Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Beatrix Potter

Summoning Spring

Jack­ie: Spring is a lit­tle late com­ing to the Mid­west this year. But we can remem­ber sun­ny days with vio­lets and tril­li­um bloom­ing and rainy days that turn the grass green (instead of the snow we con­tin­ue to get in mid-April). Rainy days make us think of ducks and we are going to beck­on reluc­tant spring with sto­ries of ducks.

In the Rain with Baby Duck I want to start with an old favorite In the Rain with Baby Duck by Amy Hest, with illus­tra­tions by Jill Bar­ton. This is one of those books I wish I had writ­ten. The sto­ry sets up the prob­lem imme­di­ate­ly. Baby Duck has to go out in the rain. She hates the rain. But at the end of the walk are pancakes—and Grand­pa. Baby Duck loves both pan­cakes and Grand­pa as much as she hates the rain.

And the lan­guage is so much fun! First there’s the sound of rain, “Pit pat. Pit-a-pat. Pit-a-pit-a-pat.” And then there are the verbs: Mama Duck and Papa Duck love the rain. They wad­dled, and shim­mied, and hopped. Baby Duck hates the rain that brings wet feet, wet face, mud. She daw­dled and dal­lied and pout­ed.

Leave it to Grand­pa to solve the prob­lem with a trip to the attic. Once she’s equipped Baby Duck and Grand­pa go out in the rain. And Baby Duck and Grand­pa wad­dled and shim­mied, and hopped in all the pud­dles.

I need new boots.

Phyl­lis: Jack­ie, if Amy hadn’t writ­ten this book, and if you hadn’t writ­ten it either, I would have want­ed to have writ­ten it. I, too, love this book for its lan­guage, its won­der­ful rhythms and verbs, and its under­stand­ing Grand­pa who remem­bers what Mama Duck has for­got­ten, that she, too, once didn’t like rain.  And of course, I love pan­cake Sun­day. My red rub­ber boots are still going strong, and once the rain comes down (rain, not snow), I plan to go splash in some pud­dles.

The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duckJack­ie: Beat­rix Pot­ter can help us sum­mon spring. Jemi­ma Pud­dle-duck wants to hatch her own eggs, instead of let­ting one of the farm hens sit on them. “I will sit on them all by myself,” she says. And she leaves the farm to make a nest in the wood. “Jemi­ma Pud­dle-duck was not much in the habit of fly­ing,” but she man­ages to get up over the tree­tops and flies to an open place in the woods. She encoun­ters an “ele­gant, well-dressed gen­tle­man” with two black ears and a long full tail. We are told “Jemi­ma Pud­dle-duck was a sim­ple­ton.” And we see that in action as she agrees that the gen­tle­man has a won­der­ful spot for a nest in a wood­shed full of feath­ers. Nor does Jemi­ma sus­pect any­thing after the eggs are laid, when the “gen­tle­man” sug­gests they share a meal. He asks Jemi­ma to pro­vide from the farm two onions and var­i­ous herbs. While gath­er­ing these sup­plies she runs into the farm dog Kep, who is not a sim­ple­ton. And Jemi­ma is saved from her impend­ing doom by Kep and two fox­hound pup­pies. Unfor­tu­nate­ly the pup­pies eat the eggs before Kep can stop them. Jemi­ma goes back to the farm and even­tu­al­ly hatch­es four duck­lings. I love this sto­ry. There’s such fun in know­ing more than the char­ac­ters in the sto­ry.  And we can sym­pa­thize with Jemima’s wish to do it her­self, even if she’s not quite up to it on her own. Per­haps the best part of the sto­ry for me is Kep, whose nature seems to be to watch over the sim­ple­tons.  We need more of Keps in our world.

