Another Repost? Now That’s Just Lazy: Jurassic Pick

Slightly moldy and warped, but otherwise perfect.

Slightly moldy and warped, but otherwise perfect.

It might be a tad lazy, but this oldie is one of my favorites.

And don’t worry; you’ve probably never read it before. Nobody was reading my blog when I first posted this. 

Enjoy! 

***

Bookshelf space was always at a premium in my childhood home. So when I outgrew my picture books, my mom wasted little time in packing them up into a giant cardboard box and depositing them in a dark, forgotten corner of the basement. Her plan was to parcel them out after I had children of my own. The unveiling of each book would be accompanied by the grandma bon mot: “Your daddy read this when he was your age!”

A vicious rainstorm during my middle school years almost put an end to that plan. Most of the collection remained above the waterline, but others were in sad and sorry shape.

But Mom and I ran hairdryers, Lysol-ed any pages that showed traces of mold and pressed the sorry specimens between dictionaries. Fortunately, most of the books that were beyond the pale were ones that could be easily replaced after my son was born. (The Diggingest Dog, for example.) Other books were no great loss. (Sure, I could buy a new copy of the unsettling Are You My Mother?, but will I? No, sir.)

I was thinking about this 20-odd-year-old event recently because it brought something into sharp focus: a basement flood is an excellent way to determine a book’s value. Most of the books in that wet box entertained me in one way or another, but only a couple of them really mattered.

I would guess that about three or four dozen books were waterlogged in that flood. Some were beyond saving. But even among the salvageable books, decisions needed to be made. There was only so much Lysol and so many heavy dictionaries to go around. Where should I devote the bulk of my rescue efforts? To put it another way, which book would just be too painful to throw away? Amazon.com was still decades away, so a lost book was really lost. Maybe forever.

I found my decisions to be surprisingly swift and easy. Are You My Mother? never got a backward glance. Danger in Dinosaur Valley by Joan Lowery Nixon, however, was a different story entirely.

Danger in Dinosaur Valley was the quintessential children’s book for boys – beautifully bringing together dinosaurs, baseball and time travel in a fast-paced, funny tale of prehistoric survival. The entire story is seen through the eyes of a curious young Diplodocus and ends with a stirring and violent confrontation with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Ah. Remember the days when it was okay to have violence in a picture book?

So… Get me some Lysol and a Merriam Webster, STAT! This book ain’t gonna die on my watch!

The dust jacket never made it, the spine is shot and dots of mold speckle the end pages but my efforts were not in vain. Grandma delivered her line to Alex on cue: “Your daddy read this when he was your age!” True enough, but I also read it at this age, even when my little guy isn’t around. That is a true test of a great picture book.

Danger in Dinosaur Valley has been out of print since the 1970s, but thank heavens we now live in the age of Amazon. Get it. I’ll bet you’ll keep it.

Just promise me you’ll store it on a high shelf.

Which books from your childhood would you rescue from floodwaters? 

51 thoughts on “Another Repost? Now That’s Just Lazy: Jurassic Pick

  1. I would rescue How to Become King by Jan Terlouw and The Night They Stole the Alphabet by Sesyle Joslin from flood, fire, famine, and my own kids, if I had to.

    They’re both so out of print it’s almost hopeless, and I never owned copies of my own—the school library technically did (in my own mind, they were partly mine because I never let them stay on he shelves more than the minimum week I had to wait to check them out again). I paid $54 to acquire the former (with primitive crayon illustrations on the endpapers) and haven’t found a copy of the latter, yet, though I was able to borrow it from a library halfway across the country through Interlibrary Loan. my older daughter loved it!

    All my other favorites are replaceable through Amazon—the words, anyway. I might add my 2nd edition copy hardback copy of The Wind in the Willows just for the illustrations.

    • I first read “Wind in the Willows” as an adult. I quickly fell in love. It is now my go-to book for when I’m sleepy and crabby.

      And I see “How to Become King” and “The Night They Stole the Alphabet” are on Amazon. But, dang, look at the prices!

  2. I remember and love many picture books from my childhood – Make Way For Ducklings, Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel, Monkey Trouble, all the Frances books… – but the book I would have tried most desperately to save was actually a middle-grade called The Horse On The Roof, long out of print now, but the perfect book for a girl who grew in an apartment in the city and longed for a horse 🙂

    • Fun fact about “Ducklings:” A young Richard Nixon, who, at the time was a friend of McClosky, can be found in one of the crowd scenes. It’s sort of like a political version of “Where’s Waldo.”

      I just discovered that “The Horse on the Roof” can be bought on Amazon for a song. But there is only one copy left! Do you need to add it to your collection, or do you still have your childhood copy?

      In other words, if you’re not buying it, I am.

