Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Karen Hesse

Weathering Weather

Phyl­lis: Min­neso­ta has had a win­ter full of weath­er this year. We’ve just fin­ished the snowiest Feb­ru­ary on record, and now March is blow­ing down on us with the promised of wind and rain and (most like­ly) still more snow. An anony­mous British poet wrote of the weath­er, “We’ll weath­er the weath­er what­ev­er the weath­er.” We decid­ed to not only weath­er the weath­er but to cel­e­brate it with a few weath­ery pic­ture books.

Come On, Rain!In Karen Hesse’s Come On, Rain, illus­trat­ed by Jon J. Muth, an urban African Amer­i­can child yearns for rain. Her mamma’s plants are parched, She is “siz­zling like a hot pota­to,” and the city droops with heat. Hope comes in gray clouds rolling in, and the nar­ra­tor runs to find her friend Jack­ie-Joyce and tell her to put on her swim­suit. They run out into the alley, where their friends join them, and rain­drops plop down, “mak­ing dust dance all around us.” The friends dance in cir­cles, open their mouths to catch the rain, chase each oth­er down the street. They make such a rack­et shout­ing, “Come on, rain!” that the grown-ups toss off their shoes and socks and join them in a joy­ous cel­e­bra­tion. When the clouds and rain at last move off and every­thing is “spring­ing back to life,” they head home soaked and soothed by the wel­come rain. I remem­ber the delight of run­ning out into my back yard into a rain­storm, pud­dle-jump­ing, rain­drop catch­ing, and rain­bow spot­ting. Hesse’s book makes me wish for a rain­storm right now so I could run out into one again.

Jack­ie: I love this book, too, for that feel­ing of a grow­ing cel­e­bra­tion that’s going to bring the whole neigh­bor­hood togeth­er. And it reminds me of the fun of being drenched by a warm rain. It always gives me a feel­ing of being one with the world to be out in the rain, just get­ting wet. I laugh at how even the dust dances in cel­e­bra­tion in this sto­ry.

AlbertPhyl­lis: Albert by Don­na Jo Napoli, illus­trat­ed by Jim LaMarche, is less about a par­tic­u­lar kind of weath­er and more about a man who only expe­ri­ences the weath­er by stick­ing his hand out the grill­work over his win­dow, decid­ing it’s too cold, too damp, too hot, or too breezy to go out­side.

One day when he sticks his hand out, a car­di­nal drops a twig in it, then anoth­er car­di­nal joins in. While Albert watch­es, they build a nest in his hand and set­tle in. Albert doesn’t want to dis­turb the nest by twist­ing his hand back in through the grill­work, so he stands there, hold­ing the nest, which soon con­tains eggs. Kind-heart­ed Albert sleeps stand­ing up at night, breath­ing on the eggs to keep them warm when­ev­er the moth­er leaves the nest, and scar­ing away a curi­ous cat, all the while watch­ing life go by on the street below. One morn­ing “when Albert opened his mouth, he peeped.” The father car­di­nal brings him a bee­tle, then black­ber­ries to eat. On the twelfth morn­ing the eggs hatch, and with­in a few weeks the hatch­lings fledge, even­tu­al­ly leav­ing the nest, the last with encour­age­ment from Albert. He lets the now emp­ty nest fall, pulls his hand back in, and real­iz­ing that he is part of the big won­der­ful world, whether cold or damp or hot or breezy, he heads out of his apart­ment. The book ends: “Now Albert walks often. And some­times, just some­times, when no one’s look­ing, he flies.” The art shows Albert soar­ing on a swing, a car­di­nal perched on his head. This is a book that invites us not only to be gen­er­ous and kind to ani­mals but also to step out into the “big won­der­ful world” of which we are all a part.

Jack­ie: And if we are lucky, per­haps some­times we will fly. My used copy of this book is signed by the illus­tra­tor Jim LaMarche. The car­di­nals he drew for this book are so won­der­ful. They look as if they might fly right off the page. Read­ers of this sto­ry may nev­er have a nest on their hands, but they will nev­er see car­di­nals the same again.

