Thursday, March 29, 2012

Too Many Bozos

Too Many Bozos
Lilian Moore ~ Susan Perl ~ Golden, 1960

As a child, there were only a handful of artists whose art I connected with strongly... Mercer Mayer, Hillary Knight, Gyo Fujikawa, and Susan Perl. Blogging about and collecting kids' books going on seven years now, I'm always amazed when I still have those Ah-Ha moments and come face to face with a childhood book memory, long forgotten.

Four weeks ago the awesome Frecklewonder posted a picture of this book on her Instagram, and I swear, I almost burst into tears. I don't remember owning this book or ever visiting it in the library. I have no idea where I encountered it, but the moment I saw the cover, I could visualize every picture in it down to exact pen strokes. Within minutes I had ordered a copy of my own online and a few days later, it was in my hand.

Seeing it again after so many years, literally made me squeal. Trust me, if I could marry this book, I would.

That said, I really had to restrain myself from scanning the whole darn thing.

"Mother," said Danny Drake. "May I have a dog?"

Danny's mother looked at Danny. "Danny Drake," she said.

"You asked me that last week. And what did I say?"

"No," said Danny.

"You asked me that the week before," said his mother. "And what did I say?"

"No," said Danny.

Danny's mother said, "No! I'm sorry, Danny. Our house is too small for a dog."

"But I have a good name for a dog," said Danny. "I want to call him Bozo."

To replace the dog he's not allowed to have, Danny ends up with a myriad of Bozos... a frog, a mouse and a mess of angry ants, all to the chagrin of his mom. Not until the last page does she finally cave and let happiness take over.

Still a great story after all these years.

One of the most awesome parts of being a parent is that you get to take these warm, fuzzy, nostalgic memories and share them with your own kids.

Sometimes they get them.

Sometimes they don't.

Sometimes they weep openly three times during the new Muppet movie, and sometimes, after reading a book for the first time, they draw awesome pictures like this.

That's when this searching and the sharing makes it all worth while.

The miracle of the Internet folks. Really, how flipping cool is that?

Also by:
More Easy Answers
A Flower Pot Is Not a Hat
Susan Perl's Color Wheel


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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Holiday for Mister Muster

A Holiday for Mister Muster
Arnold Lobel ~ Harper & Row, 1963

It's hard to understand why any of Lobel's books ever fell out-of-print. Consistently, he's one of those children's book authors who everybody loves. I seriously doubt anyone has a low opinion of him and that is reflected in the solid five star ratings his books get all over the internet. There is nothing divisive about his work. It is simple, innocent and true. There isn't a rainy day reading one his books won't fix. Always a sure thing. Never hit or miss.

Which brings me to today. Here, we have the follow-up to A Zoo for Mister Muster, a book which I, sadly, do not possess. The illustrations are full of so much raw, unfiltered joy, it's hard not to chuckle just looking at the cover. The smile on the snake, in particular, is magic.

There were sneezes and sore throats at the zoo. All the animals had very bad head colds. Mister Muster, the zookeeper, was worried and telephoned the doctor. The doctor came and gave pills and cough syrup to everyone. "These animals have been sitting in their cramped cages for too long," said the doctor. "They need exercise and fresh salt air."

Now, imagine packing a picnic lunch at the seaside for all the animals in a zoo... no small task. Then you have to hire a bus. Then you have a great day at the beach, only to spy an amusement park across the way... Before you know it, those animals are having so much fun, they never wanna go back to the zoo, and it's up to Mister Muster to formulate a plan to get the animals home. Whew.

Another keeper from a timeless talent. Plus, any person who would dedicate a book "for the birds" is a saint in my son's eyes.

Also by:
The Terrible Tiger
Red Tag Comes Back
The Ice-Cream Cone Coot
Oscar Otter
The Star Thief
Mouse Tales
Prince Bertram the Bad
The Secret Three
Benny's Animals
Miss Suzy
Martha the Movie Mouse
Terry and the Caterpillars
The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Cluck
The Quarreling Book
The Headless Horseman Rides Tonight


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read

The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read
Irma Simonton Black ~ Seymour Fleishman ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1968

Imagine living in a world where you could not read. Then imagine what a nightmare something as simple as shopping for groceries could become. Told with humor and grace, it is very much a silly children's story littered with mishap and fun, while still driving home the very frightening reality that illiteracy creates.