Phyl­lis: Along with the accu­rate and beau­ti­ful water­col­ors, Beat­rix Potter’s won­der­ful lan­guage evokes the coun­try­side of her time so vivid­ly:  the two bro­ken buck­ets on top of each oth­er for the “gentleman’s” chim­ney, the “tum­ble­down shed make of old soap box­es.” I sym­pa­thize with Jemi­ma, who wants to hatch her eggs her­self and who, although we are told she is a sim­ple­ton, seems guilty main­ly of igno­rance and inno­cent trust. Our fam­i­ly once fos­tered a duck­ling for a month that had hatched lat­er than its fel­low egglings, and it was indeed a sweet and trust­ing duck­ling who fol­lowed us every­where, peep­ing wild­ly if left alone.  Pot­ter is also unsen­ti­men­tal in her assess­ment of farm life:  when Jemi­ma final­ly does get to sit her own eggs, we learn that she is not real­ly much of a sit­ter after all, but she looks con­tent with her own four duck­lings, hatched by her­self in the safe­ty of the farm­yard, under the pro­tec­tion of Kep.

Duck! Rabbit!Jack­ie: Last April we cel­e­brat­ed the work of Amy Krouse Rosen­thal, who had recent­ly died. We want to hon­or her again with a look at Duck, Rab­bit. This book is such a fun exer­cise in per­spec­tive, thanks to illus­tra­tor Tom Licht­en­held. “Hey, look! A duck!” And we see long bill, slight­ly open, oval head and eye.

That’s not a duck./ That’s a rab­bit.” And what had been the duck bill becomes the rabbit’s ears, the rab­bit is look­ing in the oppo­site direc­tion. Turn the page and the illus­tra­tion is the same, but the con­ver­sa­tion con­tin­ues. “Are you kid­ding me?/It’s total­ly a duck.”

It’s for sure a rab­bit.”

The two con­tin­ue. Is the ani­mal cool­ing its long ears or get­ting a drink in the pond? Is it fly­ing or hop­ping? Then the argu­ment caus­es the crea­ture to leave. And the two reverse (what could be more fun?) “You know, maybe you were right./Maybe it was a rab­bit.”

Thing is, now I’m actually/thinking it was a duck.”

This sto­ry is so much fun. I can imag­ine that it would spark many dis­cus­sions and exper­i­ments about objects or crea­tures that could be eas­i­ly tak­en for oth­er objects or crea­tures.

Phyl­lis:  The book itself is its own exer­cise in tricks of per­cep­tion and point of view:  it’s all in how you inter­pret what you see and where you see it from.  And the book ends with a won­der­ful twist:  each voice hav­ing con­ced­ed that per­haps the oth­er is right after all, one says,

Well, anyway…now what do you want to do?”

I don’t know.  What do you want to do?”

Hey, look! An anteater!”

Thant’s not an anteater. That’s a bra­chiosaurus!”

This bold and clever book makes me smile. All win­ter I’ve been watch­ing the city bun­nies in my back yard (who have eat­en my rasp­ber­ry canes down to the top of the snow).  Now maybe I’ll look out and find they have turned into ducks.

Jack­ie: There are so many duck sto­ries. Of course, Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Duck­lings is the clas­sic.

The Ugly DucklingAnd if it’s not a clas­sic already, Jer­ry Pinkney’s The Ugly Duck­ling soon will be. His inter­pre­ta­tion of the Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­son fairy tale takes us so close to the Mama duck’s nest and the new duck­lings, it’s as if we are stand­ing in the barn­yard. We know the story—the biggest duck­ling is so ugly that even­tu­al­ly even his broth­ers and sis­ters chase him and taunt him. He leaves, only to encounter hunters, and dogs with huge mouths. Even­tu­al­ly he finds tem­po­rary shel­ter in the bro­ken-down cab­in of an old woman who has a cat and a hen. The ani­mals can’t under­stand anoth­er who nei­ther lays eggs or purrs but they don’t chase after him. After three weeks the duck­ling leaves to find water to swim in. When icy win­ter freezes him into the ice he is res­cued by a kind man who takes him home to his warm cab­in and chil­dren. The chil­dren want to play, but the duck­ling, hav­ing seen most­ly taunts and cru­el­ty, does not rec­og­nize play and runs away. Pinkney does not dwell on the rest of the win­ter, except to say it was mis­er­able. Relief comes in the spring when the “duck­ling” finds a home with his own kind, the swans. There are many ver­sions of this sto­ry but this is my favorite. Pinkney takes the sto­ry so seri­ous­ly. His ducks are real ducks and he wants us to notice them and the cat and the hen.  He grabs our atten­tion with his own atten­tion to the details of these crea­tures’ lives. He makes them real while also imbu­ing them with the human char­ac­ter­is­tics of judg­ment, cru­el­ty, curios­i­ty, and even kind­ness.

