Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Sailor Dog

Margaret Wise Brown ~ Garth Williams ~ Golden Press, 1953

A few months back, a reader wrote in to ask if I remembered a book about a dog who was a sailor who builds a shack on the beach, and surprisingly, I knew instantly what he was talking about. In most cases, even when I am familiar with the titles, I get brain freeze when someone asks me about a book (that's what What's That Book is for), but in this case I felt proud, even if I only remembered because I had just looked at the dang thing the day before. Then, after all the sweet comments on Little Fir Family last week, I thought about how I was so Brown/Williams heavy when I first started this blog, and even though my son is growing a bit too old for their books, I still need to get through all of them.

So here we are.

Born at sea in the teeth of a gale, the sailor was a dog.
Scuppers was his name.

Would make a nice grave epitaph, no? Luckily, we don't have to worry about that for our purposes. Yes, there is a shipwreck, a trip to foreign lands, but it all comes out in the wash for good 'ole Scuppers. Brown's quirky writing is in top form here... particularly feeling the love for this sentence...

He put his hat on the hook for his hat, and his rope on the hook for his rope, and his pants on the hook for his pants, and his spyglass on the hook for his spyglass, and he put his shoes under the bed and got into his bed, which was a bunk, and went to sleep.

I've always adored the way she overuses so many words. It reminds me of the way children talk and rationalize things. And as always, Williams shines when there is a fuzzy creature involved. Our Little Golden Book collection is sorely underused at this point. I must remind myself to always keep a few in my purse so we can squeeze those last years of use out of them before they get packed away in the memory attic. Sniff, sniff. If they could just stay little til their Golden Books wear out.

I'm Scuppers the Sailor Dog--
I can sail in a gale
right over a whale
under full sail
in a fog.

Also by:
Wait Til the Moon is Full
Do You Know What I'll Do?
The Sky Was BlueThe Rabbit's Wedding
The Quiet Noisy Book
On Christmas Eve
Christmas in the Barn
The Dead Bird
Little Chicken
The Little Island
The Friendly Book
Little Fir Family


Janna said...

Ohh thank you for posting this! It just triggered a bunch of memories. As soon as I saw these illustrations, I could picture them animated with music... meaning I saw a video of it when I was a kid. Well, I found the VHS tape listed online and it also includes "The Poky Little Puppy and the Patchwork Blanket" (which was so cute) and "Little Toad to the Rescue" (not ringing a bell). I forgot that video tape existed, but I loved it. I wonder if it's up in the attic with a lot of my other kids videos...

Cissy said...

Isn't it funny what oldies kids still like? Mine love this one as well. Now if I could just figure out a good tune for the song on the last page.

Jeanne said...

May favourite book of all time!!

My 7yo dd still loves it, so you may have a few years left!

Anonymous said...

The tune to Popeye the sailor man fits perfectly to words. My grown children can still sing it.

S M Jenkins said...

My mother called me Mr Scuppers all my life. It was my favorite book, and my temperament fit the name association. She used to quote words like "He liked his cup in its saucer and the moon in the sky; Mr Scuppers was a conservative." Were those words really in the book?

S M Jenkins said...

I just got the little book from Amazon named, The Sailor Dog. I read somewhere that a couple pages are missing from the original. Perhaps that explains this, but nowhere in this little book can be found the words my mother so oft repeated to me. Could there be another book with a Mr Scuppers in it, with a little terrier wearing a yellow fisherman's raincoat. I recall that the dog had a corn cob pipe in his mouth.

Burgin Streetman said...

That would be Mister Dog you are looking for... same illustrator so the dog's look almost exactly the same though they are not the same dog.

Kate said...

Are there a couple of pages missing from the re-print? I could swear there was a picture of the inside of his beach shack, with his lantern, etc...but maybe that was just a childs imagination. (It has been about 50 years since I looked at it.)

Andrew said...

"He hung his hat on the hook for his hat...." That was the sentence which partly remained in my memory for the last 55 years. I didn't even remember he was a dog, but at the age of five I must have been impressed with his tidy shipboard arrangements. Adventurous and cosy at the same time. My Google words were golden book sailor hat and hook.

Burgin Streetman said...

That's so cool Andrew and exactly why I'm here!

Rick Nall said...

Regarding the missing pages, Wikipedia says: "It was originally published in 1953 by Golden Books. The 2001 edition lacks four pages of color illustrations and text found in the original 1953 edition."

Tim K said...

This is my all time favorite kids book. I still have my large edition copy form the 60's that has all the pages. My wife laughs that I refuse to get rid of it. I wish I could find another large edition for my daughter to have.

Rolf Taylor said...

This book was a big influence on me, and especially my immediate older brother David. I know that David has always prided himself on his sailing skills and would often sale up to the dock rather than use the engine. I wonder if Scuppers' song is the reason for that.

In addition to the 4 missing pages (text and illustrations both) most of the re-issues do not have the original cover, instead using the illustration from the second to last page for the cover.

Google "The Sailor Dog Unabridged" if you want the whole thing.

Unknown said...

This book was my favorite book as a kid when I could first read. Now when I look back on my life I live in an upside down boat my shoes under the bunk everything in its place. Amazingly it's my entire life a sailor a surfer :)

David Kluz said...

Do you have an image of the shack at night with the little lantern. That was my absolute favorite!

Becky in Ohio said...

This was my daughter's favorite book (I read to her & my son every night). She was a little disappointed when I did not get the book for her son that was born this past summer. I just ordered it for him & will get it to them as soon as it arrives (he's 5 months old & she reads to him every night too!)

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