Thar She Donates! | Newberry

Thar She Donates!

There have been some pleasant surprises in the donations lately. I don’t refer solely to the book signed by Yitzhak Rabin, or the book of Bible stories by Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Toms’ Cabin.) Those are the sort of surprises which can happen any time, like all those Pokemon cards you donated with your old game cartridges. I’m talking about the donations which can occur any time EXCEPT the right time.

We sell books in the Rosenberg Bookshop in the lobby, see, on what we call our cart. We try to keep up on what’s “trending”, as people younger than I am say it, but you always seem to thwart us. When do people donate their Christmas books? I have no statistics to back this up, but I’m saying August, April, and (especially) January. Any months but November and December. When do the books which would sit beautifully on the shelves for St. Patrick’s Day arrive? March 19, of course. Got a few nice little things about the Columbian Exposition, and they’ll sell nicely in July, but it might have been even nicer to put them out during the big exhibit this past fall. Do not for one second deny that you time these things. Those folks who have tried to tell me, “Well, people were using their Christmas books in December. Of course they get rid of them in January” get nothing from me but a “Bah! Humbug!”

Something seems to have gone awry. Here we have this big, wonderful exhibit on Moby Dick and America’s maritime culture, and people are actually donating books on whales! Now, when we can really use them! Did the calendar on your phone stop working, or did you accidentally donate boxes you had marked for after Memorial Day?

There is the heavy, leatherbound Moby Dick published by the Franklin Library, which I ran straight up to the bookshop (along with that copy of Moby Duck, the saga of thousands of rubber duckies accidentally dumped in the ocean.) Here is a children’s book on the history of whaling. There are two books on whale watching, and a history of perfume which deals heavily with the days when ambergris was a major component of the trade. (Ambergris is produced by sperm whales as…look it up for yourself, why don’t you?) And someone gave us this Alyse Newman book.

I couldn’t learn much about Alyse Newman. One website tracks the period of her illustration work in books from 1980 to 2001. Where she came from and what became of her, they don’t say, but her work could be found on Christmas cards, in Mad Magazine, and in the Children’s section at your local Book Fair. I do not recall her edition of Alice in Wonderland nor her Velveteen Rabbit, and I don’t remember seeing any of her books about Kitty Cucumber. Her most popular children’s book seems to have been one called “It’s Me, Claudia” which would have horrified certain of my relatives who would not have read it before the title was changed to “It is I, Claudia.” But you MAY find some of her work in the Humor section, because she was the illustrator of that due-to-be-rediscovered classic “Real Women Never Pump Iron”.

AND she did a series of highly informative Flip And Learn Nature Books: very small (about the length and width of a book of stamps) flip books telling you important true facts about wild animals. And one of you thoughtful donors out there gave us the one which covers the evolution of the whale, and a white whale at that.

By flipping the pages of this beautifully done educational tome, you can learn that the great white whale developed from a fuzzy sort of polar hippopotamus that leapt into the water to chase fish, and stayed there. One whale expert who saw the book reminded me that whales do not, in fact, eat fish, but, of course, you can’t cover the WHOLE history of whales in just one flip book. The evolution from fuzzy mammal to Moby Dick, after all, took…well, six seconds, since that’s how long it takes to flip the pages.

Keep those whale and whaling and whaling ship books coming in (where are the books of sea chanteys?) It may take me a while to figure out how to display a whale this small in the bookshop, and we’ll need everything we can find for this rising tide of whale watchers.

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