When the Wind BlewPhyl­lis: Two books about wind seem fit­ting for March, which has come in like a snow lion this year. In When the Wind Blew by Mar­garet Wise Brown, illus­trat­ed by Geof­frey Hayes, an old, old lady lives all by her­self by the ocean with sev­en­teen cats and one lit­tle blue gray kit­ten. Each morn­ing the old lady milks her cow and fills sev­en­teen pur­ple saucers and one lit­tle blue saucer to feed her cats and kit­ten, then fills a mug for her­self. The old woman wash­es up the dish­es, the cats wash them­selves, and they all enjoy the sun­shine. One day the wind blows off the ocean, and the old lady brings her cats and kit­ten in out of the wind, where they curl up by the fire. Then a ter­ri­ble toothache strikes her, for which she has no med­i­cine or even a hot water bot­tle to put on her toothache for the pain. She takes her toothache to bed and lis­tens to the wind tear­ing through the cracks in her house, wish­ing for a hot water bot­tle for her aching tooth. Click purr, click purr. The lit­tle blue gray kit­ten jumps onto the bed and curls up next to her cheek, a fur-cov­ered hot water bot­tle that takes her toothache away. The wind blows on, but the old lady and her cats and blue grey kit­ten all sleep peace­ful­ly in her lit­tle house by the ocean. A sim­ple tale, and a com­fort­ing one, with Mar­garet Wise Brown’s lov­ing atten­tion to the sim­ple details of every­day life.

Jack­ie: One of her details is the detail of pain. “Her toothache was all there seemed to be in the world.” And I love the verbs that MWB uses. The cats, “mewed and purred and gur­gled for break­fast.” And the wind that “blew the sun­light cold and almost blew the lit­tle gray kit­ten off his feet.” We have had those winds that blow the sun­light cold. This book is a peek into a self-con­tained world that gets blown awry and then right­ed and it is so sat­is­fy­ing.

What Color is the Wind?What Col­or is the Wind? by Anne Herbauts is a lyri­cal med­i­ta­tion on the wind, but it is also a tex­tur­al book. By run­ning one’s fin­gers over the pages one can feel the ruf­fled hair of a dog, the coarse fur of a wolf, the raised bumps of rain, the smooth skin of an apple. Com­bine this with cut out win­dows, and you have a book to fas­ci­nate the sens­es. In the sto­ry, a lit­tle giant of a child sets out to dis­cov­er the col­or of the wind, only to receive dif­fer­ent answers from the ani­mals and objects that he meets. Stream, tree, bird all weigh in, but it is an enor­mous giant who answers, “It is every­thing at once. This whole book.” Ruf­fling the pages of the book the enor­mous giant makes a gen­tle wind for the lit­tle giant. The wind of the book. Mag­i­cal.

ShelterSome­times a book touch­es us so much that we have to own it. As soon as I took Shel­ter by Celine Claire, illus­trat­ed by Qin Leng off the shelf at Red Bal­loon Book­shop and read through it, I knew I could not leave the store with­out it. The book begins with ani­mals prepar­ing for a com­ing storm, gath­er­ing wood for the a fire, squir­rel­ing away nuts. As the storm hits and the ani­mals are snug­gly tucked in their dens, two strangers, a big bear and a lit­tle bear, appear in the fog seek­ing shel­ter. They offer tea in exchange for the warmth of a fire at the first den they come to, and though the art shows a bright­ly burn­ing fire, the ani­mals inside claim their fire is out. “Try next door,” they say. Next door the hun­gry bears offer to trade tea for a few cook­ies but are told, “We have no food. Try next door,” even though the den is heaped with acorns. The fox­es next door turn the bears down because their den is crowd­ed, although Lit­tle Fox runs after the bears and offers them a lantern. Next door is only a hill, but the bears feel wel­come there, and once snow begin to fall, they know they will be all right. Back in the fox­es’ den, the weight of the snow caus­es the roof to col­lapse, and although the fox fam­i­ly escapes, the world out­side is cold and dark and full of snow. A light beck­ons, which turns out to be the lantern Lit­tle Fox gave the bears, glow­ing through the snow den they have built. Lit­tle Fox offers cook­ies for tea and the bears reply that their lantern is weak­en­ing, their den is small and crowd­ed, and they have no food but the fox­es are wel­come to share the den and their tea — which they do. The last illus­tra­tion shows the win­ter storm blus­ter­ing while inside the small snow shel­ter, the fox­es and bears sip tea and eat cook­ies togeth­er by lantern light. This sto­ry moved my heart, not least because it is about the gen­eros­i­ty of strangers and about how we nev­er know when we might be the stranger in need of aid who hopes some­one will open their heart to us.

Jack­ie: I agree. This is a won­der­ful book and so per­fect for our time. If one read­er shares one cook­ie with anoth­er, who then shares a cookie…Well, let’s hope.

