Burgin is obsessively seeking children's books of old to share with her son. Aren't we lucky that she also likes to blog about her obsession, daily. She has been known to review books dating back to the 1930s but her favorites tend to be from the 60s and 70s, partly because she favors mid-century design and partly for nostalgic reasons. Her love for vintage children's books is simply contagious; her followers can't get enough. "Children’s books elicit powerful emotions in people. I get readers everyday brought to tears by a memory I reconnected them with. That’s what makes the sharing all the more special" says Burgin.We asked Burgin to tell us more about her passion for vintage books and blogging. She also tells us about how she gives her readers a chance to start their own vintage library, every Monday.
So where do you think this “obsession” came from?
Once you realize that old, fabulous books are everywhere, it’s easy to get obsessed in the search. I’d worked in bookstores and publishing houses since I was 19 years old back in New York, and though I’m a book person at heart, I’d never collected anything. I’m more the sort to give away a book I love rather than hold onto it. For my son, however, I save everything because you never know what he’ll remember and pine for one day.
How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
I started blogging in the summer of 2006. My son had just turned one and though the advertising agency where I worked had onsite daycare, I still wanted more time to be with him, so I quit. I took up blogging as a way to continue writing while being a stay-at-home mom. Since before my son was even conceived, I’d collected hardcover copies of classic books, and by the time he was two, I’d spent a fortune on what seemed like a very small library. One day, we visited a local used book shop and came across of book called Why I Built the Boogle House by Helen Palmer (AKA Mrs. Seuss) for $2, and I was hooked. The old photographs and funny story were amazing, and as soon as I began to search for more, an avalanche of awesome engulfed me. I started blogging a review-a-day because I knew other people would be as psyched as I was to rekindle old loves and find new/old books to fall head-over-heels for.
Does August have similar tastes in books as you?
My son will read anything, though he prefers books that have animals in them. For the most part, we’re on the same page. If a book is poorly written or has terrible illustrations, it won’t hold the attention of anyone for very long. During the day, I still focus on reading him pictures books, but at night, my husband reads to him from longer books. His first chapter book loves were EB White (Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte’s Web) and Roald Dahl (James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox), but since Christmas, they’ve been lost in Harry Potter.
Do you ever come across any language or messaging that is outdated? If so, how do you handle it when sharing it with your son?
As most children’s books were created by artists and, by association, progressive thinking people, there aren’t too many books floating around that are offensive, at least post-1960. When I come across a book that is overly outdated as far as sex or race, I pass. If I hold onto it because the book or the illustrator is particularly famous, I use it as a sounding board to discuss stereotypes. And as far as science and history go, well, our outdated space books are exactly why my son knows Pluto is a dwarf planet. Plus, it’s a good lesson that he shouldn’t believe everything he reads.
Where do you find your books?
My son and I frequent used book shops and thrift stores, as well as yard and estate sales, to find the bulk of our collection. If we’re looking for something specific, I’ll buy
How big is your personal library?
Our collection is always fluctuating. If my son outgrows something or we have multiples, I usually sort those into piles to giveaway, donate back to Goodwill or sell in my Etsy shop. My best rough guess is at least 1000.
Do you have any favorite blogs?
Honestly, barring a few personal blogs, I tend to read in spurts. My first blog loves were Ward Jenkins and Grain Edit, and from there, it swelled to other book blogs like We Heart Books and parenting blogs like Design Mom. Blog reading is a great way to learn about artists and illustrators, and I’ve started collecting work by people whose blogs I love and even commissioned a couple of portraits of my son. Cory Godbey did one of him as a lord, while Zack Rock re-imagined him riding a falcon. Then there are the artists’ blogs with the parenting slant like Ward’s photographer wife Hula Seventy, the super talented Brooke at inchmark and Sharilyn at lovely design, and new favorite, Fine Little Day. I wish my life were as seemingly simple and elegant as these ladies. Sigh.
What is the “Great Monday Give”?
The Great Monday Give started because I’d find so many books for 25 cents that were being sold online for a fortune. Whenever I find something we already have, it’s fun to share. Every Monday morning, I give away a book from our collection to one
Are you ever going to run out of books to write about?
Whenever I think I’m going to run out or get tired of doing this, I find a new illustrator or a new thrift shop I’ve never visited and the world opens up again. My son spends several hours a day reading and has read every book in our collection at least once — and his favorites, dozens and dozens of times. Blogging about them is something we’ve shared together and offers daily inspiration for both of us in different ways. The good ones never do get old, and as far as books we’ve yet to meet, well, talent is endless, isn’t it?
Now that Burgin's little one is starting kindergarten, she is going to try to spend more time writing her own children's book. Good news! Keep us posted. And thank you!
(Images: Burgan Streeman)