Phyl­lis: And who doesn’t want to find fel­low crea­tures and be rec­og­nized just for being their own self?

The ugly duckling’s moth­er loves him so much she gives up her bath to sit on his egg after her oth­er eggs have hatched, and she fierce­ly tries to pro­tect him from the oth­er barn­yard ani­mals. But even a mother’s love can’t always con­quer prej­u­dice and nei­ther is the world kind. Our hearts hurt for the “duckling’s” suf­fer­ings and are immense­ly sat­is­fied when he finds his own place in the world.

DuckA few oth­er duck books among a flock of them, Duck by author and illus­tra­tor Randy Cecil, about a carousel duck who longs to fly and who  ends up fos­ter­ing a lit­tle lost duck­ling. Duck real­izes it’s up to him to teach the lit­tle duck­ling how to fly, but his lessons are only part­ly suc­cess­ful, so she straps Duck­ling to her back with her scarf and walks off to find the ones “who could teach Duck­ling what she could not.” When they do find a flock of ducks, the ducks take off, and the lit­tle duck­ling flies up to join them. But Duck, still strapped to Duck­ling, weighs Duck­ling down and real­izes she must lit­er­al­ly let duck­ling go.  She frees her­self from the scarf, duck­ling goes up, duck does down down down. The ducks fly away, a scarf­less duck limps home, and the long win­ter com­mences, with so much snow duck that almost dis­ap­pears in the drifts. Come spring, a grown-up duck wear­ing a scarf returns with his flock and takes duck on his back. 

The book ends with the immense­ly sat­is­fy­ing last line: “And final­ly Duck knew what it was to fly.”

Cold Little Duck, Duck, DuckCold Lit­tle Duck Duck Duck by Lisa West­berg Peters, with illus­tra­tions by Sam Williams, tells a rhyth­mic and rhyming sto­ry of a duck who comes a lit­tle too ear­ly in a mis­er­able and frozen spring,  and her feet freeze to the ice. She warms her­self with thoughts of spring:  bub­bly streams, glassy pud­dles, wig­gly worms, shiny bee­tles, cro­cus­es and apples buds and blades of grass and squishy mud.  By the time a vee of ducks fly in to join her, the ice is melt­ing, and the lit­tle duck dives into spring. With many won­der­ful rep­e­ti­tions of con­so­nant sounds—quick quick quick, blink blink blink, creak creak creak—the book is a delight to read aloud.

And, like the cold lit­tle duck duck duck, we might be find­ing spring right now as well. The snow out­side my win­dow has almost melt­ed, the first wild­flow­ers are bloom­ing, and our hearts are hap­py in the sun­shine. Good work, ducks. Thanks, thanks, thanks!

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Skinny Dip with Cynthia Grady

Cynthia GradyFor this inter­view, we vis­it with Cyn­thia Grady, author and librar­i­an, at her home in New Mex­i­co.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Oh, most def­i­nite­ly Beat­rix Pot­ter. My ear­li­est lit­er­ary hero.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Back­man. I turned back to page 1 as soon as I fin­ished read­ing it.

