Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'll Be You and You Be Me

I'll Be You and You Be Me
Ruth Krauss ~ Maurice Sendak ~ Harper, 1954

So, Ruth Krauss was many things. She was wife to Crockett Johnson (Harold and the Purple Crayon), a children's book giant in her own right, and (most important for our purposes here) mentor to Mr. Sendak when he was just coming out of the gate. The when and why of how they met in 1950 is the stuff of children's book legend, and Maurice might never have become the Sendak we all know and love today had it not been for the breaks and inspiration he gained from knowing her. Really, you'd be hard pressed to find books more childlike and wonderful than the ones these two came together on. Their third collaboration after A Hole Is To Dig and A Very Special House, I'll Be You and You Be Me features the trademark look and feel these two were known for creating together. The child's eye view of the world. The funny expressions. The dainty line drawings flooded with whimsy. These little books feel like such a treasure to hold, it's almost like being let in on a little secret whisper.

The care and wonder in these books is really a testament to the sort of friendship these two must have shared. What an honor that they shared it with the world through these stories. Now that I've waxed all lovey-dovey on things I really know not much of...

love is when you send postcards
more than to other people--
love is they could push you in the grass
and it doesn't even hurt--
love is the same as like
only you spell them different--
only more of the same, sort of--
Love has more stuff in it!
love is you give them
a leg off your gingerbread man.
No, two legs.
And the head!

All I want is sugar off the button

I would've loved these as a child... the teeny tiny drawings with such detail and emotion. Filled with poems and stories and delightfully abstract sentiments, the mix of words and pictures are just heaven. As an adult, reading Krauss' work reminds me that childhood is a special time... when we all think like poets and use words as toys rather than simply a means of communication. Darling, darling, darling.

Also by:
Happy Egg
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
Moon Jumpers
What Do You Say, Dear?
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale
Some Swell Pup
Let's Be Enemies
Chicken Soup with Rice
Lullabies and Night Songs
Outside Over There
A Very Special House
The Juniper Tree
Where the Wild Things Are
Seven Little Monsters
The Giant Story


Antmusic said...

I have a lot of Ruth Krauss' books, mostly for the illustrations by Maurice Sendak (and 1 with Marc Simont). Some of Ruth Krauss' ideas are a little strange for me, but Sendak's illustrations are always appealing. I recommend pre-reading them before reading them aloud to your children. Not to censor them, but to get their feel and rhythm down.

nath said...

wow - i just love finding out more about illustrators and authors that i love. thank you for that illuminating back story. now, i'm off to buy this book, i'd buy it alone for that title!

keep up the great work!


Vivi said...

I love love love this book. One of my all-time favorites. And don't you love Sendak's tiny little "Nutshell Library"? Too sweet for words.

Cissy said...

A Hole is to Dig is such a sweet favorite; it feels like talking to one of my younger kids. I'm going to look for this other one, that, based on your snippets, I'm sure I'll also enjoy.

Burgin Streetman said...

i know... i love ruth's stuff because it sounds like what comes out of my son's mouth... so different and wonderful and full of wonder.

Anonymous said...

I LOVED this book as a child and still do, and the great thing is this is a perennial favorite for my son who is now 25!

bigbabyhead said...

Love the blog, just "liked " you on FB as a way to bookmark it so that I could come back and find it later.
I run a blog about illustrators and I've already found some nice treasures on your site.
My blog is
so long and thanks.

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