My very favorite book when I was a preschooler, made all the more wonderful by the art of the inimitable George Booth. “Never tease a weasel, not even once or twice. A weasel wouldn’t like it, and teasing isn’t nice!” This was one of the first books I learned by heart. Loads of fun with language, and that refrain is irresistible.
Bink reminds me of Tib: tiny, fluffy, determined. Gollie is just this side of an Edward Gorey character. Which is to say: I adore ’em both. Rilla won’t let me read this one to her just once. Gotta be two or three times in a row. A smart, funny, sophisticated Early Reader—which sounds like an oxymoron but isn’t. Rilla is captivated by the intense personalities of Bink and Gollie, and by the ups and downs of their relationship. Every time we read it, she wants to discuss and discuss. In a way, this is her first book-club book: that book you love so much you just have to talk about it.
Poor Mr. Pusskins, tormented by that rogueish kitten, and blamed for his hijinks to boot. Wonderful expressions on the feline faces here. Rilla is smitten with cat and kitten.
My SIL recommended this one and I bet I’ve read it a hundred times so far this week. No exaggeration. Huge hit with the three youngest, especially Rilla who is in a big rhyme phase. Bonus: vacuum cleaner sucking noises.
One of my favorites from my stint as a first-round CYBILs picture book judge in 2008. Now a repeat request from Rilla, who loves the quiet, earnest tone of this story about a boy who rescues an injured pigeon. The kind of book you pore over and talk about, heads together.
A family favorite. Grandma Jo loses her glasses the night before Little Lloyd is due for a visit. That’s how she happens to bring home an escaped zoo lion instead. She plies her furry visitor with ice cream and dancing, and they have a fine old time, managing to thwart a burglar while they’re at it. Big belly laughs from my littles over this one.
More book recommendations here.
Alison McGhee, Bink and Gollie, Bob Graham, books I adore, books my five-year-old loves, books my four-year-old loves, books my three-year-old loves, George Booth, Hooray for Grandma Jo, How to Heal a Broken Wing, Jan Thomas, Jean Conder Soule, Kate DiCamillo, Mr Pusskins and Little Whiskers, Never Tease a Weasel, picture books, Rhyming Dust Bunnies, Rillabooks, Sam Lloyd, Thomas McKean, Tony Fucile
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!
It’s Not My Turn to Look for Grandma by April Halprin Wayland, illustrated by George Booth.
Dawn was just cracking over the hills. Ma was splitting kindling on the back porch.
“Woolie!” she called out. “Where in the hickory stick is Grandma?”
“Dunno,” said Woolie. “It’s not my turn to look for Grandma!”
I’ve been reading this book to my kids for eight or nine years, and it still makes us all giggle. April Halprin Wayland (author of another of our family favorites, the quiet and lovely To Rabbittown), depicts this quirky backwoods family with wit and warmth, and George Booth’s illustrations are a hoot. Ma, a hardworking backwoods mother, needs Grandma’s help and keeps sending the kids to fetch her—but Grandma’s too busy sliding down the haystack with her dirty old dog, or doing something similarly outlandish. She’s never too busy, however, for a banjo band…
The rollicking text is a joy to read aloud. The writing is fresh and lively, and the characters are pure originals—especially that dirty old dog and a pair of disreputable porcupines. George Booth’s art, which would be hilarious even without the words, captures them perfectly. If I had to narrow down our picture book collection to ten titles (horrific thought!), this one would make the cut for its never-fail ability to invoke the belly-laughs I love.
For more picture-book recommendations, visit my Booknotes page.