Archive for January 4th, 2007

Oh My Goodness!

January 4, 2007 @ 1:46 pm | Filed under: ,

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!

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

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!

Copywork as Consequence

January 4, 2007 @ 7:56 am | Filed under: ,

Jeanne wrote:

I admit to being curious about your giving copywork to the oldest
sister as a consequence. It sort of surprised me. Maybe it’s because I
have boys, for whom copywork-as-consequence would pretty much cement in
their brains writing-is-punishment. Have I not read enough Charlotte
Mason to get some underlying connection, or is this just something that
you don’t have to be concerned about because the proclivity-to-write is
so strong in your kids? (Which wouldn’t surprise me a bit).
Copywork-as-consequence is one of those things that would never cross
my mind as appropriate for our family — while totally respecting that
if it works for your family, you surely know and use it wisely and well.

Ooh, Jeanne, that’s a really good question. No, I’m not drawing this particular idea from Charlotte Mason, and in fact it does run a bit counter to her views on habit-training. (I admit to finding her total optimism a wee bit amusing; while I TOTALLY AGREE that proactive habit-training is the best way to cultivate pleasant behavior, I do also find occasion for some remedial measures!)

But back to your question. Yes, my girls—the two oldest only, so far, mind—are enthusiastic enough about writing that I do feel comfortable assigning the occasional passage of copywork as a consequence for inappropriate behavior. It doesn’t happen often; perhaps twice a month. ("No dessert" as a consequence is much more common around here.) Like you, I wouldn’t dream of assigning punitive copywork to a child if I thought it would give that particular child a bad taste in the mouth for ALL writing.

The reason I like it as a once-in-a-while measure for Jane and Rose is because I can choose a passage related to whatever incident merited the consequence, and I really think they benefit much more from the quiet, reflective act of copying out someone else’s words (perhaps a passage from Louisa May Alcott) than listening to a lecture from me. (Not that a lecture is the only alternative, but there are times a mom does need to get a certain point across.) I try not to make it a big "in-your-face" thing, just something subtle, a paragraph or two in which a fictional character is dealing with a similar fault.

As I write it, it sounds awfully smarmy, but I can honestly say it has never felt that way in practice. It seems to work very well for Rose in particular, and usually afterward there will come a time later in the day when she—my most reserved, introverted child—gets very chatty with me about whatever incident precipitated the copywork. We’ve had some great talks this way, and I think the copywork helps her cool off and get outside the emotional storms she struggles with, if that makes sense.

By the way, Jeanne and everyone, I really appreciate the thoughtful questions and comments you all contribute here! Thank you for keeping the conversation rolling!