Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nothing At All

Nothing At All
Wanda Gág ~ Coward-McCann, 1941


A long time ago before marriage and babies, a friend said to me, "What's the big deal about being yourself? Everyone is always saying, 'Just be yourself' like it's some great achievement. Being yourself is easy, it's the being like everyone else that's the hard part. Now, that takes some work." For some reason that little nugget of wisdom always stuck with me, and every once in a while I'm reminded of it. As is the case with Nothing-at-all.Once upon a time there were three little orphan dogs. They were brothers. They lived in a far forgotten corner of a old forgotten farm in three forgotten kennels which stood there in a row. One of the kennels had a pointed roof and in it lived Pointy, the dog with pointed ears. Another kennel had a curly roof and in it lived Curly, the dog with curly ears. The middle kennel had a roundish roof and in it lived the third dog, but whether he had round ears nobody knew, for he was a dog whom no one could see. He was invisible.

He was not very tall
Nor yet very small;
He looked like nothing,
like nothing at all.
Little Nothing-at-all is perfectly happy being himself until a boy and girl come along and adopt his brothers leaving him behind. After all, they can't see him. Nothing goes in search of his lost family and meets a sage-like bird along the way who schools him in becoming a dog, just like all the other dogs. I suppose in one sense, the story reflects finding your true self... but from another angle it whispers, to find true love you must alter who you are. A wonderful story with deep nuance and conflict. The thing that makes Wanda Gág one of the best children's authors that ever lived is the fact that she was a genius at both the written and the illustrated. Her drawing style is iconic and genuine, really head and shoulders over some of her peers, yet her words keep pace, whereas many fall behind. Her life story is a fascinating one as well, filled with post turn-of-the-century feminism and amazing grace. Having to take care of her siblings after the death of her father and her mother's illness, she rose above her lot in life to finish school and realize her dreams without compromise. At 17 she wrote in her diary “My Own Motto—Draw to Live and Live to Draw", and isn't that, in the end, what separates the true artist from the rest of the pack?

Also by:
Millions of Cats
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
The Funny Thing

7 comments:

Amanda said...

Thank you for featuring the wonderfully talented Wanda Gag. Her books are fantastic, simple and clean. A true vintage gem.

Lady of Letters said...

This is a great blog :) I have a children's book blog as well and this inspires me to start back writing in it. I have fun reading your posts!

the apple and the egg said...

I'm glad the Astrosaurs went down so well! Seeing as I've created an Astrosaurs fan i thought it only fair to send a few more of their adventures to keep him happy. You'll probably get them in a week so rest the throat in the meantime ; )

Dawn D. Lion said...

How cool to gain some more insight into the fantastic Wanda Gag.

Nan said...

This story intrigued me as a child. I had forgotten all about it. So glad you featured it.

Anonymous said...

I love Wanda Gag - what a talented woman. I had completely forgotten about this book until a few weeks ago when I saw the cover online and it brought back a flood of memories. Thankfully, it has been brought back into print and I just got it from the library.

yeti said...

I love this book!

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