Monday, July 14, 2008

Every Time I See a Donkey I Get Pleasure From It

I'm going to be honest with you, I remember hating the work of Eric Carle when I was little. He illustrated Aileen Fisher's Do Bears Have Mother's Too? I couldn't read yet so I just looked at the pictures. It was all orange and brown and speckled. I hated the texture and the colors. I still have this book and still, it's a turn off. I know this sounds like blasphemy because he's so wildly popular, but I guess the Caldecott people agree with me because Eric Carle has never won a Caldecott Medal. Now I feel bad. He probably deserves a Caldecott. Do the Caldecott judges look down on his collage technique? They're probably thinking, "I could do that." That's what I think. Apparently Do Bear Have Mothers Too is out of print. Make me an offer?

The book I remember LOVING was Sylvester and The Magic Pebble by William Steig. Even before I could read the charming prose I liked the pictures.
Steig's stories are so quirky and eloquent. I can think of no more beautiful ode to true friendship than Amos and Boris: "We will be friends forever, but we can't be together. You must live on land and I must live at sea. I'll never forget you, though." Kind of makes The Napping House seem a little irrelevant (plus that old lady in her nightgown--gaaah).

I got A Caldecott Celebration: 7 Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal by Leonard Marcus at the library. It's very interesting. (Don't get me started about Maurice Sendak--he's SO interesting. Listen to this--especially the part about killing a child when he was 6.) I was pleased to find Steig as likable and quirky as his books. Of donkeys (like Sylvester) he says, "Donkeys are my favorite animal. For some reason every time I see a donkey I get pleasure from it. They're charming animals. They're like horses, but smaller. They're not overwhelming like horses. They seem lovable--though I never had a donkey. And they work hard. I like working people better than I like idlers, too." Horses overwhelm him. I can see that. Donkeys are much less intimidating to me, too. Like if I'm still in my pajamas with ugly hair I would be all, "Hey donkey." Whereas horses can be a little judgy.

In a brief note to his editor after getting the go-ahead for Sylvester he declared, "I will learn to draw donkeys. Probably they should stand like donkeys." This is definitely a guy I could hang out with. Jan Brett? Not so much.I hate this Gingerbread boy. I wish he would turn into a stone and never be reunited with his family. EVER! (She's never won the Caldecott Medal either, I'm just saying).


  1. I'm coming out of my blurking closet...

    I think you're hilarious and I get so excited (in a non-creepy, platonic way) when your blog lights up in my reader.

    I too love The Magic Pebble, and you're totally, right...horses CAN be judgy.

  2. Thank you for vocalizing my inner voice which tells me that I could totally do that, when I read an over-priced Eric Carle book (seriously, have you noticed his books are never discounted at Barnes and Noble or even on the kids' book orders? Like, "oh, my books are so superior, they'll never go on sale--EVER.")

    Judgy horses!? That's how I feel about cats.

  3. Anonymous3:02 PM

    I have read Sylvester so many times to my kids I have it memorized. I didn't remember it as a kid but it was Ed's favorite.

    But, I also have Where the Wild Things Are memorized for the same reason. We saw Maurice Sendak at a children's bookstore in Soho and he looked like perhaps he could have killed someone. Very eccentric.

  4. Amen on the Jan Brett opinion.
    My biggest beef with Eric Carle is that he seems to be writung the same book over and over again. He should have just stopped with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which I do love and have since I was a kid. I loved that there were holes in all of the food.

  5. "Caleb the carpenter and Kate the weaver loved each other, but not every single minute"

    i love mr. steig.

  6. Anonymous9:47 PM

    Didn't Steig write "Pete's a Pizza"? I'd google it, but can't right now. He is so orginal (pretty sure I'm thinking of the same guy). I also think you are a greatly funny writer and have a link on my blog here. Hope you don't mind. Thanks.

  7. That wasn't supposed to be anonymous. My palm is like a vacuum.

  8. Anonymous10:43 PM

    I love Sylvester.

    I love Harold and his purple crayon, too. He rocks my world.