 Whirley-Pop Hand Crank Popping MachineWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

Popcorn—fresh popped on the stove in a Whirley-Pop Hand Crank Pop­ping Machine –with lots of but­ter and salt. But I will pop it and eat it any­time.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

I wouldn’t call this my most cher­ished mem­o­ry exact­ly, but one that I’ve been revis­it­ing lately—is how a friend and I roamed sev­er­al neigh­bor­hoods, cross­ing streets we weren’t allowed to cross, by way of creeks and drainage pipes.  

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Am I allowed to say Irish whiskey? Straight up? After that comes laven­der lemon­ade. Mmm­mm. Deli­cious.

Necco wafersWhat gives you shiv­ers?

The dark. Since age 3.

Your favorite can­dy as a kid …

Neccos—at the movies.

What’s the strangest tourist attrac­tion you’ve vis­it­ed?

The Muse­um of Ques­tion­able Med­ical Devices, now locat­ed with­in the Sci­ence Muse­um of Min­neso­ta. A fright­en­ing expe­ri­ence of med­ical quack­ery!

RabbitsBroth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

Ah. I am num­ber six of nine chil­dren. Being the youngest of the first six, the eldest of the bot­tom four, and near­ly in the mid­dle over­all has shaped every sin­gle bit of my life, from my abil­i­ty to sleep any­where to my absolute love of silence.  Plus, I dis­play all of the char­ac­ter­is­tics on those birth order charts.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

A house rab­bit or two.

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Skinny Dip with Amy Baum

gr_sleepy-hollow-moonWhat keeps you up at night?

The Dis­ney ver­sion of The Leg­end of Sleepy Hol­low. I had to sleep in my sister’s room for 6 months after that ter­ri­fy­ing car­toon.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

Lit­tle Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. I loved Lit­tle Bear and his very func­tion­al fam­i­ly. Also, I thought it was sim­ply mag­i­cal that all of the let­ters spelled out a sto­ry. I am still a fan of large type (though that could be my age).

Dis­claimer: There was one sto­ry that caused many sleep­less nights: “Gob­lin Sto­ry” in Lit­tle Bear’s Vis­it. I high­ly rec­om­mend read­ing this sto­ry dur­ing a clear, bright day. A big shout out to Kim Fau­rot at the Saint Paul Pub­lic Library Children’s Room.

What’s Your favorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

Giv­ing Presents for all occa­sions – I am most cer­tain that there is a hol­i­day packed into every week of the year.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s chal­lenge?

Oy, such a chal­lenge. I have dyslex­ia, but that wasn’t a “thing” back in the six­ties – hence I was trun­dled off to speech ther­a­py. It was great fun. We did a lot of pup­pet shows with Steiff pup­pets – and while they were very itchy I was a proud por­cu­pine.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

gr_aaxmanwithlogoYes, shop­ping, presents and hol­i­days all go hand-in-hand. I have a clos­et full of cool gift wrap which I buy all year round. I must admit to using gift bags on unwieldy items. Though one can get some swell box­es at The Ax-Man sur­plus store. It also delights me to watch the painstak­ing mea­sures some recip­i­ents will go to in an effort to pre­serve the wrap­ping paper. You peo­ple know who you are.

What 3 children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?

Such an unfair ques­tion. I would require the capac­i­ty of the Algo­nquin Round Table and I would try to accom­mo­date SOME list of some of my heroes:

  1. Mau­rice Sendak
  2. Ursu­la Nord­strom, aside from being a fab­u­lous edi­tor she wrote one of my favorite books of sec­ond grade, The Secret Lan­guage.
  3. Edward Gorey
  4. ph_wedgewoodMar­garet Wise Brown
  5. A.A. Milne
  6. E.L. Konigs­burg
  7. Eric Car­le
  8. Nan­cy Ekholm Burk­ert
  9. Wal­ter Dean Myers
  10. Beat­rix Pot­ter – I eat off her Peter Rab­bit Wedge­wood every day
  11. E.B. White
  12. Tomi Unger­er
  13. Char­lotte Zolo­tow
  14. Dr. Seuss
  15. M.E. Kerr

I am quite cer­tain that I am leav­ing sev­er­al impor­tant guests out. By the way – I would not cook out of def­er­ence of my guests – cater­ing all the way! I do not use my stove – I occa­sion­al­ly dust it.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

It is not often that some­one comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”– Charlotte’s Web

What book do you tell every­one to read?

