In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

On our way to Skokie

Dear Annie,

I'm sorry for you, going through too-few-books/not-enough-parents reading madness.  Many of us are looking forward to being able to spell you when you get up here on Wednesday.  Here are a couple of paragraphs which could explain why Isabel is so happy with all that repetition.

In the pile of books I brought down from upstairs for your girls, I've found another of our old favorites.  About a year ago, you and I blogged about family literary references: those little phrases from books read long ago which live on in conversation.  As we head out on trips (short or long), some of us often let slip, "We're on our way to Skokie," to which the response is, "Everything is Okey-Dokey."  The reference is to a 1977 (out of print, alas) book of three short stories by Rosemary Wells: Don't Spill It Again, James.  They're about two brother roly-poly furry animals -- I think they're foxes.  Our favorite story, "Skokie," starts:

We're on our way to Skokie.
Everything is Okey-Dokey.
I've got the money.
You've got the lunch.
We've got our presents 
In a great big bunch.

The pictures show the two brothers and much luggage getting onto a train and settling comfortably into a compartment.  For years, those illustrations of what I think of as a European train led me to believe (erroneously) that Wells was British.  This was despite the Illinois-ness of the destination.  The poem bounces along cheerily, with the illustrations showing what's actually going on.  A large adult owl smoking a cigar comes into the compartment ("We're on our way to Skokie. Everything is very smoky.") The boys look a bit green around the gills, the owl falls asleep while reading his newspaper, and the boys put out the resulting fire with the bottle of milk from their picnic lunch.  All share pieces of cake.

The style of this book is definitely before the more commercialized versions of some of Wells' work came on the scene.  The characters are endearing and there's so much to look at in the pictures.  We'll see what Eleanor and Isabel think of it later this week.



No comments:

Post a Comment