Fanciful Reader

a book blog about romance and more. . .

Christmas Eve at the Mellops’

Tomi Ungerer’s charming book for children, Christmas Eve at the Mellops’, was originally published in 1960. It was reprinted in 2011 by Phaidon Press to bring the story to a new generation of children. Ungerer is known for classic picture books that he has written and illustrated such as Moon Man.

Christmas Eve at the Mellops’, is one of a few stories by Ungerer about a family of pigs. The style is very different from later works such as Moon Man with drawings that are similar to those of William Steig.

The story begins with the father, Mr. Mellop, reading an article about Christmas decorations. He shows his four sons, Casimir, Isidor, Felix and Ferdinand the article. One by one, each of the young pigs goes out to get a Christmas tree. The four brothers are sad when they return home to discover that each one had the same idea. So Mr. Mellop suggests that they take the trees to those in need such as prisoners and hospital patients. But they discover that the places they visit already have a Christmas tree.

Then they encounter a little girl pig who is crying, and follow her home where she lives with her sick grandmother. They find other sad and lonely pigs in various rooms in the house and realize that this is where their trees are needed the most. Not only that, the Mellop brothers bring necessities for the families in the house such as warm clothes, food, medicine, and wood for a fire.

The brothers return home in a very good mood and discover that Mr. and Mrs. Mellop have prepared a Christmas celebration with their own family tree, as well as lots of gifts and festive food.

Today, many of the illustrations and situations, such as the pig brothers bringing goods to a poor house or a drawing of a prisoner smoking a cigar, would not be considered. In the late 50s through early 60s when the Mellops books were first published, these situations were more acceptable and the whimsical drawings and funny situations were more unusual in children’s literature.

While my five-year-old enjoyed Christmas Eve at the Mellops’, this is a title that children today may not seek out on their own because of the wide variety of Christmas-themed books that are available. It is worth seeking out if you’d like a charming holiday story with a vintage feel.

Antique children’s books provide a fun way to glimpse the past

However, antique children’s books such as those written in the 19th century were not fun reading by today’s standards. Instead, they were often cautionary tales with a moral at the end. Definitely designed to be instructive rather than entertaining.

Another fact that’s interesting but not so fun—

Literature for young people from that time period often did not have illustrations–a far cry from today’s popular comics and graphic novels!

One of the first well-known artists to add illustrations to books for youth in the late 1800s was Randolph Caldecott (Randolph Caldecott’s Picture Books), whose name was given to the prestigious Caldecott Award.

Studying vintage literature gives us valuable insights into how children of that time period lived and how their parents raised them. For example, moral tales with a religious tone tell us that good conduct was a very important part of education.

The cover art and other design elements of antique books for young people often have details that reflect the style preferences of the period. For that reason, and simply because of their beauty and uniqueness, they are popular collectors items.

Whether you’re a collector, casual reader, parent, or educator, you’ll find a lot of useful information in these works. Plus, preserving and studying antique children’s books gives you important lessons that you can pass on to future generations.

Finding literary agents for children’s books

Did you realize some of the benefits of having agents for children’s books? It is possible to publish a book on your own.

But literary agents have valuable contacts in the publishing world, and can help you sell your manuscript for the best possible terms.

Also, an agent can handle the nitty-gritty financial details, so that you have more time to concentrate on what you do best–writing!

So how do you go about finding an agent?

Keep in mind that while many literary agents have informational websites, it’s not necessarily enough to do a quick web search to find them.

You see, there are some not-so-reputable folks out there claiming that for a fee, they will help you get published. But in some cases, the only guarantee is that they’ll take your money.

How else can you find good agents for children’s books?

  • Ask other children’s book authors for recommendations.
  • Check with your professional writing associations.
  • Read professional magazines such as Publishers Weekly to find out which agents are quoted.
  • Find out which agents represent your favorite authors.
  • You can check an agent to see if they’re listed by the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) which is a sure sign of a good reputation.

The process of finding an agent is somewhat similar to submitting your manuscript to a publisher. You’ll need a query letter and a sample of your work. Then you wait to see if the agent will represent you.

It may seem like a long, complicated process. But in the end, finding a good agent for children’s books will be a great benefit to your writing career.

Waiting on Wednesday: Sweet Enemy



“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week I chose Sweet Enemy by Heather Snow. Expected publication date: February 7, 2012, from NAL Signet Eclipse .

Geoffrey Wentworth, a war hero and rising political star, never wanted to be the Earl, but when his brother dies, he knows his duty—take up the responsibility for his family’s estates. His mother’s definition of duty differs from his, however, and can be summed up in one word—heirs. When Geoffrey rushes home to answer her urgent summons, he finds himself host to a house full of women, all vying to become the next Countess of Stratford. But his love is Parliament, where he wields his influence and reputation to better the lives of ex-soldiers, until a tempting houseguest and a secret from his past threaten his freedom…and his heart.

Liliana Claremont, a brilliant chemist, doesn’t want to be any man’s wife, much less a Countess. If she had tuppence for every time she’d been told her place was filling the nursery, not experimenting in the laboratory, she could buy the Tower Bridge. However, when she receives a coveted invitation to the Earl’s house party, she trades in her beakers for ball gowns and gladly takes on the guise of husband hunter—for the chance to uncover what the Earl had to do with the murder of her father.

