Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Book Review: All Around the Town

[I also reviewed this little book on Blogjob...well, guess what? It didn't sell on Blogjob. I still have it, and I'm entitled to post it on two sites, especially since people don't seem to be buying anything from the other site. True word-nerds can compare what I wrote about one physical copy of one book on two different days: https://blogjob.com/priscillaking/2015/09/02/book-review-all-around-the-town/ .]

Title: All Around the Town


Author: Phyllis McGinley

Date: 1948

Publisher: Lippincott

ISBN: none

Length: pages not numbered, but basically this is a 28-verse song

Illustrations: paintings, some with color, by Helen Stone

Quote: “East Side, West Side, Everywhere you look, City sights Are witty sights And bursting for a book. So here’s a little list of them Arranged from A to Z[:] The gay things, the stray things That city children see.”

Do you know the tune? “The Sidewalks of New York” was one of the most popular tunes ever copyrighted from Tin Pan Alley. What McGinley did in this book was to compose twenty-eight new verses—an introduction, one for each of the first 25 letters of the alphabet, and two for Z—to sing to that familiar waltz tune. If you sing it, it's guaranteed to put the baby to sleep...unless it puts you to sleep first.

Read through as a poem, All Around the Town is a real period piece. “A is for the Aeroplane”—not yet an airplane. “B’s the Bus, the Bouncing Bus”—have you ever seen such a bus? “D’s the Dairy Driver. He makes a daily round.” He did, back in the day when it was also natural and appropriate to call the ice-cream vendor “the gay Good-Humor man,” and “H is for the Horses that haul their city loads,” and “O’s the Organ-grinder” who performed for pocket change in early spring.

Nevertheless, individual verses may still describe some aspects of the world children see even today. If I’d had the whole book as a child I might have felt that “B’s the Bus” came from long ago and far away. I didn’t. When we went into cities, buses still bounced as they bore the shoppers storeward. I tested again when I was in a city two weeks ago. The bus I rode to Wal-Mart didn’t look anything like the bus Phyllis McGinley rode, nor like the ones I rode as a child, but it bounced in the same old familiar way…

What I have is not the very first edition, but close enough that if it were in better condition it would still be an old and valuable book. Amazon shows an enormous price range for this book, depending on how much wear copies show. If you buy it here you'll get a well used copy for $5 per book, $5 per package, and $1 per online payment; adding other books to the package makes this a better deal than you'd get from Amazon; otherwise, since it's not a Fair Trade Book (Phyllis McGinley hasn't needed a dollar for many years) you might as well go directly to Amazon. If you want a "new" copy...serious collectors' prices. If you are a local lurker and buy it from me in real life, you'll get a cleaned and dried, but mildew-stained, copy that I wouldn't send out through the mail; you'll have the opportunity to handle the book and make sure it doesn't trigger allergies, and you'll pay less than $10.