Keeping It Real with Vintage Children’s Books

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The Best Vintage Children's Books - Holistic Squid I have many grievances about the state of our modern world – plastic, mono-crops, car alarms, and the list goes on. But I have to admit, I love technology – it may not be ‘crunchy’ enough for some of my neo-hippy friends, but I love the ease that iPhones and Google searches have added to my life. I also, love the sheer volume of information and opinion available at the flick of a button.  And yes, I even like Facebook for it’s bizarre ability to connect us humans while keeping us remarkably detached. Call me strange, it’s ok.

But aside from my passion for geekery, I am an old-fashioned, real, paper-made book lover and always have been.  As a youngster, I remember the first chapter book series that my mom read to me outloud at bedtime – Uncle Wiggily-, hard covered and ancient with pages darkened with age, smelling of wonderful musty bookness, and pressed with the occasional four leaf clover in the pages by a forgotten owner. I drank up books like water – A Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte’s WebRamona Quimby-, Sweet Valley High- – some with literary value and others, adolescent fluff.

Now, decades later as a busy working mom, I mostly listen to my books – alternating fiction and non-fiction – on my drives to and from the office. So I experience the real paper books (or cardboard as the case may be) vicariously through my children. On this second go-around with kids books, I’ve found my favorites to be the vintage ones with pictures sweetly nostalgic and stories that share the forgotten wisdom of decades past. Here are a few, each with a nod to Real food too:

- Gerda Muller’s Seasons Series-

I first discovered these picture books in my first born’s RIE class when when he was still crawling.  RIE is a parenting style/philosophy that encourages caregivers to allow babies to develop while interfering as minimally as possible.  My son crawled early, but walked ‘late’ at nearly 17 months, and because of RIE, I could sit back and let him do his thing in his own time.

The Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter picture books were a refreshing change from the fun but monotonous rhymes of worded toddler books – especially when my little one would ask to hear them again and again and again. Each page depicts a scene that transports you to the joys of childhood – ice skating with grandma, evening summer picnics by a lake, collecting chestnuts in the fall, and painting Easter eggs. My children and I can gaze at each page of the picture books, either making up a story (for a slightly older child), identifying known objects (for the ‘learning to talk’ phase) or – mommy’s personal favorite – snuggling up to admiring the beauty of the images in peaceful silence.


- Two Little Gardeners by Margaret Wise Brown

I love Golden Books – whether my originals saved from childhood, or wonderful replications that look like they’re been preserved in time since the 1970’s. My childhood favorites include Hush, Hush It’s Sleepytime and The Good Humor Man, but a recent discovery was this gem by Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon and Little Fur Family.

The Two Little Gardeners start by preparing the earth and planting the seeds and finish with cooking and canning and eating that looks like Real Food gone to heaven.  The only thing missing are the garden chickens and a goat or a cow. My five year old and I aspire to be the Two Little Gardeners, and we never tire of reading this book.

- Little House of the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I can still hum the theme song to Little House on the Prairie which I watched religiously after General Hospital when I was in middle school.  But as much as I enjoyed seeing the adventures of Laura Ingalls, the tv show had nothing on the books.

Wonderful to read aloud to younger children (skipping over an occasional scene or two) or for pre-teens to relish on their own, the Little House books are a childhood classic not to be missed. Filled with tales of our country’s early beginnings, you can also get a taste of was food what like for old-school homesteaders – where churning butter wasn’t a quaint novelty and white sugar cubes came in your Christmas stocking only on a bountiful year.


- Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Buttered Bread by Maj Lindman

Mentioned in Nina Planck’s grown-up book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, this book is from a series about three Swedish brothers and their adventures.

In Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Buttered Bread, the brothers go to ask their mother for a snack. She sends them fetch cream from Aunt Annie’s cow, and much to their dismay, the boys learn that Blossom must have green grass to eat in order to make good cream for butter. So they wait for the sun, for the grass, for the cream, for the churning and eventually get their buttered bread. This is a wonderful story of Real Food in the making – teaching children that our food does not simple come buy driving up to the mega-market, piling it into a cart, and swiping a plastic card. Real food, like most good things, comes to those who wait.