The Phan­tom Toll­booth, Mr. Rab­bit and the Love­ly Present, The Nut­shell Library, The Moon Man, A Proud Taste for Scar­let and Miniv­er. It depends on who my audi­ence is and what their needs are at the time.

Are you a night owl or an ear­ly bird?

Both – night­time is for read­ing and hang­ing with my faith­ful dog. Morn­ing is for “catch­ing up.”

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Interview: Eric Rohmann

Bull­doz­er’s Big Day
writ­ten by Can­dace Flem­ing
illus­trat­ed by Eric Rohmann
Atheneum, 2015

inter­view by Vic­ki Palmquist

What’s the illus­tra­tion tool you turn to more than any oth­er?

Graphite pen­cil. Sim­ple, effi­cient, erasable, feels good in the hand, makes a love­ly line with infi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties for line vari­a­tion. Did I men­tion that it’s erasable? Always for­giv­ing!

What illus­tra­tion tech­nique haven’t you tried that keeps call­ing out to you?

Relief print­mak­ing. The tech­nique gives you so much—the qual­i­ty of the mark, the lay­er­ing of col­or look dif­fer­ent than any­thing I can make with any oth­er tech­nique.

What do you do when you’ve run out of inspi­ra­tion? What gets you going again?

Mak­ing some­thing. Look­ing at some­thing oth­ers have made. It’s a big world out there and there is plen­ty to see.

ph_EricRohmann-studio

Eric’s stu­dio

Who is your favorite illus­tra­tor who is no longer with us? And it could be more than one per­son.

William Stieg…and  Helen Sewell, Wan­da Gag, Mau­rice Sendak, Crock­ett John­son, Robert McCloskey, Vir­ginia Lee Bur­ton, James Marshall…just to name a few.

Did win­ning the Calde­cott (medal and hon­ors) change how you think about your work?

Yes. It made me more atten­tive, more ded­i­cat­ed, more aware of my audi­ence. It also took off the pres­sure of ever think­ing about such things again!

How and where do you and Can­dy talk over a new project?

bk_OhNoEvery­where and any­where. Bulldozer’s Big Day was begun on a car ride from Indi­anapo­lis to Chica­go. Giant Squid at an ALA hotel room. Oh, No! in Bor­neo while walk­ing in the jun­gle.

If you could sit down with four oth­er book artists, liv­ing or dead, and have din­ner and a con­ver­sa­tion, who would they be?

This is not fair! Just four? Hmmm… William Stieg, Beat­rix Pot­ter, M.T. Ander­son, Mau­rice Sendak. 

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Turtles in Children’s Literature

Our Book­stormbook, The Shad­ow Hero, is the ori­gin sto­ry of a super­hero, The Green Tur­tle. While this char­ac­ter is not an actu­al chelonian—though that would be an awe­some super hero—there are many tur­tles and tor­tois­es in chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Some might even be, tech­ni­cal­ly, ter­rap­ins. Here are some nota­bles.

TurtleTimeline_July

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Behind the Books We’ve Loved: A Wilder Rose

Grow­ing up, I loved to read mys­ter­ies, biogra­phies, but espe­cial­ly series books. I did­n’t read Nan­cy Drew or Anne of Green Gables (not until I was an adult), but I fol­lowed most every oth­er series char­ac­ter. I read Cher­ry Ames, Sue Bar­ton, Trix­ie Belden, Beany Mal­one, Janet Lennon, but espe­cial­ly Louisa May Alcot­t’s books, the […]

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