    And now I'm totally dying to hear about how your post caused bek to set her house on fire. I almost set my house on fire recently as well, but it was popcorn, no donkeys what did it. Sooooo lame.

  9. I couldn't agree more. I have a complete Steig collection. As much as I love Sylvester, "The Amazing Bone" is my all time fave.

  10. Am I the only one picking this up? Or perhaps I just have a twisted perverted mind...That is the most odd thing I have ever heard. I mean, I suppose a farmer could say something like that, but even still. Isn't that illegal in most states?

  11. I've seen FOUR kindergarten presentations of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and I have to say - I love it! But only because my kids made their own art with holes in the middle & strung them on their dyed-green-sock-covered arm. (The sock was dyed, not their arm. sheesh.)

    Otherwise - no thanks.

    I'm a Dr Seuss girl myself. The real & true Dr Seuss. Not that crud they've been putting out as re-do's recently. Ick.

    Fox in Socks can make any girls' day better.

    Amen to Steig & Sendak too.

  12. you're so right about the horse - way too judgmental when it comes to pajamas.

  13. Hey, this is your sister Heidi's old roommate. I'm a fan. You should consider applying to write for the Rocky Mountain Mom's blog. The website is here:

    I don't think it pays anything, but you'll be FAMOUS. Well, a little bit anyway.

  14. I like the pictures in the Magic Pebble, but have you seen how many words there are on a page? WAY too many. So I keep it out of sight of my kidlets so I won't have to read it to them. Now, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," THAT's a good read-aloud.

    Sounds like an interesting book.

  15. The Magic Pebble is one of my all-time favorite books ever. I used to weep over poor Sylvester, all alone in the field. I used to pretend I WAS Sylvester, all alone in the field. Steig is wonderful.

  16. I love Mr. Steig also - there is something so comfortable about him.

    Not everyone likes him - some people haven't even tried him.

    My favorite is The Amazing Bone - "It was a brilliant day and instead of going straight home after school, Pearl dawdled."

    I don't think people appreciate dawdling - but William Steig does.

  17. Anonymous10:54 AM

    I was traumatized by Sylvester's plight when I was a kid. He's a rock! His parents don't know where he is! They probably think he was spirited away by van-driving donkey kidnappers! Is he uncomfortable? Is he getting cramps? Can he see or is it all dark when you're a rock? Are there bugs under him? Poor Sylvester!
    I do love him, though. Thank goodness for happy endings.

  18. Were you thinking of the Eric Carle book, does a kangaroo have a mother too?

    It's still in print.

  19. OK, are you SERIOUS? Yeah, Saundek is interesting, if "interesting" is a euphemism for "creepiest writer EVER!" "In the Night Kitchen" scarred me for life, especially the full frontal male nudity. Seriously, what is UP with that?

    And Jan Brett's Ginerbread boy is nothing special, but "The Umbrella" is definitely one of the most visually stunning things I've ever seen.

    I've also never felt inherenty judged by horses, or inherently accepted in my jammies by donkeys. This is a new thought for me. Clearly I need to spend more time around stables.

  20. I loved Sylvester, and I had semi-forgotten about it until I saw your post! How fun... now I've got to track it down and read it to my lil one-

  21. Where did you go? Don't you write the book every day? I keep checking, hoping you are back, but you're not. I hope you are just off having a blast on some vacation somewhere . . .

  22. I won a young authors contest when I was in first grade and I got to choose a nice new book and I chose Sylvester. It's practically sacred to me now. As is my very first book order book from kindergarten, The Maggie B. by Irene Haas. I haven't read much Jan Brett, but I love our copy of The Mitten.

    Also, I just did an Eric Carle art project with my kids (each of us was resposible for coming up with 3 sheets of paper in two assigned colors--we could make the color by painting, tearing from magazines, water coloring, sponging, etc. Then we each chose a picture to re-create in collage style; it really was so cool, I need to blog it). Turns out, yes, you can make that youself. I still enjoy the books of his we have.

    I like best to read rhymes out loud, and youcan't beat classic Seuss for that!


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