So many more good weath­er books, some of which we’ve looked at in pre­vi­ous posts—The Snowy Day, Hide and Seek Fog, Lau­ren Stringer’s Win­ter is the Warmest Sea­son, Red Rub­ber Boot Day, Yel­low Time—we could keep list­ing them until the snow melts. Whether or not we like the weath­er, we’ll weath­er it with a good weath­ery book, know­ing, too, that if we just wait a lit­tle while, new weath­er will be upon us.

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A Kindle* of Cats

Phyl­lis: 

Luna

Phyl­lis Root’s cat, Luna

*Even though kin­dle means cats born in the same lit­ter, the allit­er­a­tion was hard to resist.

All my work is done in the com­pa­ny of cats,” writes Nico­la Bay­ley, won­der­ful pic­ture book artist and writer, in her book The Nec­es­sary Cat.

I know what she means. Right now my cat Luna is sit­ting on the open copy of The Kit­tens’ ABC, clear­ly a cat of dis­cern­ing lit­er­ary taste.

Cats and writ­ers seem to have a par­tic­u­lar rela­tion­ship. Cats wan­der in and out of our pic­ture books, take naps on our key­boards, and curl up in our hearts. This month we looked at a few of the many pic­ture books where cats play a role.

The Kittens' ABCI was intro­duced to Claire Turlay New­ber­ry when I found a used copy of The Kit­tens’ ABC and was enchant­ed by her draw­ings of cats in which she cap­tures them with a few lines in char­coal, pen­cil, and pas­tels. (Of her sev­en­teen pic­ture books, all but three are about cats.) The rhymes with each let­ter of this ABC are sim­ple, but I could linger over those wise, play­ful, cozy pic­tures for hours. And if Luna has her way, curled up now on N is for Nap, I will.

Kit­tens like to take their naps
In box­es, bureau draw­ers, and laps;
Or else, along the sofa pil­lows,
In rows, like lit­tle pussy­wil­lows.

Green EyesAnoth­er used book find is Green Eyes by A. Birn­baum, win­ner of a 1953 Calde­cott hon­or. The sto­ry fol­lows the first year of a spring­time-born kitten’s life, from scram­bling out of a large box to explor­ing the farm life around him — chick­ens, cows, pigs, goats. By the time leaves fall, fol­lowed by snow, the now almost grown cat fits more snug­ly in his box. The art is superb, strong black lines and bright col­ors. This is the only pic­ture book Birn­baum both wrote and also illus­trat­ed, but his work appeared on The New York­er cov­ers over more than forty years. Scrolling through images of those cov­ers, I found myself wish­ing he had illus­trat­ed a whole stack of pic­ture books (two of my favorite images:  the wood­peck­er rat­tling away after a bug to feed the nest of lit­tle wood­peck­ers and the exu­ber­ant cro­cus in a pot).  

It’s hard for YouTube to do jus­tice to the art, but you can see and hear Green Eyes, now reis­sued.

Millions of CatsMil­lions of Cats, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Wan­da Gag, with dou­ble page spreads, black and white lith­o­graph prints, and hand let­tered text has been called the first true Amer­i­can pic­ture book. Mil­lions of Cats won a New­bery hon­or in 1929 (the Calde­cott did not yet exist) and has been in print ever since. The text and art roll rhyth­mi­cal­ly through the sto­ry, and the small­est cat, who didn’t con­sid­er her­self pret­ty enough to argue with the oth­er cats about who was pret­ti­est, is the only one left after the hun­dreds of cats, thou­sands of cats, mil­lions and bil­lions and tril­lions of cats fight so much they eat each oth­er up. The lit­tlest kit­ten, adopt­ed  and loved by the lit­tle old lady and the lit­tle old man (cat own­ers might say the peo­ple were adopt­ed by the kit­ten) becomes the pret­ti­est cat of all.

Cats in Krasinski SquareCats are the heroes in The Cats in Krasns­ki Square by Karen Hesse, a fic­tion­al sto­ry based on a true sto­ry of cats help­ing out­wit the Gestapo and smug­gle food into the War­saw ghet­to dur­ing World War II.

The cats
come
from the cracks in the Wall,
the dark cor­ners,
the open­ings in the rub­ble

With her old­er sis­ter (all that is left of her fam­i­ly) the nar­ra­tor, who escaped the Pol­ish ghet­to and now lives out­side its walls, is part of the resis­tance smug­gling food to Jews still impris­oned inside the ghet­to, includ­ing her friend Michael.  When the resis­tance learns that the Gestapo is com­ing with dogs on leash­es to sniff out the food arriv­ing by train to be smug­gled behind the walls, the nar­ra­tor knows what to do:  round up as many cats as pos­si­ble and take them to the sta­tion.  As the train arrives, the nar­ra­tor and her friends  release the cats, which dri­ves the dogs wild; dur­ing the dis­trac­tion the food van­ish­es  from the sta­tion

through the Wall, over the Wall,  under the Wall,
into the Ghet­to.

