Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Was All Thumbs

I Was All Thumbs
Bernard Waber ~ Houghton Miflin, 1975

Best known for his books about Lyle (you know, Lyle, Lyle the crocodile?) who lives in a bathtub at East 88th Street, Mr. Waber created this out-of-print favorite as the harrowing memoir of a laboratory octopus who was put back out to sea.

I was to be put into the sea. Captain Pierre told me so.
He said: "You will be happy there--in the sea. It is where you belong."
I thought: Thank you very much. But what do you know of the sea?
I knew nothing of the sea.
My home, the only home I could remember, was a tank in Captain Pierre's laboratory.

So the poor dear is carried out to the ocean and cast off into the waves all the while crying, "You will be sorry for this foolishness, Captain Pierre!... You have not yet learned all the ways of the octopus! There are still mysteries, Captain Pierre... still questions burning for answers! There are secrets I take with me, Captain Pierre!... I promise, you will cry a sea of tears for your loss! In the name of science, Captain Pierre! Captain Pierre! Captain Pierre! Capt...!"

In a classic fish out-of- (or rather, into) -water tale, our hero must learn to be an octopus in the wild. Shooting ink. Cave dwelling. Solitary living. But when he comes to meet Captain Pierre again, he realizes that the sea is a nice place and that he "wouldn't dream of living anywhere else." The first person storytelling here gives the book a magical feel, and the drawings accented with splotches and swipes of watercolor are lovely.

Still alive and married after more than 50 years with the same bride, Ethel, Mr. Waber is a treasure. I have a special place in my heart for artists who served in WWII and still went on to create such wonderful books. Just marvelous!

An Anteater Named Arthur


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Jil Casey said...

Novel approach for a story!

Hailey Gray said...

Thank you so much for posting so frequently. Our company really values this thinking and appreciation for art made for children.

The Arnold Clan said...

Holy cow! This was my absolutely favorite book in elementary school. I must have read it 100 times. Thanks for posting about it. I was just thinking about looking for it to read to my kids...

Melissa@Julias Bookbag said...

I just read back to Aug of 2011 on your other blog. It was awesome.

ahoi! said...

"...There are still mysteries, Captain Pierre..." So good. Wow. Thanks.
An Anteater Named Arthur is a favorite around here too.

Unknown said...

I want that BOOK! wow, thanks

Trahern Cook said...

Thank you for introducing me to this book.
I love the many layers of this brilliantly illustrated story.

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