Oh My Goodness!

January 4, 2007 @ 1:46 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

I’m so excited! I just learned from Fuse #8 that the most beloved picture book of my childhood has been reissued—and the icing on this cake? The new illustrations are by George Booth. So! Excited!

Weasel
The book: Never Tease a Weasel by Jean Conder Soule. Did you hear that, father of mine? The very one, the book we quoted a dozen times a day when my sisters and I were tiny. I remember standing in my grandma’s kitchen chanting, “Never tease a weasel, Daddy! Not even once or twice…” (The Daddy part was a bit of preschooler editorializing.)

I have hunted for this book to no avail on Abebooks and other bookfinder sources. And now, finally, FINALLY, someone at Random House has gotten smart and brought it back.  Who was the brilliant editor, I wonder? I shall have to investigate and send flowers or something. I am that thrilled.

And getting George Booth to do the art! GENIUS! George is a New Yorker cartoonist, but far more important, he was the illustrator of April Halprin Wayland’s It’s Not My Turn to Look for Grandma—which Bonny Glen regulars might recognize as another one of my favorite picture books ever. Nobody, nobody, does whimsy-with-an-edge like George Booth. He was the perfect choice, an inspired choice, for Never Tease a Weasel, and Fuse#8 seems to agree.

Another illustrator might have gone the ootsy-cutesy route and
sacchrined this puppy up by the end. Not Booth. The final image is
heartwarming without ever becoming too overtly adorable. It’s nice.
That’s what Booth brings to the book. The rhymes are exceedingly clever
at times, but it’s the illustrator that has to compliment the action in
just the right way. For example, the rabbit in the riding habit, then,
hops along in his picture, losing various accouterments as he goes
“plop ploppity plop plop.” Booth gets how to do “awkward”. If the
thought of a possum in an Easter Sunday hat is silly then Booth knows
how to make such an image doubly so. Plus, he never makes the mistake
of having these ridiculous combinations make any sense. So the goat in
a coat “with a collar trimmed in mink”, looks simultaneously goatish
AND pissed off. The mule in swimming trunks (blinders still on) leaps
from the diving board in pretty much the most peculiar position
possible. And even as these various critters do their thing, they’re
enticing enough to hold a squirmy child’s attention for long periods of
time.

I was an editorial staffer at Random House Children’s when Mr. Booth was finishing up the art for Not My Turn to Look for Grandma. As I recall, he had been working on that book for a long, long time, and in the end he began coming into the RH offices to work: his idea, I believe, to get himself past the final hurdles. I was a young coffee-fetcher perched in a cubicle at the end of a long corridor, and I loved to see Mr. Booth amble down the hall in his quiet, courteous, gentle-giant way. I don’t believe we ever spoke, unless perhaps he asked once or twice if my boss, his editor, was in her office. Usually my boss was the one who went in search of him, peeking into the room down the hall and around the corner where George had set up camp. Inevitably I would hear her peal of laughter ringing down the corridor within seconds of her arrival in George’s office. He cracked her up, every time.

When the finished boards for each page would mosey past my desk, I too would dissolve into helpless giggles: George Booth’s art is quietly, deliciously killing. That sneaky old porcupine in the Grandma book! The dirty old dogs! Grandma herself, the hillbilly queen, with her knobby bun and toothless smirk, toes upspread as she slides down a haystack: children’s book art doesn’t get better than this.

And now, and now! This perfect marriage! I cannot WAIT to get my hands on a copy. Thank you, Betsy, for the heads-up!


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Comments

5 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. I have a copy of the original Never Tease a Weasel. We read it quite a bit as kids. The 1960s art always kind of scared me though. Maybe this reissue will be a bit better!

    Thanks for the tip.

  2. Are you sure it wasn’t “never wease a teasel” or please a measle, or lease an easel, that you and your sisters used to say instead? OR was it, perhaps, your Dad who always got so easily confused?
    But then, when your old man’s a Smothers Brothers fan…well, you KNOW what to think about THAT! (Thanks for for the CD –both CDs–!)

  3. This makes me so happy! I can’t wait to get it and read it to my children!

    Never tease a weasel
    this is very good advice
    Cause a weasel will not like it-
    And teasing isn’t nice!

  4. I loved hearing about your experiences while _It’s Not My Turn to Look for Grandma_ was being finished! I was privileged to hear the author at a Literary Women conference in Long Beach CA probably 10+ years ago and bought the book and tape then, even before I had kids.

    I’m looking forward to checking out _Never Tease a Weasel_… thanks for the info!

  5. We have the original, too! I inherited it from my mom. I have fond memories of my dad reading it to us kids. He used to say “wease a teasel”, also! I think your description of the new illustrations sounds much better than the old ones–I’m gonna have to think about purchasing the new book.
    Love your blog!