The American Association of University Women first attracted my attention decades ago by the quality of its incredible used-book sales. While the AAUW is laudably devoted to such efforts as supporting education for women, I confess it was the lure of massive quantities of used books that drew me to the organization. This year, I'm targeting the 76th annual book sale of the Appleton, Wisconsin, branch; it's scheduled for October 25-28 in the Northland Mall, and high-energy sorting activities have been going on for many, many days. I'll be donating a considerable run of American Heritage, myself - thereby clearing some bookshelves and hoping to find a home for a publication I've loved but haven't consulted for some time.
But one of the delights of handling hundreds of discarded books is stumbling over unusual items - often, those of no interest to most prospective purchasers. Case in point: the shock I got when I picked up a tattered book titled Mr. and Mrs. Mouse. Credits on the title page are as follows: Illustrated by Ida Bohatta Morpurgo. English Version by June Head. Publishing information ran: Ars Sacra, Herbert Dubler, Inc., New York, N.Y. It was copyright 1943 by Herbert Dubler, Inc. And, yes, I'd absolutely had a copy - last seen probably 60 years ago. I hadn't been looking for it. It had never entered my thoughts later. But it evoked a double-take and an ensuing quick grab, followed by residence in my tote bag and an IOU in the cash can.
An online search has turned up little information. "Ida Bohatta" was apparently a popular German illustrator of children's books, and a Google search of images shows the book cover, where it's titled Mauschen Sorgen. So was the U.S. version in any respect outstanding? Well, after I finished reading it, I did, indeed, savor one entry - a poem accompanying this illustration - which I think became something of a family saying:
"I have the most astounding news,
The best you've heard for ages,
They're giving bits of cheese away
In pretty wire cages."
"Don't you be taken in, my dear,"
Said cautious Mrs. Grey.
"I never trust the humans when
They give their cheese away."