Archive | September 2013

A Pirate Book! Edward and the Pirates by David McPhail

The cover of the children's picture book Edward and the Pirates by David McPhail

September 19th is “Talk Like a Pirate Day” (a tradition started by humor columnist Dave Barry). So to honor this momentous occasion, I’d like to share a review of one of my favorite children’s picture books about pirates.

“Edward and the Pirates” is such a great title for a children’s picture book. (This book was a “Publisher’s Weekly” bestseller!) And David McPhail more than lives up to it. McPhail had already written more than 40 children’s books, including three about a troubled little boy named Edward. The boy first appeared in “Santa’s Book of Names,” but in this first sequel he’s meeting a more exciting character – pirates! (And his next adventure would be “Edward in the Jungle”…)

McPhail writes and illustrates the books – but fortunately, he’s good at both! There’s a great illustration on the title page of a moonlit ocean and a shadowy chest of doubloons (with a skull and crossbones on its side). But all the illustrations are gorgeous. There’s a ship on an aqua sea, and a drawing of rolling waves swamping the boat as Edward struggles at it’s wheel. They add a lot to the book, and some of the drawings even look like oil paintings – even if it’s just Edward at his breakfast table!

“Once Edward learned to read, there was no stopping him,” McPhail writes. It’s a nice segue from the first book (in which Edward couldn’t read until after a magical meeting with Santa). Now he’s reading cereal boxes at the breakfast table, and “seed catalogs that arrived on the coldest day of winter.” But especially…books! And it seems appropriate that as Edward discovers the joy of reading, he’s drawn with some suitable wonderful illustrations. The library has now become Edward’s favorite place, and McPhail adds that Edward “especially liked stories of adventures…”

Edward imagines himself rescuing Robin Hood, or traveling by dog sled to the North Pole. Once he even imagines he sees real dinosaurs outside his window. And as he’s reading a book about pirates, pirates gradually start to appear. McPhail makes a seamless transition, showing the ocean itself rolling up to Edward’s bed (where he’s deeply engrossed in the book). Pirates want to borrow it – since it tells where their treasure was buried. But Edward refuses, since he’s already checked out the book on his library card.

In his bedroom, the pirates threaten him, until his mom arrives on a white horse and later his father with a bow and arrow. “I don’t think they meant any harm,” says Edward politely. “They only came for this book.” There’s a beautiful drawing of the lagoon under a silvery sky, with the window of Edward’s room in the foreground. Unfortunately, the pirates aren’t able to find their treasure with the book after all.

Because unlike Edward, they’re not able to read!

A sequel to Calvin and Hobbes?

Some comic artists/fans on the web are imagining a sequel to Calvin and Hobbes called Calvin and Bacon

Everyone I know loved Calvin and Hobbes, the comic strip about a boy and his stuffed tiger. Some comic artists have now imagined a kind of sequel, where it’s 36 years later, and Calvin is all grown up and married to Susie. And he has a little girl who’s playing with the same stuffed tiger!

Each artist is a fan of the original comic strip, and it’s inspired them to create some wonderful artwork. There’s a real fondness for the original characters, and it looks like they’re trying to stay true to the spirit of Bill Watterson’s original strip. The original Calvin and Hobbes ran for 10 years, from 1985 until 1995 (according to Wikipedia), and there’s apparently a lot of people who still really miss it.

The first artist drew just four full-color “Sunday” comic strips back in 2011, according to an unofficial history of the project. Keeping with the tradition of playfully naming zany characters after famous philosophers, he’d imagined that Calvin would name his daughter Francis Bacon, and the strip was called “Calvin and Bacon”. But then other online comic artists — who were also fans of the strip — decided to continue the idea. There’s now three different cartoonists who have each created a few more strips, imagining the further adventures of Calvin, and the little girl who inherits his beloved stuffed tiger.

I thought they were inspired partly by this heart-tugging painting of a grown-up Calvin, who first re-discovers his tiger Hobbes in a box in the attic. But it looks like that painting was done in 2013. I guess it means lots of people have found memories of Calvin and Hobbes, and maybe also a secret wish that the characters would somehow magically come back!

The 500 Hats of Dr. Seuss

Hat drawing by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss had a private collection of hats!

There is the iconic red and white striped hat from Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat”… There is the red felt cap with a white feather famously featured in Seuss’ “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins”…

And his hats are now touring the country, starting at the public library in New York City and travelling as far as Sausalito, California. Seuss had more than 150 hats, according to the curator of the Dr. Seuss art collection, and he told the San Francisco Chronicle that visitors will recognize them from their memories of the hats in his books. Fitting, the hats were hidden in a secret room behind a book shelf in his house in La Jolla.

And Dr. Seuss also had a second secret…

Unbeknownst to his reading public, Dr. Seuss also created a series of secret paintings, which he labored on privately to deliver ” elaborate works from the imagination”. The paintings are described as “compelling” by the curator of a new traveling exhibit, who described them as “midnight paintings” (created on the artist’s own time). Both the paintings and the hats give a better idea of the life of Dr. Seuss. And it also makes it seem like his life must’ve been a lot of fun.

For example, in 1937 his sister Marnie told one newspaper that ” I have seen him put on an impromptu show for guests, using the hats as costumes! He has kept a whole party in stitches just by making up a play with kitchen knives and spoons for actors…” And of course, he even worked his hobbies into some of his hobbies.

The second book he ever published was “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.”