Wendy Wat­son, one of my favorite artists, illus­trat­ed the books in somber tones reflect­ing the grav­i­ty of the sto­ry, where acts of great courage can resist great dark­ness.

So many more cat books to love!  Here are a few to check out:

Cat books

All Archie says to the stray cat on the city side­walk is, “Hi, Cat!” in Hi, Cat! by Ezra Jack Keats, but the cat fol­lows him and man­ages to ruin every act of the show Archie and his friend Peter are putting on. Still, Archie decides that the cat “just kin­da liked me!”

Cats aren’t men­tioned in This is Our House by Hye­won Yum, but gen­er­a­tions of cats and kit­tens weave in and out of the art of this decep­tive­ly sim­ple sto­ry of immi­gra­tion, fam­i­ly, and home.

Gin­ger writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Char­lotte Voake, is a tale of “sib­ling” rival­ry when the cat of the house must deal with a new kit­ten.

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes tells of a kit­ten who thinks the first full moon of her life is a bowl of milk in the sky, but all her efforts to drink that milk end in dis­as­ter.  Luck­i­ly, when she returns home, a bowl of milk is wait­ing just for her.

Lola and the Rent-a-Cat, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ceseli Jose­phus Jit­ta, tells how Lola, whose hus­band of many years has died, finds a cat to belong to (and keep) through the Inter­net. Lola choos­es num­ber 313 Tim:

  • Home­ly, slight­ly old­er cat
  • Loves atten­tion and care
  • Fond of diet food

Lola and Tim are togeth­er all the time, and she is able to recall the good mem­o­ries as she and Tim sit on a bench in the evenings, and Tim purrs as she strokes him. 

Octo­ber 29 is Nation­al Cat Day, but any day is a good day to curl up with a cat book (and a cat, if one is handy).

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Changing Science Fiction Forever

All-Story Magazineby Vic­ki Palmquist

In its Octo­ber 1912 issue, All-Sto­ry Mag­a­zine pub­lished a short sto­ry by Edgar Rice Bur­roughs called “Tarzan of the Apes.” Do you remem­ber the plot? John Clay­ton is born to par­ents who are marooned on the west coast of Africa. His par­ents, Lord and Lady Greystoke, die on his first birth­day. John is adopt­ed by Kala, an ape, who moth­ers him as one of her own. He is that child who is unaware he is human. He goes on to be a man more com­fort­able in the jun­gle than he is among the gen­try, his birthright. He grows up and mar­ries Jane Porter but he returns to his loin­cloth-and-knife exis­tence as often as he can.

For many years, Tarzan of the Apes with its near­ly flaw­less male hero was one of the books con­stant­ly named as a favorite among teen read­ers. Read­ing the book, one could imag­ine one­self liv­ing out­side of soci­ety and any imposed restric­tions and expec­ta­tions. The jun­gle seemed like a hos­pitable place which, although very dan­ger­ous, offered oppor­tu­ni­ties to prove the met­tle of your exis­tence.

These books can be viewed through a nos­tal­gic, his­tor­i­cal lens as being writ­ten at a time when Bur­roughs, proud of his Anglo-Sax­on her­itage, wrote with the colo­nial view­point of white Eng­lish suprema­cy. Today’s read­ers will find his atti­tude dat­ed, if not repug­nant, and yet the Tarzan books are a part of our grow­ing-up as read­ers and their influ­ence on an entire genre of fic­tion con­tin­ues to be acknowl­edged.

JANE GOODALL

Dr. Jane GoodallTarzan of the Apes does, indeed, have a tie-in with our Book­storm™ this month, Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Ani­ta Sil­vey (Nation­al Geo­graph­ic).

In a 2012 inter­view on Big Issue, Dr. Goodall wrote: “I read the Tarzan books and of course I fell com­plete­ly in love with Tarzan. I felt he’d mar­ried the wrong Jane — it should have been me. I was very jeal­ous of Jane. My mum saved up to take me to see a Tarzan film at the cin­e­ma but a few min­utes in I got very upset and had to be tak­en out. I said: ‘That wasn’t Tarzan.’ John­ny Weiss­muller was not how I imag­ined Tarzan at all. And to this day I’ve nev­er ever watched anoth­er Tarzan film.” (Pho­to: Dr. Jane Goodall, tak­en by jeekc in 2007, Cre­ative Com­mons license.)