  3. Dinosaurs AND time travel? I will definitely have to look this one up! 🙂

    One children’s book that never made it to my grown-up bookshelves because it was so well-loved it literally fell apart was ‘How Many Pockets?’, my first counting book. I haven’t been able to find a copy of it anywhere, even on-line, and fear it might be out of print. I think that must be where my love of pockets comes from! lol

    • Some books just disappear — even in the age of Amazon. When I was a kid I borrowed one book from the library all the time. I don’t remember the title, but it had pictures of Zero Mostel doing the craziest things to illustrate different kinds of opposites.

      Oh, I would pay handsomely to get a clean copy of that book…

  4. Having read MANY children’s books, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of this one. I just bought one for my grandson but am having it shipped to me first…so I can read it! 😉

  5. I like the stories about your childhood. I’m imagining how disappointing it was to find the books soaked. The Lysol reminds me of a couple of books I had lying around for my nephew — I absent-mindedly put my humane mouse trap on top of them. It was in a plastic bag but still, because I’m neurotic, I imagined microscopic fecal mouse particles seeping through and contaminating my nephews. I wiped the books down in bleach then became neurotically concerned that my nephews would become ill from the bleach — aghhhhhh! There’s no rest for the insane! In the end, I’m here now in MA with them and I brought the books which I read to them last night, along with Sara Gives Thanks. I love your book and the fact that you were able to come up with this on a moment’s notice, so-to-speak. I was really tired so I didn’t get a chance yet to read the history on the back page. I’m reading that later today…

  6. Certainly worth the re-post – ah, indeed, the preciousness of (some) books. One of my faves of childhood was Grandmother Lucy and her Hats by Joyce Wood, oh and The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark oh…and The Sleepy Dormouse, oh and The Tiger who Came to Tea! Fond memories…special books…

  7. My parents didn’t read many books to us when we were kids. But one I remember was called “The Easter Bunny’s Gift” that my mom read to us and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren at Eater time. I just Googled it and didn’t come up with anything. It currently lives with my brother and his kids and grandkids. There’s also the one about the Little Red Hen who does all the work for her friends until they all get captured by a fox. The Little Red Hen frees them and then they see the error of their ways. I seem to recall this being a favorite because we didn’t have that many books in our house. So maybe my mom saved it for when I became a mother. I’ve read this to my son when I’ve tired of reminding him that he’s got to pull his own “cleaning weight” in this family. Hmmmm, does that mean I threaten to leave him in the woods so that some wild animal will eat him if he doesn’t straighten up? Hmmmm, what does that say about my parenting?

  8. That;s it! You can illustrate a “Where’s Waldo” of presidents on pages with animals that most resemble their faces…I’m thinking you could tie it in to core standards…or maybe not…

  9. Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and Winnie-the-Pooh. I still have (on a safe shelf) the copies I read when I was a wee one. I think Winnie-the-Pooh was the first real chapter book I read. I was, and continue to be, a “bear of very little brain.”

  10. For me, I adored my Alice and Jerry readers, and even bought them as an adult to share with our son. His favorite picture book was Marcel the Pastry Chef by Marianna Mayer. What can I say, the boy liked to bake at an early age – but I loved it, too!

  11. I read books starting at age 3 – yup, really, my parents have pictures of me sitting in front of the bookshelf reading and re-reading Sleeping Beauty. Not p.c., but boy oh boy di I love her and the little birdies she talked to and the fairies who took care of her. So yes, I have found memories of those thin tiny hardback books I began with. I can’t remember all my favorite ones, but I loved reading to my children, and my favorites include A Cloudy Day of Meatballs (got the title wrong, but I think you know which one I mean?) and Good Night Moon (a classic – I was asleep at the end, my kids would wake me up and say, “Read again. Again!”) and a zillion more. Can’t take up all your space. Thank god for GOOD children’s book. They save many a child, I believe…

  12. I loved hearing this story. Aren’t reading children’s books as an adult one of the absolute pleasures in life? I had this book of my mother’s when I was a child called “What Katie Did” – so simple, but randomly, I really loved that book. Also, all of the really old raggedy ann books and rupert books were such a favorite.

  13. Wonderful story. Not the part about the books getting soggy but everything up to but not including. You can certainly see why mankind doesn’t know where he came from, where he’s been and where’s he’s going — They keep storing the knowledge in the basement. Loved this little look back Hey Look!

  14. I don’t remember Danger in Dinosaur Valley. I’ll have to check it out. We talked about this a bit already, but I have so many fond memories of my favorite books as a kid. Some of the ones I loved (and still love) best: The Funny Little Woman, The Little House, Mr. Pine’s Purple House, Rain Makes Applesauce, The Sugar Mouse Cake, Stewed Goose, Mr. Pudgins, Bedtime for Frances (also Bread and Jam for Frances), The Man Who Didn’t Wash His Dishes, and The Wicken Pigeon Ladies in the Garden. There are more, but I can’t think of them now.

    And now I have to look at my copy of Make Way for Ducklings to see if I can find Nixon.

    • I haven’t heard of most of those! Thanks for the recommendations, my friend!

      Unfortunately, the book you mention that I really want to read, The Sugar Mouse Cake, is not available through Amazon. Library here I come! Fingers crossed.

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