Once there was a little old man who could not read. He just never wanted to learn. His wife went to the store and bought the food but -- the little man stayed home and made beautiful toys out of wood. Children all over the world loved his toys, and many wrote to tell him so. But still the little old man never wanted to learn to read.

Ah, yes. All is well in love and dependence, until said wife has to travel for a few days, leaving clueless old man to fend for himself. One trip to the grocery store and what seems like spaghetti proves to be wax paper. What sits in an oatmeal-like can is really salt... sugar is soap... and a tall glass of milk becomes a stinky sip of sour buttermilk.

Written by famed children's literature advocate Ms. Black and the illustrator who brought us such classics as The Blueberry Elf Pie and the Gus the Ghost stories, I'm always curious when I come across books with a high vintage price point. What is it about the book that makes it collectible? Is it the authors? Are the pictures particularly memorable? What makes one book forgotten and others highly sought after? The art of collecting children's books for my son is a mystery. One man's trash, I suppose...

Oh, and he does learn to read in the end. :)

Also by:
What's a Ghost Going to Do?


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Monday, March 26, 2012

Monkey Face

Monkey Face
Frank Asch ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1977

I knew eventually I would have to go deeper with Frank Asch. I've been hesitant to fully embrace his work as he is one of those authors I'm still unsure about. Are his books too simple? What is it about his aesthetic that so confounds me? Am I looking at his work with too critical of an eye? No matter. What matters is that children love them some Frank Asch. From the elusive and highly-collectible Starbaby to the unstoppable force of Moonbear to the collaboration that helped to thaw out the Cold War, Here Comes the Cat. Despite any misgivings I might have, anyone who is able to make a career out of drawing and writing things for children is OK in my book.

That said, enter Monkey Face. The story of a young monkey who sees his mother through the eyes of his friends.

One day at school, Monkey painted a picture of his mother. On the way home, he stopped to show it to his friend, Owl. "Nice picture," said Owl, "but you made her eyes too small."

"How's that?" asked Monkey.

"Much better," said Owl.

The story builds from there with Monkey adding all sorts of facial accouterments to his mother's mug. Big rabbit ears. A crocodile smile. An elephant's trunk. A lion's mane. By the time he gifts it to his mom, it looks nothing like a monkey. Of course, she loves it all the same. Told with simple black line drawings, infused here and there with splashes of blue and orange (one of my favorite color combinations), the silly picture of the monowcrolionaphant always get a chuckle out of my boy.

I get the idea that the moral of this book is that we are who we love, and generally, that's an amalgamation of a lot of different things.

Can't fault that logic.

Also by:
MacGoose's Grocery
Here Comes the Cat!


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Friday, March 23, 2012

James and the Giant Peach

James And the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl ~ Nancy Ekholm Burkert ~ Alfred A. Knopf, 1961

We just finished reading James and the Giant Peach for the umpteenth time, and I swear, that man was an incredible storyteller. Perhaps even one of the best of all time. His books always find me thinking and searching at the end. The language is so concise and clear, yet wonderfully poetic, and the themes bigger than the stories about foxes and giants and glowworms that they inhabit. Even better, as I mentioned before, I came across a first edition copy of James while I was in Seattle with the original, full color US version illustrations by Ms. Burkert. It made this read even more special to see him spying these treasures for the first time. What a talent that lady is.

Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Also by:
Dirty Beasts
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Magic Finger
Danny Champion of the World
James and the Giant Peach ~ Michel Simeon version


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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How Far Will a Rubber Band Stretch?

How Far Will a Rubber Band Stretch?
Mike Thaler ~ Jerry Joyner ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1974

As promised yesterday, here's another lost classic illustrated by Jerry Joyner (and written by the man responsible for The Teacher from the Black Lagoon series). This one involving a boy and his unquenchable thirst for answers.

