20 March 2007

Lazy Liza Lizard. Marie Curtis Rains, 1938.

For a while I thought this book was called Lady Liza Lizard and could find out nothing about it. It appears to be one of those books that gets traded, famous for being famous, and sold on by traders who hardly bother to open it, but are aware it has value. Many collectable books are like that - e.g who actually reads 'Brave New World'? The lizard itself is a fascinating creature ('...one of the Lords of Life' as D H Lawrence put it.) In ancient Egypt and Greek symbolism the lizard represented divine wisdom and good fortune. Early Christianity associated the lizard with the devil and with evil. While on the Pacific islands of Polynesia and Maoris lizards are revered as a "heaven god." Then you have those urban Lotharios known as lounge lizards and there is more than one bar called 'The Lazy Lizard'; Jim Morrison called himself 'The Lizard King'. Must do one of Jim's rare little L.A. books sometime, I sold our last one ('An American Prayer') for a king's ransom...

Marie Curtis Rains. LAZY LIZA LIZARD. The John Winston Company, Philadelphia, 1938.

Current Selling Prices
$300-$750 / £160-£400 Want level 50 - 75 High

Much wanted. Also noted as simultaneously first published by the Junior Literary Guild in New York and E.M. Hale and Co., Eau Claire, WI all in 1938. The Winston one is the one that shows up and no one seems to have established which came first, or possibly no one cares. There are several Lazy Lizards in the world of children's literature but Ms Rains' book is the one you want.

No idea what Lazy Liza gets up to but imagine that she gets up late and leads an idle life basking on a sunny wall. The book's reputation seems to be based on its dollar value, Google reveals not one reference to its contents. Library sale special + an ebay special.

VALUE? A not nice ex library 1953 reprint at $450 is the lowest priced one currently available and probably a poor investment. Avoid ex library wherever possible is the mantra. A decentish jacketed 1938 first looks a better bet. As often happens on the net as the price gets higher the condition gets worse at $800 you get a sad copy with one page 'torn in half ...and stained from where the page was tape repaired.' Sometimes you get a perfect gradation where there are, say, 6 copies each more expensive than the other and the most expensive is in the worse condition and as they get cheaper they improve in condition with the cheapest being the best. This is perfectly logical because the more greedy a seller is the more he will ignore the effect of condition on price - so the worst copy is often the most expensive. This phenomenom deserves a name - reversed condition paradox?

In 2005 on ebay an exlib copy sold at $328 with the buyer providing no picture. Talk about lazy.

'Lazy Liza Lizard's Tricks' from 1953 is more common but still seems to go for a couple of $100 bills if decent. STOP PRESS. A poorish but not exlib 1938 copy sold last week on ebay at $210. Apart from suggesting that the book is going flat it revealed that Lazy Liza is a pretty young girl (with no obvious lizard discernible) in a gingham bonnet and there are other anthropomorphic characters including a Mr. Snake and Old Lady Field Mouse - a sweet looking story for the very young.
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