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Welcome to the Stump the Bookseller blog!  Stump the Bookseller is a service offered by Loganberry Books to reconnect people to the books they love but can’t quite remember. In brief (for more detailed information see our About page), people can post their memories here, and the hivemind goes to work. After all, the collective mind of bibliophiles, readers, parents and librarians around the world is much better than just a few of us thinking. Together with these wonderful Stumper Magicians, we have a nearly 50% success rate in finding these long lost but treasured books. The more concrete the book description, the better the success rate, of course.  It is a labor of love to keep it going, and there is a modest fee.  Please see the How To page to find price information and details on how to submit your Book Stumper and payment.

Thanks to everyone involved to keep this forum going: our blogging team, the well-read Stumper Magicians, the many referrals, and of course to everyone who fondly remembers the wonder of books from their childhood and wants to share or revisit that wonder.  Isn’t it amazing, the magic of a book?

297W: The Fastest Little Craft Afloat

I’m looking for a poem from the 1980s.  Here’s what I remember:

One day mommy brought me a treat

and I asked her if it was something to eat

or is it round and can I bounce it on the ground

No my dear she said to me

its neither and she let me see

and there inside the the wrappings lay

a sailboat for which to play

? – something about bringing it down to the pond

the fastest little craft afloat

 

Thank you!!

297U: Buster Hard Rocks and Tilly Fields

My inquiry is about an old story that a dear friend told me.  She was born in the 30s and, I believe must have heard the story when she was young.

She thinks it was in a book of children’s stories.  It is about Buster Hard Rocks and Tilly Fields.  The moral of the story is how difficult it is to grow and prosper crops or other things you are growing when all you have in your field are hard rocks.  But if your field is easily tilled, then you can grow crops.  Then similarly in your life, the condition of your heart and mind can be difficult to cultivate if you are hard and unwilling to listen and be persuaded.

I would love to find a copy of a book with this story in it.

297T: Illustrated Children’s book with the theme ” You can choose”

Illustrated Children’s book with the theme ” You can choose”. We had this book in the late 1980s/ early 1990s. It was square with a yellow hardcover with a cartoonish girl/boy on it. Book was about 20 pages ( 10 layouts with different scenes where the boy and girl make different choices between colours and objects etc. ). Each scene ends with a phrase similar to ” You can chose”. Very repetitious. One scene has them in a classroom. Size of book 20cm x 20cm. I know it is not the following books “If I could choose” or “Which one would you choose”.

297S: Star-Shaped Key

I am looking for a book targeted at, I think, 10-to-12-year-olds, which I suspect was published between 1965 and 1980.  I think the protagonists were a brother and sister who for some reason were spending some months (summer vacation?) in a remote location, which I believe was mountainous.  The permanent inhabitants were faced with a problem that I do not remember but which I believe involved water.  A recurring plot point was that the young boy was taught to play draughts and was challenged to improve–this name for the game may mean that, though I read the book in a U.S. library, it was a British book.  The problem was solved through the use of a key with a star-shaped end which was inserted into a rock face and turned.

As a final detail, I believe the cover of the book was mostly a picture, drawn in blue and white.

297R: Big book of stories, almost like a telephone book

I am looking for a big book of stories I enjoyed as a child in the early to mid 1980s. It’s possible the book was published in either the 70s or 80s. It is NOT the typical hardcover collection of stories but rather a paperback, rather oversized book – almost like a telephone book with same type of “newspaper like” pages and black and white print. A distinctive feature is that it had pastel multicolored sections of pages inside. Each color represented a specific type of story like yellow for fairy tales, pink for animal stories, blue for classics adapted for kids, etc. The most specific story I remember is the 12 Dancing Princess who wore out their shoes. It had beautiful illustrations with ladies sporting the French pompadour style with ringlets hairdos and full ballroom dresses. I also have a vague memory of a cute little story featuring a ladybug and other various insects conversing with each other. We also had a similar type big book of jokes (featuring different types of jokes including Tom Swifties!) that I seem to remember having a mostly white cover; I always thought they were part of a series of big books but I could be wrong.

Thanks for any help.

297Q: Like a Canadian Little House on the Prairie

1950s (or earlier) Canadian series about a family.

My mother is looking for a series she read in the 50s but she doesn’t know whether it was published for her generation (born in the 40s) or the books were from her mother’s childhood. They seemed pretty contemporary however. She grew up in Canada and the books were all set in Canada.

The main characters were a boy and a girl, possibly twins. There may have been additional siblings. They moved a lot and each book took place in a new town, much like Little House. Their father may have worked for the government. Or possibly he just was sent many places and they regularly visited him.

One book took place in a logging camp with lumberjacks. In another, they moved to Montreal and dealt with the language barrier, being English-speaking. She particularly remembers them having trouble figuring out the French labels for hot and cold on bathroom sink faucets.

