Saturday, January 26, 2008
Collectability : THE PEN THAT PA BUILT
Some people make friends at work or at parties or just hanging around the neighborhood. I make friends on eBay. Where else will you find a community of like-minded book collectors selling to each other, buying from each other, and bidding against each other?
Ebay is where I met David Edwards, a book collector from Tucson, Arizona. He had one of the most amazing children's book collections around: Newberys! Caldecotts! First editions! Galleys! Signed books! Ephemera! He also had plenty of great stories about different authors he'd met, book signings he'd attended, and fellow collectors that he knew.
Beyond book collecting, he was also competent at a great many things. I still recall in awe (and horror) how he dissected a snake as a science lesson for his kids. At the time I first met him online, he was also an aspiring writer of children's books.
Then came a time when we lost touch. We both moved away from eBay for a while, e-mail addresses were changed and lost, and though I tried to track him down from time to time, "David Edwards" is not exactly an uncommon name! Then, in a bit of synchronicity, about a month ago I discovered that a new children's book had been written by one David Edwards...and then we ran across each other on eBay a couple weeks later. Of course I immediately asked if I could order a signed copy from him.
It arrived today, wonderfully inscribed, and I'm thrilled to report that it's a great book! THE PEN THAT PA BUILT is a cumulative rhyme describing how a rural, nineteenth-century American family raises sheep, shears their wool, and creates yarn that will be made into a blanket for the latest addition to the family. Told in rhythms similar to "The House that Jack Built" ("This is the wheel that spins out yarn, combed and teased, straight as you please, clipped by the shears, grown by the sheep...who live in the pen that Pa built.") the rousing text begs to be read aloud as it skillfully imparts information and shows how every family member has a role to play in this annual cycle of work.
Ashley Wolff, illustrator of MISS BINDERGARTEN GETS READY FOR KINDERGARTEN, contributes rich color artwork that resembles woodcuts and contains dozen of nice touches, especially in the way she depicts the changing seasons over the course of the story: the tree outside Pa's pen blossoms, bears fruit, and sheds leaves; the kids go barefoot before donning warmer clothes; pumpkins are harvested and ice forms on the animals' water trough.
This slice of Americana will appeal to readers both young and old.
THE PEN THAT PA BUILT
Written by David Edwards
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
Tricycle Press, 2007
Why the book may become collectable:
It's a classic story that will not grow dated.
It's both informational and entertaining.
Those who collect books on sheep, wool, farms, nineteenth-century America, or rural life will be interested.
Those who collect variants on "The House That Jack Built" will also want a copy.
First edition points:
Copyright page at back of book states "First Tricycle Press printing, 2007" and contains the full sequence of numbers as follows: 1 2 3 4 5 6 -- 12 11 10 09 08 07.
Difficulty in finding first editions:
Because of its recent publication date, the book should still be easy to find at this point.