To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays
by Gertrude Stein
Yale University Press. 128 pages, $25.
NEVER PUBLISHED during her lifetime, To Do is an abecedarian book with as much child appeal as an Edward Gorey “A is for …” book. This was actually Stein’s second book written for children. The first, published by William R. Scott in 1939, was called The World is Round and was commissioned for inclusion in the innovative educational programs at the Bank Street School in New York. Based on the favorable reception it received, Stein decided to write another.
To Do was rejected by numerous publishers, and even her friend Carl Van Vechten was unable to place it. Another of Scott’s writers, Margaret Wise Brown, famed as the author of Goodnight Moon (1947), praised it, but to no avail. (It is fascinating to note that Margaret Wise Brown was probably bisexual; her longest-lasting relationship was with a woman named Michael Strange, née Blanche Oelrichs, a poet and actress famous in her day, who had once been married to John Barrymore.) Finally, the economic realities of the war years further delayed its publication. First brought out without illustrations by Yale University Press in 1957, this new edition represents the first to have illustrations.