Still in NYC, so again, welcome my friend gef over at Lost In Texas and The Kindergarten Diaries with one more choice and obscure find...Deegie and the Fairy Princess
Ruth W. Rempel ~ Illustrated by Dietrich G. Rempel and James A. Wiley ~ 1949 Rempel Manufacturing Incorporated
This is the disconcerting story of a little boy who lives in a castle all by himself. Well, not completely by himself — he has a bunch of barnyard pals, including Perky the Pup, Cuddly the Cat, Yippy the Chick, Squawky the Duck, Hoppy the Rabbit, Chubby the Pig, Fleecy the Lamb, Milky the Cow, Frisky the Horse, and my personal favorite, Balky the Mule. They spend a lot of time “scampering” together. Despite his lack of a human family or friends, Deegie appears to lead a life of bliss, until one day, a mean old buzzkilling North Wind comes along, and…
He blew so hard it seemed his cheeks must burst. And burst they did just as he reached the beautiful castle and blew it all to pieces. Poor little Deegie! He rubbed his eyes and looked again. He just could not believe his castle and all his loved ones were gone.
Deegie is understandably devastated, but as he weeps, a fairy princess arrives on a fluffy pink cloud and sings him a song that summons him “to a wonderful land far over the sea where everyone is happy and gay.” Deegie rides moonbeams across the heavens and lands at a charming little white cottage with the words “Welcome to Sunny Slopes” emblazoned across it. The fairy is gone, but a magic wand lies glowing at his feet. Inside the house, he finds a fire burning in the fireplace and a “table laden with food.”
There’s something creepy and sad about this; it reminds me of the Kubrick/Spielberg movie AI, when the robot boy ends up in his fantasy cottage with his mom and teddy bear after being granted a wish by Pinocchio’s blue fairy (hmm…).
Anyway, the next morning, Deegie runs out to the barnyard to see if his friends have also been saved, but alas, the pastures are empty. Bereft, he sits by a creek and starts rolling some mud between his fingers. He has an epiphany — if he can’t get his real friends back, he will make just new ones out of clay!
He placed them in a row on the table. All were there except Frisky the Horse, Balky the Mule, and Milky the Cow. His eager fingers shaped the clay, a little more here, a little less there and just as the clock was striking twelve, the last one was finished.
He then remembers the magic wand and waves it over his clay models, and — voila! — his little friends are resurrected.
Deegie’s happiness was now complete. Tomorrow he would once again race through the fields with his beloved little playmates scampering along beside him. He would never be lonely again. Never!
Quite an odd tale, but maybe a little less so when you learn the back story: The Rempels were a husband and wife team, and the book appears to be Ruth’s homage to her husband. Dietrich was a Russian Mennonite who fled the Revolution in 1917, so this story can be read allegorically — the U.S.A. is the “wonderful land far over the sea where everyone is happy and gay.” He ended up in Akron, Ohio (“the Rubber Capital of the World”), where he eventually started Rempel Enterprises, which manufactured squeaky animal toys as well as ceramic and porcelain versions. The toys are quite collectible; you can find a lot of them on eBay — “Froggie the Gremlin,” based on a character from a 1940s children’s TV show, seems to be the most sought-after. (Fun fact: After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dietrich Rempel designed a Mickey Mouse gas mask for American children, approved by the military and Walt Disney himself. Wowsie.)
I appreciate Deegie’s many layers — it's an allegorical children’s book that’s both biography and marketing tool. Pretty neat.