There has been much busy activity among butterflies and bees at the phystogesia plot this week. Two types of butterflies–swallowtails, probably, one predominately yellow, the other predominately black–and big black bees (those “Buccaneer[s] of Buzz”) are enjoying the light purple flowers, all getting along well.
These late summer days witness the sounds of insects over the songs of birds. Days are noticeably shorter now. Summer slowly steams down.
The laying of new carpet allowed me to empty drawers, closets, and bookshelves. I simplified by passing on to Goodwill many items. I eliminated enough books to contribute two small bookcases. I also contributed my badly worn wicker porch rocking chair, a small rocking chair, and several large paper bags of books. I await the arrival of my new twin bed; gone is my queen-sized bed and mattress. I shall be twin bed Bill. Until it arrives I am sofa bed Bill.
As I was choosing books to contribute, I looked again at and re-read five books written for children. They hold various memories for me.
(1) Christ Van Allsburg, The Mystery of Harris Burdick (Houghton Mifflin, 1986). The book is fourteen drawings with title and a sentence or two describing possible stories. The author, in “Introduction,” tells that Harris Burdick visited a publisher with the drawings, in shades of white and gray, with titles of stories (to be brought the next day) and “captions.” Burdick never returned. Over the years the publisher’s children and their friends wrote stories about the pictures, “some bizarre, some funny, some downright scary.” The author hopes other children will be inspired to write about the pictures.
(2) Tasha Tudor, The Springs of Joy (Rand McNally & Company, 1979). Tudor describes the books as “a statement of delight, drawn from memory past and present.” There are colored drawings of children, most engaged in outdoor activities and in clothes from earlier times. Some drawings are of domestic or woodland animals. Quotations are from writers such as Wilde, Thoreau, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Emerson, Twain, Poe, Shaw, Whitman.
(3) Mary O’Neill, Hailstones and Halibut Bones. Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard. (Doubleday & Company, 1961). The book is rhymed poems and color illustrations of twelve colors. Some lines of the poems list things that illustrate the color. For example, the title illustrates “white.” I like the lines which compare colors, such as purple’s being “sort of a great / Grandmother to pink.” The most interesting and imaginative descriptions are those that merge senses: “Brown is as comfortable / As love.” Or “Content is gray / And sleepiness, too / They wear gray suede gloves / When they’re touching you. . .” And “Orange is the smell / Of a bonfire burning…”
(4) Margaret Wise Brown, The Sailor Dog. Pictures by Leonard Weisgard. (Doubleday & Company, 1961) In twenty-two pages of mostly colored drawings we follow the dog Scuppers and his adventures: his birth at sea, his life on a farm, his return to the sea, his life on a ship, his surviving a shipwreck, building a house on shore and repairing the ship, his subsequent voyage to an exotic port, where he buys himself a suit of proper naval clothing. It’s a kind of fast-moving, episodic story that works well for children, giving short episodes and leaving them with their imagination and play to embellish the sequences.
(5) P. D. Eastman, Go, Dog, Go! (Beginner Books, Random House). The book is a bizarre, disjoined story of dogs in motion, enjoying activities, especially the driving of roadsters. At the end, they drive to a dog party at the top of a tree. It is written for beginning readers. The repetition in the text and the hilarious drawings make the book fun.
I associate the books by Allsburg, Tudor, O’Neill and Weisgard with teaching, especially writing classes and writing units. I read The Sailor Dog to Cujo, my German shepherd-collie, one Christmas Eve as I sat next to her on the floor by a fire in the fireplace. She sat attentive, her head cocked to one side and seemed to look at the book as I turned the pages. A friend, spending Christmas with me and watching from a chair, said afterward, “That’s one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.” I remember readings of Go, Dog, Go with my nieces when they were learning to read. We had good laughs at the text and pictures.
Did I discard any of these books? No.
I hope you are enjoying the last weeks of summer. Thank you for reading.