Charlotte Zolotow’s When I Have a Little Girl (1965) doesn’t have the arch references of Kay Thompson’s Eloise (1955) but the books share plenty of DNA. Both are illustrated by Hilary Knight and feature heroines who are willful, exuberant, self-centered, dreamy, loving and bratty all at once.
She’s basically Eloise’s less naughty cousin living in the suburbs.
She’s a handful. But Eloise — even 2013’s Brooklyn-reared Eloise — would eat her alive.
I bought this used book years ago for 25 cents as a throwaway. We were waiting for a table at a restaurant and I was desperate for something to occupy the kids before they destroyed the place. I was sucked in by the book’s (unintentionally anticlimactic?) title. The pancake letter “o” didn’t hurt either.
The book turned out to be a keeper. It’s basically a child-friendly introduction to locavorism and foraging decades before Michael Pollan, starring a funny little man who looks like a Hanna-Barbera character.
The balding bachelor of the title lives with his cat in the middle of nowhere. As we learn: “He didn’t have a wife or children so he always cooked his own supper, cleaned the house by himself, and made his own bed.” (For an author writing in 1981, Phyllis Krasilovsky has a pretty 1950s-ish take on gender norms, but whatever.) The man also doesn’t have a car, so he relies on a friend to bring him groceries every week. When one summer his friend is unable to make his delivery, the man nearly starves.
Finally, he realizes he can pick wild watercress and blueberries, catch fish and even make pancakes from … acorns. (I don’t think even Rene Redzepi has gotten there.) The story is super simple but charming, and the kids think it’s hilarious when the guy briefly considers eating his newspaper. They also appreciate the size of his hat.
The other day at the library I discovered a Bernard Waber book I’ve never seen before: Rich Cat, Poor Cat. And I am in love.The concept couldn’t be simpler. Each left-hand page shows the cushy, pampered life of a rich cat (clearly, a member of cat society’s 1%). Each right-hand page shows the
contrasting life of a penurious streetcat named Scat.
There isn’t much of a plot per se, but no matter. It’s sweet, witty, and gorgeous to look at. The scenes of ’60s New York are stunning. How can you not love the outfit on this woman?
Of course, there’s a happy ending for Scat, with a great little twist on the last page. It’s hard to get hold of an original copy of this book (there’s a seller on EBay offering it right now for $99), but I just bought a copy of the 1970 Scholastic paperback on Etsy for $3.00. Now I won’t be tempted to “lose” my library’s copy.