I Saw Esau: A Christmas Present for People Who Hate Having Their Books Stolen by Jerks

December 31, 2011 § 6 Comments

Once upon a time–or maybe just this past summer–I lent my apartment to someone in exchange for her feeding my two cats while I went on vacation. I returned home to find my bookshelf mysteriously plundered, and my friend nowhere in sight.

Now, forty books (yes, FORTY, she made three trips to the used book store, I found out) may not seem like much when held against, oh, murder. Rape. Someone taking it upon themselves to spank your kid. But OH to me, HELL HAD NO FURY.

After many a desperate phone call and an arrest for an unrelated issue, I got all of my books back, (along with a dandy security camera photo of this friend selling MY BABIES, which I’m thinking would make a nice make-your-own-jigsaw puzzle to send piece by piece in the mail to her should she ever try to contact me again). So, a happy ending there.

But perhaps the whole strange situation could have been avoided if I had already had I Saw Esau in my possession. I Saw Esau is a gem of a book, chock full of nursery and playground rhymes edited by Peter and Iona Opie and illustrated by the great Maurice Sendak. No Mother Goose here: I Saw Esau contains rhymes both innocent and malicious, curated, numbered and labelled by editors whose compassion for childhood’s nasty bits is matched perfectly by Sendak’s mischievous illustrations.

Naturally, my favorite sections are the two curated just for bibliophiles–both those who love their books too much to see them harmed, and those who get pleasure from leaving their marks in the pages.

It’s the holiday season. And so, friends, I re-type those rhymes here for you (numbers refer to the numbers given to the rhymes in the book).

Book Protection


Steal not this book for fear of shame
For in it is the owner’s name;
And if this book you chance to borrow,
Return it promptly on the morrow.
Or when you die the Lord will say,
Where’s that book you stole away?
And if you say you do not know,
the Lord will answer, go below!

If this book should chance to roam–
box its ears and send it home.


Do not steal this book, my lad,
For lots of money it cost my dad;
If he finds you he will say,
“Go to Boston jail today!”

This book is one thing,
My fist is another;
Steal not the one,
for fear of the other.


Who folds a leaf down,
The devil toast brown;
Who makes mark or blot’
The devil toast hot;
Who steals this book
the Devil shall cook.

Book Desecrations

If any man should see this book
He should at note 114 look.

If my name you wish to see
Look on page one-five-three.

By hook or by crook
I’ll be last in this book.

By pen or by paint
I’ll see that you ain’t.

By the aid of my quill
I’ll be hanged if you will.

Ah, good-natured threatening. Just what the kiddies love.

Happy Holidays, all!

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