FERAL CHILDREN

Music of the DolphinsIn lit­er­a­ture and in sci­ence, chil­dren who are lost or aban­doned in the wild are called “fer­al chil­dren.” There are a num­ber of sto­ries and books, offer­ing evi­dence of our fas­ci­na­tion with this con­cept.

Gil­gamesh, Romu­lus and Remus, and Pecos Bill are clas­si­cal­ly rep­re­sent­ed as chil­dren raised by ani­mals.

You may have read the fol­low­ing books or you’re adding them to your TBR pile now.

  • Mila in Music of the Dol­phins by Karen Hesse
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Bar­rie
  • Mowgli in The Jun­gle Book by Rud­yard Kipling
  • The Blue Lagoon by Scott O’Dell
  • Valen­tine Michael Smith in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land was raised by Mar­tians. This is not pre­cise­ly fit­ting with the def­i­n­i­tion of fer­al chil­dren but, hav­ing nev­er met a Mar­t­ian, I’m not sure.
  • Even Gilligan’s Island had an episode with a “jun­gle boy,” played by Kurt Rus­sell

Here’s an arti­cle about “Fer­al Chil­dren: Mind Blow­ing Cas­es of Chil­dren Raised by Ani­mals,” writ­ten by Mihai Andrei for ZME Sci­ence

EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS

Edgar Rice BurroughsMar­ried, with two chil­dren, Bur­roughs tried his hand at many endeav­ors and did­n’t suc­ceed at any of them. The pres­sures to pro­vide a liv­ing for his fam­i­ly spurred him on to sub­mit a sto­ry he wrote for pub­li­ca­tion.

Edgar Rice Bur­roughs’ first pub­lished sto­ry was “Under the Moons of Mars,” fea­tur­ing John Carter, which appeared in All-Sto­ry Mag­a­zine in 1912. It earned him $400. He’s cred­it­ed with “help­ing to lead pulps into their gold­en era of pub­lish­ing.” 

He sold Tarzan of the Apes to the Prank A. Mun­sey com­pa­ny for $700, which is $17,164 in today’s mon­ey. He had a hard time find­ing a book pub­lish­er, but once A.C. McClurg and Com­pa­ny pub­lished Tarzan, it became a 1914 best­seller.

Edgar Rice  Bur­roughs him­self wrote, “In all these years I have not learned one sin­gle rule for writ­ing fic­tion. I still write as I did 30 years ago; sto­ries which I feel would enter­tain me and give me men­tal relax­ation, know­ing that there are mil­lions of peo­ple just like me who will like the same things I like. Any­way, I have great fun with my imag­in­ings, and I can appre­ci­ate – in a small way – the swell time God had in cre­at­ing the Uni­verse.”

Here is Chap­ter One of John Tal­i­a­fer­ro’s biog­ra­phy, Tarzan For­ev­er, The Life of Edgar Rice Bur­roughs, Cre­ator of Tarzan.

JUST THOUGHT YOU’D LIKE TO KNOW

Facsimile Dust JacketDid you know that the town of Tarzana, Cal­i­for­nia is locat­ed on Edgar Rice Bur­roughs’ for­mer 550-acre ranch, which was named, not sur­pris­ing­ly, Tarzana Ranch?

Bur­roughs had anoth­er wild­ly suc­cess­ful book series beyond Tarzan, set at the Earth’s core! Known as Pel­lu­ci­dar, there are sev­en books, which also have a fer­vent fol­low­ing. In one of the books, Tarzan finds his way to Pel­lu­ci­dar, Tarzan at the Earth’s Core

The orig­i­nal dust jack­et was hard to come by for col­lec­tors. In 2014, Phil Nor­mand of Recoverings.com recre­at­ed that orig­i­nal dust jack­et and sold it to col­lec­tors for $50.

Are you a fan of the Tarzan books? Leave a com­ment to let us know why they appeal to you.

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Peace

Peace is elu­sive. It is a goal of some peo­ple at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imag­ine no pos­ses­sions / I won­der if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A broth­er­hood of man / Imag­ine all the peo­ple shar­ing all the world …” Is peace pos­si­ble?… more
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When I Was Your Age

When I was a small child, I spent a lot of time around adults. Hav­ing no broth­ers or sis­ters, no cousins liv­ing near­by, and spend­ing sum­mers and vaca­tions with my grand­par­ents, I went where they vis­it­ed. Many of those peo­ple were their age. So I heard this phrase often: “When I was your age …” Some­times that phrase was fol­lowed by an admo­ni­tion (I exhib­it­ed many rea­sons for being admon­ished.).… more
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