Favourite Vintage Books

I have quite the obsession with vintage books – it’s absolutely no secret. And no surprise. Vintage children’s books are at once inspiring and overwhelmingly beautiful – harking back to a time when book creation was more about genius than sales. Here I’m sharing some of my favourite vintage books – and I would love to hear about yours. Leave a comment! and do see my favourite ‘vintage-style books‘ – or modern books with that delicious retro twist.

Eloise Takes a Bawth by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight

While Nanny dear unsuspectingly watches her soap opera, and Mr Salomone, the Plaza’s manager, prepares for the charity event of the year, Eloise takes a bawth. She bolts the bathroom door with a backbrush and turns on every tap in sight and begins her wilful water mischief in a glamorous fantasy bath world complete with Skipperdee and Weenie to boot. SLAWSH! The Plaza has flooded! The Grand Ball Room is in pandemonium! Who? Who? Who is the culprit? Mr Salomone and the Plaza head engineer follow the flow of water and discover that the trouble began with a certain precocious little girl up on the very top floor – none other than our very own favourite Eloise!

A Balloon for a Blunderbuss by Bob Gill and Alastair Reid

This book takes the reader on an imaginative, inspiring journey around the world. It all begins with a drawing of a pair of hands, gently cupped around an unseen object: I have a butterfly in my hands. What will you give me for my butterfly? “I will give you a wishbone.” What would I do with a wishbone? “Well, you could trade it for a kite with a tail…or a Chinese Lantern . . .” From the unseen butterfly in the hand to the blunderbuss, the balloon and beyond, Bob Gill lovingly illustrates an ever-expanding list of items, which grows to encompass, among other things, two rocking horses, a small zoo with a lion, a little town and eventually a whole forest with thousands of trees, which you could possibly trade for two stars, if you wanted to. But it would be even better to trade it for an island, and the ocean all round, until in the end, after many, many more trades, you would have everything.

A Kangaroo for Christmas by James Flora

The day before Christmas, Kathryn’s present from Uncle Dingo arrives in a big box. Naturally, it’s a lively kangaroo. Kathryn can’t wait to show grandma, so she hops onto Adelaide’s back and off they go! But getting to Grandma’s proves more difficult than expected. Honking horns and screeching breaks frighten Adelaide into taking off on her own. In good Flora fashion, chaos and pure silliness ensue. When Kathryn and Adelaide finally arrive at Grandma’s house, a very cool and collected Grandma sees there’s nothing to be done but to get them home as swiftly as possible. A rumpus of a read, Kangaroo for Christmas is a merry Christmas tall tale full of witty illustrations that are sure to draw laughs and hoots of pleasure.

Sunday Morning by Judith Viorst and Hilary Knight

It’s Sunday morning, very early Sunday morning. Anthony and Nicholas are not supposed to wake their parents before 9:45 am. (Whenever that is) Certainly, three puzzles falling off a shelf isn’t enough to wake them. And what about some music or a game of boat in the living room? These wouldn’t wake them up, would they? But when Nick really yells help, the know they’re in trouble. Then the boys and their parents discover something they never would have imagined.

Crictor by Tomi Ungerer

Crictor the boa constrictor lives with Madame Bodot. He is a very helpful pet – especially when there are burglars in the neighborhood.

Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

“Each month is gay, each season is nice, when eating chicken soup with rice”. It’s nice in January, April, June, and December–here’s the every-month dish for everyone to remember. Stunning three-color illustrations.

This is Paris by Miroslav Sasek

This facsimile edition of Sasek’s original title features brilliant, vibrant illustrations that have been meticulously preserved and remain true to his vision. With timely and nostalgic appeal, the This Is… books have an elegant, classic look and delightful narrative that will charm both children and their parents. This is Paris, first published in 1959, brings Paris, one of the most exciting cities in the world, to life. There are famous buildings, beautiful gardens, cafes, and the Parisians-artists, concierges, flower girls, and even thousands of cats. Take a tour along the banks of the Seine, through the galleries of the Louvre, and to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

The little house first stood in the country, but gradually the city moved closer and closer. An engaging picture book, well ahead of its time.

Are you my Mother? by PD Eastman

A little chick falls out of its nest and goes in search of its mum, searching high and searching low and questioning a series of animate and inanimate objects along the way. Eastman is a A protégé of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).



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Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney is an author of children's books and adult non-fiction. Recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne, and Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline. She's also an editor, publisher and founder of Kids Book Review.

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