What are your favorite vintage children’s books?
Bonus if they teach about Real food!

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  1. says

    The Secret Garden! I reread it a year or so ago, and was struck by the story being almost entirely about healing through Real Food and fresh air. It now resides on my Real Food bookshelf among the likes of Nina Planck, Joel Salatin, and Weston Price. By the way, the musical by Lucy Simon (sister of Carly) is magnificent, but the dramatization loses the lesson of slow, step-by-step healing that is described in the book. To be fair, that would make for boring theatre!

  2. Homemaker says

    My girls love the little golden book called “Little Mommy”. It is a sweet book about a little girl and her dolls and the busy day she has taking care of them and the household. It metions real food too :)!

    • says

      HI Katie – I love Little Mommy too. I think there quite a few feminists that would be offended by the domestic scene in this book, but I love it!

  3. Anisa says

    Elsa Beskow is by far one of the best children’s authors and illustrators out there. Her books are timeless. I also really like the Brambly Hedge books by Jill Barklem.

  4. Robyn says

    This comes at such a great time! With my first granddaughter just about to turn 1 and a grandson on the way this “book geek” grammie intends to shower them with books on gift giving occasions! All recommendations are sincerely appreciated! Also funny that you mention Nina Planck’s book! I’ve just checked it out from the library! :)

  5. Katie says

    One of the books I enjoy reading with children is called “Pancakes, Pancakes” (I think) by eric carle. Its similar to the buttered bread one, but the boy has to collect eggs, milk the cow, get wheat ground, and retrieve preserves from the cellar, all for pancakes. I also love anything by leo lionni, and you should really look at books by robert wisner, he writes wordless picture books, which are incredibly fun, and children can even enjoy them by themselves without being able to read. Oh, also kevin henkes is really great, a lot of stuff about dealing with going to school. Ok, so the first book I mentioned was the only one having to do with real food, but all of those books are awesome. :)

    • says

      oh Anna, Blueberries for Sal sure is vintage..anything before you were born is key to that term being accurate. 1948 was even before my time of 1960 and I remember the book well. So it counts!

  6. Kami says

    does the American Girl series count as vintage? It is according to my kids anyway. lol. I will def highly reccomend the Elsa Beskow books as well. Also all of the books by Holling Clancy Holling such as Paddle To The Sea. Not Vintage but, all of Reg Downs book are top rate as well.

  7. says

    The Little House is great a house that wants to see the city but then missed the country- talks about seasons and harvests. Heidi by Johanna Spyri is also great- talks about the healing in fresh raw goat milk and cheese of the Swiss Alps and the great benefit of being outside. :) Island of the Blue Dolphins is good about getting creative with resources and a traditional people group. Ferdinand the Bull is cute (not real food). :)

    We love the Little House series, have read Secret Garden dozens of times, Snip Snap and Snurr is one I’ve read dozens of times! :)

  8. Demetria says

    I remember reading A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter. Its an amazing book that focuses on nature and a young lady’s dreams. My great grandma bought this book for me as one of her great aunts wrote this book.

  9. says

    My favorite subject~books! I have a large library which I have collected thru the years. Home schooling for the last 30 plus years has given me a very good excuse to build that library. We read 90% of those books on my shelves.
    The vintage ones like Marguerite de Angeli’s Henner’s Lydia, Thee Hannah.

    Then there is Meindert DeJong’s Wheel on the School, Hurry Home Candy (sniffle), The House of Sixty Father’s (sniff, sniff), & oh my! Journey From Peppermint Street(herbs!)

    Tasha Tudor will endear you to her beautiful art work in her children’s books & her cookbook is loaded with her drawings & her abundant garden.

    I could go on with more, but this will pique your interest~

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