297P: Wizard/Mage/Sorcerer’s Trap (Solved)

This is a book I read hundreds of times in my childhood I can assure you it exists and yet I cannot find it.

It is a thin paperback book with watercolour highly detailed paintings. It is set in a far off land with two kingdoms across the sea from each other. One inhabited by a good king and the other by (I think his brother) an evil, very powerful, wizard.

The wizard decides he wants to take control of the kingdom of light and decides to do so by killing the king’s only son on (i think) his coronation day.

Cut to a parade in the street of the good kingdom, we meet a blind young woman who weaves baskets to make money. She hears of the coronation day and people buy her baskets more than ever. She speaks to a gentle man who gives her too much for her basket but insists she keeps the excess. Suddenly the prince goes missing and the evil wizard mocks the king by telling him he has turned the prince into a fish. The king banns all fishing and the people starve as well as cannot make money. The girl cannot sell her baskets. The wizard says he will set the prince free if someone can get a magic pearl guarded by an octopus at the bottom of the sea.

The king offers anything to whomever can bring his the pearl and by extension his son back home.

First a knight steps forward. He is put on a boat with a special orb to let him breath underwater and never returns. Then a lion tamer steps forward. He is put on a boat with a special orb to let him breath underwater and never returns. It is a long while before anyone else comes forward. But eventually a thief steps forward. He is given a boat with a special orb to let him breath underwater but also doesn’t return.

Eventually when the girl is about to starve and is on her last piece of bread a talking turtle asks for a piece. She shares it with him and finds the courage to go and search for the prince. (The turtle offers to be her eyes i think) the king doesn’t believe in her but is desperate and reluctantly lets her go. She and the turtle run into, a swordfish, a sea lion, and another sea creature before finally making it to the giant octopus.

She gets the pearl and makes it back to shore.

i forget what happens next but it is revealed that:

swordfish=knight

sealion=lion tamer

other creature= thief

octopus= sorcerer

turtle=prince

The prince decides to marry the blind girl and they all live happily ever after.

I forget what happens to the sorcerer, he either dies or vows to leave the kingdom of light alone.

Please help me find this book it’s a favorite of mine (as you can tell) and it’s driving me crazy not having it!

297O: A brother he never knew he had

My daughter’s BF started this book but moved before he could finish. He read it in New Mexico, USA in the last five years. But his sister had it and is an avid reader so it could be old or new and she, of course, can’t remember it. He said it was a very big book that starts with a boy in an orphanage who has a brother show up unexpectedly he never knew he had. The brother takes the orphan to his house that is strange and there is a fireplace on the second floor that has a Narnia-type portal in it.

We would love to surprise him with this book. If anyone can help we’d be so very grateful! Thank you for your time.

297N: Billy and the Spinach Fairy

I’m looking for a very old book called Billy and the Spinach Fairy. It is a story that appears in a few places, but I’m specifically looking for the illustrated stand-alone book.

Billy and the Spinach Fairy is a book from the early 1930s or earlier. The latest it would be published would be 1936, but I suspect it is older than that.

I found one unillustrated copy of the story in “A Story for Every Day: 365 Bedtime Stories,” Whitman Publishing Co., Racine, Wisconsin, c 1931: Feb. 4 story, pp. 34-36. (No individual author listed).

A reprint of the story, with slightly different text, appeared on page 67 in the October 31, 1943 edition of the Oakland Tribune. It was on a page of story submissions from children. It was supposed to have original stories, but a child plagiarized the story and submitted it as her own. I have attached a digital copy of the page, a digital close up of the story, and my own retyping of that close-up, which is difficult to read in the digital newspaper copy. I corrected two spelling errors in my retyping, but otherwise it is identical to what appears in the newspaper.

If I could find this book, I would make my 85 year old mother very, very happy. She is an avid reader, and this book is the first book she learned to read when she was a little girl. She and her older sister remember it vividly and have described it to me in great detail, so I know it exists. They both speak of a detailed picture of a fairy living in a quilt on a little boy’s bed. The fairy has a hat with a feather.

I have done an extensive search, including: AbeBooks (my query from 2010 is still posted on their website); I have contacted a rare children’s book dealer in NY; I’ve gone to the reading room of the Jewish Heritage Center in NYC, that has a book called The Story of a Boy Who Did Not Like Spinach by Abraham Hyman Friedland. That was a Hebrew book and was a different story entirely. I’ve gone to the Princeton University rare children’s book center and looked at Lois Lenski’s book, Spinach Boy, and that’s not it either.

Billy and the Spinach Fairy is out there. Somewhere. In someone’s attic; on a shelf; or in a box. Please help me find this book for my mom before it’s too late.