Archives for posts with tag: Robert Lawson

One Picture Book Text: Two Interpretations

 When Richard Jesse Watson mentioned FERDINAND THE BULL as the picture book text he’d most like to illustrate I hurried to my bookshelves. I have loved FERDINAND since childhood, and some 40 years ago found a German edition illustrated by Werner Klemke.

While we’ve grown used to folktales being illustrated or interpreted by a wide range of artists, it is unusual for a modern text to be re-illustrated. Our initial reaction often resembles our response to the remake of a beloved film. “What have they done?” But exploring such examples can be valuable to those of us who write but not illustrate. It helps us understand how two different artists can experience and envision our words and story.

Though this German edition is out of print, we can see all the illustrations thanks to the Internet. Go to YouTube: Ferdinand der Stier.wmv – YouTube.

 <www.youtube.cm/watch?v=G8vddifa1RM>

Enjoy!

Picture Books Discussed

Leaf, Munro. FERDINAND THE BULL. Illus. by Robert Lawson. Viking, 1938.

Leaf, Munro FERDINAND DER STIER. Illus. by Werner Klemke.  Transl. by Fritz Guttinger. Parabel Verlag, Date Unknown.

Picture Book Vitamins

Part II of II

from FOOD FOR THOUGHT

“When I am brought low by the vicissitudes of life, I stumble to my bookshelves. I take a little dose of Zemach or Shulevitz. I grab a short of Goffstein or Marshall. I medicate myself with Steig or Sendak, and the treatment works. I always feel much better.”        Arnold Lobel

One of the primary reasons many of us write is that we have experienced time and time again the medicinal pleasures of reading. We’ve read books that opened new doors. Read books that reminded us we were not alone. Books that made us laugh during a difficult time. Books that made us cry when we desperately needed release.

The following picture books always made me feel better and sparked renewed energy to write.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT by Saxton Freymann & Joost Elffers. (Levine Books, 2005): This book of literal food play always brings me a smile, and reminds me even the most ordinary object or thought can become so much more if you let you mind explore.

GOLDIE THE DOLLMAKER by M.B. Goffstein. (Farrar, 1969): I didn’t discover this book until several years after its publication. But when I did it became THE book supporting my desire for a life in the arts and continues to remind why I write.

“A Good Picture Book Should” by Arnold Lobel in CELEBRATING CHILDREN’S BOOKS edited by Betsy Hearne and Marilyn Kaye. (Lothrop, 1981).

SELMA by Jutta Bauer. (Kane/Miller, 2003): This miniature picture book honors those who find contentment in their daily lives.

THE STORY OF FERDINAND by Munro Leaf. Illus. by Robert Lawson. (Viking, 1938): Quite simply, this classic reminds me that all I have to be is exactly who I am.

THE TREASURE told by Uri Shulevitz. (Farrar, 1978): This beautifully written retelling of a folktale affirms honoring our dreams, the journey, and the reality that our greatest treasures our within our daily lives.

No matter what picture books are in your literary medicine cabinet, the reasons they are there remind us of what our young audience wants. Support, not scolding. New experiences, not lectures. And always, a sense of connection, not division.

Talking Animals in the Human World

Who Do Not Talk to Humans

Gary Larson

A popular sub-genre of talking animals is that of talking animals within the human world. These animals talk with one another and talk with the reader, but the humans in the story have no idea the animals can talk at all. This genre focuses on environments where humans and animals share space: farm, zoo, and, occasionally, the wild. Like the Gary Larson cartoon (above) these animals appear to live an animal’s life, but speak and often behave like people when humans aren’t there to see them.

The farm is the predominant setting for these stories. It creates an immediate bridge between the domestic world of humans and the wild life of animals. Due to the species best known as farm animals (horse, cow, pig, sheep etc) the farm doesn’t even need to be mentioned or shown. In HATTIE AND THE FOX by Mem Fox the only sign of human life is the barbed wire fence in a few of Patricia Mullins’ illustrations.

THE FOX AND THE HEN

The farmer and family appear in novels like BABE and CHARLOTTE’S WEB, but have no idea their farm animals speak with one another. Because picture books are typically illustrated on every page the farmer rarely appears. And if he does, it is most often at a distance. Animals may talk, gossip, and have their own human-like lives, but not at the same time they are traditional animals in a farmer’s barn. The animals must maintain their cover whenever he’s able to see them. To have humans actually converse with animals or casually accept behavior like a cow in a kilt dancing on two legs would be a completely different level of fantasy.

PETUNIA

The silly goose in Roger Duvoisin’s PETUNIA has one scene that includes the farmer, but she only speaks when he is out of sight.  Janet Morgan Stoeke’s sweetly naïve Minerva Louise enter the farmer’s house, but the people have no idea she is there.

MINERVA LOUISE

Three well-known picture books demonstrate the delicate balance between talking animals and humans when they do interact. Ferdinand (FERDINAND THE BULL) and his mother may speak, but they do not speak with the humans at the bullfight. The animals in Martin Waddell’s FARMER DUCK interact with the farmer, but when they do they do not speak in human language. They merely moo, baa, oink etc. The animals in Doreen Cronin’s CLICK CLACK MOO communicate with the farmer, but once again it is at a distance. They type messages, but never speak face-to-face in the same language.

As a literary element, talking farm animals have the following to offer writers:

*A domestic setting without humans

*The sense of a secret world right under the noses of adults. What child wouldn’t love that situation?

*A cast of characters that do not threaten one another. For danger, the fox must be introduced.

Just like some poets draft a poem in both free verse and rhyme to see which form best serves the idea, picture book writers have the chance to draft a story with humans, with domestic talking animals, and with animals free of all human contact. What matters most is which form best serves and shares the story.

THE NEW YORKER

Books Referenced Above

BABE, THE GALLANT PIG by Dick King-Smith. 1983.

CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B. White. Harper, 1952.

CLICK CLACK MOO: COWS THAT TYPE by Doreen Cronin. Illus. by Betsy Lewin. Simon & Schuster, 2000.

FARMER DUCK by Martin Waddell. Illus. by Helen Oxenbury. Candlewick, 1991.

THE FOX AND THE HEN by Eric Battut. Boxer Books, 2010.

HATTIE AND THE FOX by Mem Fox. Illus. by Patricia Mullins. Simon & Schuster, 1987.

MINERVA LOUISE by Janet Morgan Stoeke. Dutton, 1988.

PETUNIA by Roger Duvoisin. Knopf, 1950.

THE SECRET CHICKEN CLUB by George Shannon. Illus. by Deborah Zemke. Handprint, 2005.

THE STORY OF FERDINAND by Munro Leaf. Illus. by Robert Lawson. Viking, 1938.

THE SECRET CHICKEN CLUB