March 12, 2009


Birthday Books: Edward Gorey—Verse Advice; Kliban’s Cats. Pomegranate. $12.95 each.

Anne Geddes Birthday Calendar. Andrews McMeel. $9.99.

     In these trying economic times, it can be a real pleasure to find a small thing you can do that will save money in the long run and be enjoyable as well. Here’s a pleasant example: track family members’ and friends’ birthdays and other special occasions with a perpetual birthday book or calendar. You buy it once and keep it for years – in fact, as long as you like (or until you get tired of its design or it becomes frayed from use).

     Pomegranate makes a number of sturdy, attractive perpetual-recording books, decorated with art for just about any taste and containing, as bonuses, lists of birthstones and flowers, zodiac signs and dates, and a compendium of wedding-anniversary gifts (both traditional and contemporary). These little books – just under five inches square – easily fit in a drawer or on a frequently used shelf, so you can grab them anytime. If, for example, you keep a standard calendar in the kitchen, you can keep one of these books nearby so you always know whose birthday, anniversary or other special event is coming up. Then you can transfer the information to your regular calendar once a week or once a month, so you will always know when and for whom to buy a card or gift, or whom to telephone or E-mail to acknowledge a special day. The little books are very simply laid out: each day of the year gets its own space, a little more than an inch high and about four inches wide (except that February 28 and 29 share a space). This is plenty of room in which to write several people’s birthdays, anniversaries or whatever else you want to remember. And the book’s decorations make them fun to look at. Edward Gorey’s Verse Advice, originally published in The New Yorker in 1993, shows up in one book as a series of couplets at the starts of months. For March, for example, there are two ice skaters facing each other with rather quizzical looks on their faces, with a dog in the background, and the words, “The person who today is here/ May by tomorrow disappear.” Make of this what you will – the verse and pictures are classic Gorey (and some individual dates have little bits of Gorey illustrations adorning them). Kliban’s Cats features B. “Hap” Kliban’s plump and amusing felines in big pictures at the start of each month and small ones on various dates. Either book, or any of the others in Pomegranate’s birthday-book line, will be useful perpetually (or at least for a long while) as a timely reminder of special occasions.

     Alternatively, you can actually hang up a perpetual calendar in addition to whatever dated one you use – for example, the Anne Geddes Birthday Calendar from Andrews McMeel. This looks just like a standard wall calendar of its size (it opens to 20 inches high by seven inches wide), giving a small amount of space to every day of every month – but there is no year, so you can use the calendar for as long as you like. Fans of Geddes’ photos of miniature babies (well, apparently miniature babies) will love this calendar, which includes some of her most charming pictures: a baby with butterfly wings asleep on a red-and-white mushroom cap for February, four babies peeking out of the openings in a planter for June, three babies with daffodil caps in individual flower pots for October, and so on. This calendar offers less room in which to write events than you get in a birthday book; but unlike the books, the calendar can be hung so you always see it and can simply glance at it regularly to find out which special occasions are coming up. These perpetual date books and calendars jog the memory, look good, last for a long time and are a great way to economize while being sure not to forget important people’s significant dates – a lot of value in some small, attractive packages.

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