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, May 17, 2012

Rural wildlife

Dear Annie,

Oh my, you see that last illustration as a tired couple at the end of a long day of parenting -- but for me, I instantly identify: it's the Empty Nest!  The one that inspired the figurative one!  They've sent their babies off to new trees, and there they are, looking older and tired, singing to each other as they hunt.

I'm sticking with the rural wildlife theme, but veering off in a decidedly wacky fictional direction.  Two books of rollicking verse have recently come to the store: they're both illustrated by the wonderful George Booth, best known for his New Yorker cartoons, especially his flea-infested dogs.

Never Tease a Weasel
, written in 1964 by Jean Conder Soule, was re-illustrated by Booth five years ago.  The text is a bouncy nonsense rhyme -- very catchy.
You could make a riding habit
For a rabbit if you choose;
Or make a turkey perky with a pair of high-heeled shoes.
You could make a collie jolly
With a red crocheted cravat;
Or make a possum blossom
In an Easter Sunday hat.
But never tease a weasel,
not even once or twice.
A weasel will not like it --
And teasing isn't nice!
These too-old-for-picture-books girls give it the right level of enthusiasm:

I was so happy to find
Possum Come a-Knockin'
by Nancy Van Laan: she and Booth did the book back in 1990.  Readers watch through a window as more and more family members (and pets) engage in various activities while a grinning top-hatted possum stands outside, knocking on the door.

The action accumulates: Granny knits, Ma cooks, Pappy whittles, Sis tosses Baby in the air -- and the possum keeps on pounding.  The cat finally starts getting upset, leading the people to notice the cat, but not the possum.

When the humans finally open the door to see what's up, the possum has moved a few feet to hide behind the tree.  On the last page, he's hanging by his tail from the branch, holding his hat on his head.

It's just full of fun, and great visual detail to follow through the story.  I don't know why a book about a nighttime intruder should be so cheerful -- but it definitely is.



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