Tammy Grimes and Esther Averill. Audiobooks Don’t Get Better.

Even though I have this audiobook in my possession, I haven’t heard it for at least fifteen years.  I can only find it on vinyl and I don’t have a record player!  But, nevertheless, an ode to Averill and Grimes is in order.

I wish I could take better, not-dark picture in my living room. Sadly, this was the best of eleven...

I was a major audiobook kid.  I’m still very much an audiobook person.  I like to listen to them on the bus or while cleaning/putzing about the house.  If I’m doing something where I can’t devote 100% of my attention to the story, I’ll put on Charlotte’s Web read by E.B. White – my theory is that, if I listen to him enough, I’ll soak up some of his writing style.  Or I’ll develop a booming Massachusetts twang.

My favourite audiobooks as a chidler were Roald Dahl’s Matilda and The Witches (I can’t remember the readers – lovely British ladies) and the abridged Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island read by Megan Follows.  But nothing can ever top Esther Averill’s Jenny and the Cat Club read by Tammy Grimes (1978).

Grimes was a Broadway and television actress whose best-known audiobook accomplishment is likely Where The Wild Things Are (in addition to some other Sendak stories).  But man oh man, she nails Jenny Linsky.

Jenny Linsky is a black cat.  She lives with Captain Tinker (best name ever).  At night she rolls with her feline friends in the Cat Club: Concertina, Mr. President, Macaroni, The Duke, Romulus, Remus, Arabella, Antonio, and Solomon.  Anyone who doesn’t know these books is at a serious disadvantage in life.

I don’t know what it is about Grimes’ voice that lends itself so well to Averill’s stories.  There is something very old-fashioned and dear about the Jenny Linsky tales (the synopsis on the record calls them “unpretentious little classics”) and there is nothing particularly dear about Grimes’ voice.  It sounds very much like a cross between an ashtray, a cat’s purr, and a grandmotherly cajoling.

But there is something about Grimes’ reading that makes you believe she is just as pumped about the story as you are – she is utterly engaged and expressive to the hilt (but not in an overdone way).    I think I loved the audiobook so much because I felt like I had a kindred spirit in Grimes – she was just as wild about Jenny as I was. You could just hear it in her voice.

I borrowed the cassette tape over and over again from the library until one day it just disappeared (or, as I understand now, it went to the Land of the Weeded).  I thought about it often over the years and it was the first thing I looked up in WorldCat upon entering library school.  Now I just need to get my hands on (and learn how to use) a record player…

Powell’s Books: The Haul

Haul videos and blog posts are amazing.  I have lost hours of my life watching juicystar07 with a kind of anthropological fascination.

I recently undertook my very first quest to Portland’s Powell’s Books.  As many of you probably already know, it deserves a massive Zoo-Wee Mama! for being so big and so awesome.

So, in the spirit of narcissism, capitalism, and juicystar07, I present to you my Powell’s purchases.

First, for only $3.00, a pristine copy of some paper dolls donning 1950s fashions.  This is still in print, thank heavens.

Next, Arnold Lobel’s Martha the Movie Mouse. The fact that this is out of print proves that there is much evil in this world.  For $2.95, it cost less than an Us Weekly, and there is no trace of Heidi Montag’s giant melons anywhere on this baby.

I think that James Marshall’s easy readers put Seuss to shame and thankfully these are still in print.  But for $1.50 and $2.50, I couldn’t resist!  Multiple copies of the same book may constitute hoarding, but I like to think of it as adding to my Marshall collection.

Three Up A Tree is the third member of this Trinity of Wonderfulness that chronicles the misadventures of Lolly, Sam, and Spider.

Okay, so I now have multiple copies of this too, but what a spiffy hardcover version this was – and for $2.95!

I never get over what a complete meanie Thelma is in this book. "No backsies?" HARSH.

I am now starting to realize I have a bit of a problem collecting different versions of my favourites, but how could one resist this itsy bitsy, hair-covered Little Fur Family!? Someone with no soul, that’s who.  And my soul is big, fat and fur-covered.  Now I just need to get me one of the original editions made with real rabbit fur.  Sorry, PETA.

And, now, the grand finale.  You saw Little Bear in my first post, but you didn’t see the absolutely darling Jenny’s Moonlight Adventure, didja?

New York Review Books has re-printed all of Esther Averill’s Jenny Linsky stories, but nothing beats the original.  So, so, so beautiful.  Little known fact: if I got a tattoo, it would be of Jenny Linsky.  Little Bear set me back $45.00 and Jenny set me back $28.00, but I am confident that my great grand-children may make a few dollars if they choose to re-sell these books (note: must make clause in will to be buried with these to prevent such a travesty).

So, there you have it.  My children’s book haul.

(For those of you interested in a more traditional haul report, I also got a lovely Free People jacket for 60% off and a darling Michael Kors cardigan for 70% off at Nordstrom Rack)