Liliana believes the best way to get the answers she needs is to keep her enemy close, though romance is not part of her formula. But it only takes one kiss to start a reaction she can’t control…

What about you? What’s your Waiting on Wednesday pick?

TBR Challenge 2011: Kiss an Angel

The suggested theme for this month’s TBR Challenge was Christmas/Holiday themed-romances. Even though I have several dozen of these in my TBR pile, I chose a book that I happened to finish last week, that was nevertheless languishing in my TBR pile for quite a while.

First, here’s the synopsis from the publisher:


Pretty, flighty Daisy Devreaux can either go to jail or marry the mystery man her father has chosen for her. Arranged marriages don’t happen in the modern world, so how did the irrepressible Daisy find herself in this fix?

Alex Markov, as humorless as he is deadly handsome, has no intention of playing the loving bridegroom to a spoiled little feather-head with champagne tastes. He drags Daisy from her uptown life to a broken down traveling circus and sets out to tame her to his ways.

But this man without a soul has met his match in a woman who’s nothing but heart. Before long, passion will send them flying sky high without a safety net… risking it all in search of a love that will last forever.

The romance between Daisy and Alex was really sweet and had enough angst to make the HEA that much better. The above blurb characterizes Daisy as a spoiled brat, but I found that she showed her toughness from the first day she was thrown into the marriage with Alex and adapted very quickly to her new circumstances—living in a messy trailer and traveling with the circus. What was remarkable about Daisy’s character development was the way she bonded with the menagerie animals, and how she was willing to perform such hard physical labor in order to improve their living conditions.

There was nothing I disliked about the hero, Alex. I can only tell you I’ve lived in Russia and they seem to have a shortage of alpha males. The women, on the other hand, are Amazons—shrewd, smart, strong, and beautiful—probably to make up for the deficiencies in the male population. So most Russian heroes in romance seem a little far-fetched to me.

Can you believe this is the first book by Susan Elizabeth Phillips I’ve ever read? Even though if pressed to rate Kiss an Angel, I’d only give it about 3 stars out of five, I’ll definitely read more of her books.

Waiting on Wednesday: Beswitched



“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week I chose Beswitched by Kate Saunders. Expected publication: December 13th 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers.

A magic spell has spun Flora into the past. She’s mysteriously swapped lives with a schoolgirl in 1935! No iPod? No cell phone? No hair products? How will she survive?
Now Flora’s a new girl at St. Winifred’s, where she has to speak French at breakfast, wear hideous baggy bloomers, and sleep in a freezing dormitory.
But lots of adventures in the past are amazing even if they are not forever. How will she find her way back to the 21st century?


This title has a lot of elements that I typically like–1930s setting with a time travel theme, for instance.

What about you? What’s your Waiting on Wednesday pick?

Mailbox Monday 11/20

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This Month, Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here in Minnesota, we have a beautiful snow-covered landscape outside. I wasn’t looking forward to the snow and cold, but at least I have a good reason to stay inside and do more reading.

Here are the books I picked up this week.

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Once Upon a Winter’s Eve: A Spindle Cove Novella by Tessa Dare

Falcon’s Fire (Fairfax Family Series, Book 1) by Patricia Ryan

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman by Karen Karbo

Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation by Sharon Salzberg

Crossed (Matched) by Ally Condie

The Darlings: A Novel by Christina Alger

What about you? What did you pick up this week?

Mailbox Monday 10/31

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This Month, Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit.

I hope everyone has a fun day planned for Halloween. I’m at home from work today with my kindergartener who has a cold. I think we’ll still go trick-or-treating tonight. He’s going as a ninja which seems to be a very popular costume this year.

Here’s what I picked up this week (mostly Kindle books):

Tides of Passion by Tracy Sumner
Scandalous Lord Dere: From Secrets of a Perfect Night by Stephanie Laurens
A Novel Seduction by Gwyn Cready
My Lady Below Stairs by Mia Marlowe
Plain Fear: Forsaken by Leanna Ellis
Merely Magic by Patricia Rice
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I also picked up some ARCs at a school library conference that I attended on Friday morning:

From Sourcebooks I got I’m Not Her by Janet Gurtler and Embrace by Jessica Shirvington.

From Bloomsbury USA I picked up Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen and The Mapmaker and the Ghost by Sarvenaz Tash.

What about you? Which books did you pick up this week?

Mailbox Monday 10/24

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This Month, Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit.

Last week I went on vacation so I didn’t buy as many books as usual. Despite encountering a tropical storm for the first few days of the trip, I enjoyed my family’s first cruise ever to the Bahamas.

Here’s what I picked up this week:
Scandalous Desires (Maiden Lane) by Elizabeth Hoyt
I’d Change My Life If I Had More Time by Doreen Virtue
Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas
The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women: A Portable Life Coach for Creative Women by Gail McMeekin

You can tell from the picks above that two of my favorite genres are romance and self-improvement.

What about you? What did you pick up this week? Did you stick to your favorite genres or did you choose something a little bit different?

Waiting on Wednesday: The Haunting of Maddy Clare



“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week I chose The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James.
Expected publication date: March 6, 2012, by NAL.

Sarah Piper’s lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis – rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts – has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah’s task to confront her in death.

Soon Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle. For Maddy’s ghost is real, she’s angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair’s assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance – before she destroys them all?

This title sounds like a great gothic mystery with an unusual historical setting. I can’t wait to read it!

What’s your Waiting on Wednesday pick?