Literary giant Sid Fleischman died on March 17th at the age of 90. I have loved his work since I was a little girl—the McBroom books are some of the first books I remember reading and rereading and howling over and collecting. Even today I can still rattle off a good WillJillHesterChesterPeterPollyTimTomMaryLarryandlittleClarinda!
The amiable Farmer McBroom’s surprising triumph over that lowdown dirty swindler, Heck Jones, who sold McBroom an 80-acre farm and after pocketing the cash revealed that the 80 acres were stacked one on top of another like pancakes—at the bottom of a pond, no less—is one of the most deeply satisfying events in print, period. (You remember the tale. Blistering Iowa heat dries up the pond, leaving an acre of soil so rich that seeds grow to maturity in minutes, and if you drop a nickel, it’ll be a quarter before you can bend over to pick it up.)
The McBroom books
• McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales
McBroom Tells the Truth
McBroom and the Big Wind
McBroom’s Ear (Was this the one with the heat wave? So hot the corn was popping on the stalk?)
• Here Comes McBroom: Three More Tall Tales
McBroom the Rainmaker
McBroom’s Zoo (Sidehill Gougers! Teakettlers! Oh man, I loved this book.)
Besides McBroom, my favorite Fleischman is By the Great Horn Spoon.
I began reading this hilarious novel to the girls on a cold winter afternoon, but after Scott got caught up in the story during a coffee break, it became a family dinnertime read-aloud. At times, the kids laughed so hard I feared they would choke. We sailed with young Jack and his unflappable butler, Praiseworthy, from Boston Harbor all the way around Cape Horn and up to San Francisco. Along the way we visited Rio de Janeiro and a village in Peru. We panned for gold in California and made friends with half a dozen scruffy, optimistic miners. We found ourselves caring deeply about such oddities as rotting potatoes, dusty hair clippings, and the lining of a coat.
Caring about oddities, and making you care about them too—one of Sid Fleischman’s special geniuses.
Goodbye, Mr. Fleischman. We’ll miss you. Your imagination was as fertile as McBroom’s farm.
Memories of Sid Fleischman at Greenwillow Books (I especially loved the American Idol story).
Lin Oliver’s moving tribute at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators site (Sid was a founding member of the SCBWI):
“In 2003, the SCBWI established an award in Sid’s honor, for humorous writing for children. We will continue to honor his legacy by granting the Sid Fleischman Award to one deserving book each year. Sid was a great writer, a great friend, a great mentor to us all. His loss will be felt by all of SCBWI for a long time, but his work and his memory will survive.“
Related post: Hoppers.