William Steig ~ Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980
Since I've read this book aloud no less than five times in the last 24 hours, it followed me into my office this morning and begged to get the blog love. It's really a testament to the talent and the man that so many of William Steig's books are still in print... this one included. The fact that publishers got behind him and children embraced him really shows that no matter how quirky or abstract your art may be, if it's created with love and vision, it will stand the test of time. My son loves all his books, but this one recently has found its way deep into his subconscious. (And you all know I think Steig's language is absolutely spellbinding!)
Gorky is a frog on a mission to make a magic potion... adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a whole lot of his mother's best perfume.
He meant to use just a few drops; but ravished by the scent of roses, he recklessly poured in all there was--half the bottle.
He takes his potion, performs a touching ritual involving pebbles and daisies, and after a long walk...
Gorky spread himself out on the green green grass, facing the immensely blue sky, and just lay there, letting the sun include him in its warm embrace. The world was all magic, and he had a bottle of it in his right hand.
A small, glittery snake came slithering through the grass, slid over Gorky's belly, circled his bottle three times, and wriggled off. Gorky grew hazy. He saw the clouds above as clean white clothes hung out to dry; and then he fell asleep. The wide, open sky outside him was bright with brilliant sun, but the sky inside him shimmered with stars.
Whatever kept him fastened to the earth let go of its hold, and Gorky's slumbering body rose in the air, like a bubble rising in the water, and moving off in an easterly direction.
Writing like that just makes me want to weep with joy. Truly, children's book language almost doesn't get much better. Simple and easy to understand, yet slow and poetic, perfect for young minds to wrap their hearts around. (The pictures, as always, uncomplicated but luminous.) The rest of the story unfolds as Gorky floats along, rising higher and higher into the sky on a magical flight of fancy... vaguely ominous yet full of mystery and awe.
Dreamily, he began asking himself questions he could not answer: Did anyone know where he was? Did God, for example, know? Did his parents?All that rises must come down and eventually the book closes with a wonderful confirmation of the love and trust between parents and frog. Lovely, lovely book. Too good to forget and too cosmic to get over.
The Amazing Bone
Amos & Boris
Yellow & Pink
The Zabajaba Jungle
Father Palmer's Wagon Ride
Solomon the Rusty Nail
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