Monthly Archives: March 2008

Peeps Ahoy!

Alison Morris - March 7, 2008

Oh to be as multi-talented as my pal Erica Perl! She writes divine books, parents divine children, and participates in wonderfully wacky activities like this one: making marshmallow Peep dioramas for a contest hosted by a major newspaper. Yes, the Washington Post is hosting its second annual Peeps Diorama Contest, and Erica and her daughters (Franny and Bougie) have come up with a doozy of an entry: Harry Peeper and the Deathly Mallows!!

Erica reveals the secrets of this diorama’s creation on her blog. Yes, she did indeed sew yarn hair onto Ron Peep and Hermione Peep. Talk about dedication to a fabulously ridiculous cause! 

Of course, Erica’s not alone in this insanity. One look at the gallery of photos from last year’s contest shows that MANY people put a LOT of time into their Peep shows (pun intended). Now that others have seen how it’s done, this year’s competition is bound to be even stiffer. (About as stiff as, say, a container of stale Peeps!) So, keep your fingers crossed for the Perl family clan. Win big, Franny and Bougie!

It’s too late to submit entries for this year’s competition, but not too early to start thinking ahead to 2009! Anyone have book theme suggestions for one of next year’s creations? Me, I’m thinking Peep Eyre. Or maybe Peep’s Web (featuring the words "Some Peep," of course.) Moby Peep, perhaps? Hmm…

For more Peep laughs, be sure to read the detailed account of a surgical procedure performed on conjoined Peep quintuplets.

A Lyrical Ballad In Saratoga Springs

Alison Morris - March 6, 2008

Two weeks ago Gareth and I drove to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to cut a rug at the annual Dance Flurry Festival. Turns out we weren’t the only children’s book creators in attendance at this big event. That’s Joseph Bruchac in the center of the room below, beating a drum during "Dancing Our Stories: New England Native American Dances," one of two workshops he led with his son James Bruchac.

When we weren’t brushing up on our swing or tango moves, Gareth and I spent a bit of timing exploring the town of Saratoga Springs, where we stumbled upon Lyrical Ballad Bookstore, one of the prettiest and most well-stocked antiquarian bookstores I’ve ever had the pleasure of browsing. While we didn’t have ample time to spend in the place (I could have happily spent days there!) I did find enough time to snap a few photos for your viewing pleasure.

Below is the main entrance to the store, with Gareth peering in the doorway.

To the right of the entrance above is another nice display window, below.

Here’s the front counter that sits just to your left as you enter the door.

Bookends are displayed along the top of many of the store’s bookcases — I don’t know when or where I’ve seen so many in any one place.

While it may not look big from the front, the store is suprisingly large inside, with a maze of rooms tucked at the back, all chock full of books. Here’s a shot of the front room, facing the counter and front windows.

At the back of that front room is what was once a bank vault, as its door clearly indicates.

I like the quote on this plaque, which sits above the bank vault door: "The only book you’ll ever regret is the one you didn’t buy."

To your right as you face the bank vault are (what else?) more books, tucked into every available inch of space.


To your left are… WOW! The store seems to go on forever!

Here’s one of the rooms off the corridor above. Note that there’s a lack of shelf space in the place, despite its seemingly endless bookcases.

Here’s another room:

And another:

Here’s one that has both books and antique prints on display.

Here’s a print I had my eye on:

After touring that maze of rooms at the back I returned to the front of the store again, this time to the room that’s to your right as you enter  — the one behind the display window printed with the store’s name. It’s chock-a-block with huge art books, mostly, on every artist and era imaginable. Here’s how that room looks as you enter it:

Here’s how that same room appears as you’re facing the street. (Note the bookends atop the bookcases on the left-hand wall.)

I loved the cozy feel of this room on a sunlit day. It made me wish I had several hours in which to curl up with a copy of… any number of books I saw in this store! Here’s one I was particularly tempted by: Heroic Women of History.

What I was tempted by most, though, was not any particular book, but a bookcase: the beautiful rotating bookcase that sits just inside the store window. Tell me you don’t covet this:

That bookcase is good evidence of the fact that the Lyrical Ballad offers as much candy for the eyes as it does for the wallet. I was so taken with the beauty of the spines lined up on many of the shelves that I went a little camera-trigger happy. Here are three shots, just to give you a sample:

What can I tell you about the history and operations of the Lyrical Ballad? Not much, unfortunately. I spent too much time browsing and quickly found myself with none left to chat with the owners and pepper them with questions. Fortunately the Book Trout blog has filled that void with a wonderful post about this wonderful bookstore. Be sure to read what Book Trout has to say, and check out their other blog entries too. Reading them makes me think I definitely need to visit THEIR store, Old Saratoga Books, on my next Upstate NY trip!

Spot the Bug

Alison Morris - March 4, 2008

I drive a silver 2002 VW Beetle, which I’ve dubbed "The Notorious B.U.G." (or "Buggy Smalls"). For brevity’s sake, though, I often refer to "her" (I believe my car’s a girl) as "Nory" which is sort of derived from "Notorious" but really just reminds me of the beloved main character of Nicholson Baker’s The Everlasting Story of Nory, whose comic adventures remind me not to take Boston drivers so seriously.

Why am I telling you all this? Because while my B.U.G. may have a superior name, it has indeed been bested. By whom? THE ERIC CARLE MUSEUM OF PICTURE BOOK ART!! They’ve got their own Bug for museum outreach purposes, and it looks like this:

How great is that?? Oh, for a car that looked this fun! (Or at least for a car with a left front hubcab that does not fly off at the mere sight of a pothole….)

The Bug-related info. on the Eric Carle Museum’s Web site says: "The next time you Spot the Bug, send an email noting the date, time, and location… to receive a free Family Pass to the Museum and the chance to win other great bug prizes."

I think this is a great idea, but I do admit to being shocked that a museum concerned with the education of young children is actually encouraging violence. YES, encouraging violence!! I say this, because as the driver of a Bug I can tell you that kids haul back and punch one another when they see me driving by or stopping at a light behind the family wagon (more often an SUV these days). I have watched countless children’s mouths form the words "Punchbug silver!" a half second before someone in their posse gets walloped. Yes, it is a sad (but rather entertaining) fact that we Bug drivers are the cause of many a bruised sibling.

I don’t know if the museum Bug bears a moniker other than "the Bug" but it’s easy to see why they wouldn’t have wanted to dub it "The Very Clumsy Click Beetle" or pattern it in that fashion. My last car (before Nory) was called Nancy, after Nancy Drew and Nanci Griffith (whose music played often on my car stereo during my college days). What about you? Does your car have a name? (And if so, do you know what that says about you…?)