifts I ever received at a baby shower was a out-of-print copy of “I Can’t” Said the Ant by Polly Cameron.  Clever and rich with rhyme and wonderful drawings, it soon became a favorite of my children.) Or treat yourself to a bit of your childhood.  Or simply buy a book because the pictures are so beautiful you can’t resist.

And, in case you were wondering, yes, I bought my daughter  A Roundabout Turn with the illustration of the frog on the front that she held tight against her chest the whole time we shopped. And as we checked out, Diane congratulated her on her fine taste.

Has the Rodeo inspired your riding?

If watching all the super talented High School Rodeoers has inspired you to improve your riding skills, we just got the batch of books in for you! These two boxes will nearly double our horses and riding section, with a wide variety of technique books, including dressage, horse health books, tack etc. 

 Oh, and best of luck Kyle, Jared, Kaylie, District 9 Queen Haylie and all the District 9 representatives to the State Finals!!  All of you rodeo fans can get the same East Side deal the CHSRA participants received, one free paperback per customer (up to $4)  – Just mention you actually read this post!

Here’s some highlights:

The UC Davis School  of Veterinary Medicine Book of Horses (1996) is a thorough text for all of your horse health questions.  It is in very good condition, protected in mylar.

Centered Riding, by Sally Swift ( 1985) looks like a wise and well illustrated philosophy on keeping you tall in the saddle. 

And for another riding philosophy, try Resistance Free Riding by Richard Shrake,(1993) which states it “eliminates the horse’s resistance to learningand frees the rider’s ability to achieve” .  Maybe he writes parenting books also? 

If you’ve been looking for another good horse bio after Seabiscuit,  Charisma by Mark Todd looks interesting.  Charisma is an events horse, one of two to have won two individual Olympic gold medals according to the dust jacket.  Do they put horses on the podium?  I think the partnership with rider and author Mark Todd may provide the intersting reading since Todd describes his first reaction to the horse as “unimpressed by this very fat, hairy little creature who didn‘t look as if he could possibly be a suitable event horse.”  Todd is from New Zealand. 

To stay with the  horsemen down-under, try The JefferyMethod of Horse Handling by Maurice Wright (1987 edition) .  The numerous photos show what looks like a hybrid English/Western riding style that  is apparently the New Zealand and Australian style.  The author is passing on an expert horseman’s techniqe for gentling and training young horses, which probably works in this hemisphere as well!    For a theory of horsemanship from antiquity, much like Tzu’s

The Art of War, consider reading Xenophon’s The Art of Horsemanship.  Written twenty three centuries ago in Greece, this book will surely consider the timelessness of the horse and rider bond.   A slightly more contemporary classic, try The Handbook of Riding Essentials by Francois Lamaire de Ruffieu.  This book describes “the proper use of the seat, the legs, and the hands – the natural aids” in good horsemanship. 

  Two more beautiful horse books already on our shelves should catch the attention of the horse lovers in your life,  Pride in the Dust  by Alan Gold, Sally Harrison and photography by Don Weller, is a work of beautiful photography on cutting horses and western landscapes.  We have a copy in both hardback and paperback.  Saddles, by Russel H. Beatie is a huge volume packed with illustrations and photos of saddles, saddle components and their changes through history.  I’m sure it is all you’ve wanted to know on this practical art form. 

Obviously there are many more interesting titles, but I will be impressed if you have read this far.  Send me a comment or question, and don’t forget to mention this post for the free paperback deal!  Enjoy the summer weather on your horse, or reading about them!