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.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Funky parents, and a chicken

Dear Aunt Debbie,

After writing briefly about Bob Graham last week, I found myself thinking more about the wealth of detail in his illustrations.  Rereading April and Esme, ToothFairies, I noticed that Fay, the fairy mom, has a small blue tattoo on her right shoulder. (Take an extra moment here to appreciate the household items that have been repurposed as bathroom furniture.)

John, the fairy dad, sports a ponytail. In an early scene, he's shown hanging up the family laundry to dry in front of the fireplace.

They're a little funky.

This shouldn't be a surprise: the parents Bob Graham draws often are.  Here are the mom and dad from Oscar's Half Birthday, moving furniture aside to dance together in the living room after they get home from celebrating:

And here are the parents from Queenie, One of the Family: mom with short pink hair, dad with an earring knitting booties for their coming baby:

Queenie is another favorite of ours, gifted by you.  It's the story of a family living across a highway from farmland, who rescue a hen from a lake and take her home for a bit before bringing her back to the farm where she belongs.  (Again, there's that city/country combination.)

They name the hen Queenie, and she bonds with the family: mom, dad, daughter Caitlin, and Bruno the dog, whose basket she usurps before being taken back to the farm.  But Queenie returns: every morning, she walks from the farmyard over the road, across the highway bridge, and in through the dog door to lay an egg in Bruno's basket.

The drawings show what happens to the eggs, which are used for breakfast and then to make a cake for Caitlin's first birthday. And it is the drawings, rather than the text, which set us up for the birth of Caitlin's little brother.  This isn't a heavy-handed New Baby book: the preparations for the baby take place entirely in pictures, and the focus isn't on Caitlin's reaction to him (though there's a lovely illustration at the end of her trying to balance a stuffed animal on his head).  But the baby's arrival is exciting enough that Caitlin forgets to collect Queenie's eggs, and Bruno the dog accidentally hatches them. Then the chicks need to be returned to their mother, across the highway bridge and over the path -- Graham's refrain in this book is "That might have been the end of the story -- but it wasn't!"  There is so much story here, and so much warmth to be found in rereading.

Love, Annie

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