One day a little boy decided to find out how far a rubber band would stretch. So he put one end of the rubber band around his bedpost and walked out the door.

Lord, haven't we all done this as children? Attached a rubber band to something and pulled, with the inevitable pain of a snap-back looming all the way. Here, the boy takes it a bit further. First, getting on his bike, then catching a ride on a bus... a train... an airplane... a boat... a camel, until, at last, he ends up with his arm hanging out of a rocket ship. And when the loss of gravity on the moon makes him lose the upper hand, he's BOING-ED straight back to bed.

What I find most engaging is how when the book begins, Joyner is using a more loose, abstract style, and as the story goes on, the drawings become tighter and more realistic, thereby visually imitating a rubber band, I suppose.

I love it when artists add these sort of nuances. (I was blown away by this post by Ward Jenkins about Where the Wild Things Are and shocked that I never noticed the page progression Sendak created before.) Soooo cool.

Also by:


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Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Remy Charlip ~ Jerry Joyner ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1975

Recently, I've come across two books by the illustrator Jerry Joyner and am totally intrigued. His art is vaguely recognizable from a handful of books I remember from childhood, but it's in this book that the fire of curiosity was sparked. It's hard to do any sort of real investigating sometimes on the Internet. It "seems" that "perhaps" Mr. Joyner is still alive and well and (maybe) working as a graphic designer and (I think, sometimes) does album cover design. But don't quote me on that. The first book I found of his was How Far Will a Rubber Band Stretch (which I will review tomorrow), but today let's focus on this unique but totally awesome collaboration he did with the ever-amazing Remy Charlip.

I'll start by quoting the back cover of the book.

Remy Charlip & Jerry Joyner shared the writing & painting of this unique book in unusual ways & in many different places. In New York, Mr. Charlip described his concept of Thirteen to Mr. Joyner & showed him some of the original stories he had already begun. Of these, The Sinking Ship and The Getting Thin & Getting Fat Again Dance were included in the final book. They decided to collaborate, and in the years & travels that followed, they met & corresponded & worked separately & together discovering & developing the individual stories & overall form of the book. In Paris, nine years their first meeting, they sat opposite each other to put it all together, choosing, sketching, adding, cutting, fitting, painting & writing. Twelve of the sequences were decided upon. In Greece, during three subsequent months, they did the final paintings. The thirteenth sequence evolved by improvisation. Mr. Charlip and Mr. Joyner each painted an image on a separate piece of paper. Then trading papers, they painted a visual response to each other's images. Working alternately they passed the paper back and forth. The final result was the Paper Magic sequence.

Quite a lead-in, no? I would love to sit down and talk to one of these guys about all that went into creating this book, as seriously, you can look at it a hundred times and still discover stuff you've never seen. Each page features not only a new vignette of each of the thirteen episodes, but it also includes a "preview of coming attractions" which is basically a smaller reprint of exactly what's on the next page. Groovy, no? Take the The Sinking Ship sequence. On the first page, we see a ship floating on the top of the water in a tall bottle. With each page, it sinks lower and lower until, at last...
This is a very old ship.
In fact it's so old it can hardly float anymore.
In fact it's sinking.
But it doesn't mind.
It's been everywhere.
Seen everything.
Been in many battles too!
Too many.
That's why it's sinking.
And although it has been around the world.
It's going down happy.
You know why?
It has never been to the bottom of the sea before.

Ingeniously put together, it's a lovely combination of eloquent design and childhood fun, and the fact that it's in my son's life now fills me with joy. Each story is full of hope, which is exactly the sentiment I try and infuse into my son heart in all things. I've always loved Remy. (Did you know he was the model for illustrations of Georges Méliès in The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick? Cool, huh?) With books like Fortunately and The Dead Bird, it's easy to see why he's become somewhat of a cult hero in the world of children's literature. Now, I'm adding Jerry's name to my personal list of people who are awesome.

This book is all kinds of excellent. 13 thumbs up.

Also by:
What good luck! What bad luck!
Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send For the Doctor Quick Quick Quick
The Dead Dird
Arm in Arm


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