Animals -- humor
"I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs." —James Herriot
James Herriot was the pen name of James Alfred (“Alf”) Wight, a Scottish vet who practiced in England’s Yorkshire countryside, beginning in the days just before World War II. He wrote with humor and warmth, and, once he finally started writing, he soon found himself on the bestseller lists for stories about his work with animals and their people, beginning with If Only They Could Talk (known in the U.S. as All Creatures Great and Small). Additional volumes followed, each one filled with wise and wry observations.
A hunting party tiptoes through the dark woods, nets in hand. They spot their quarry, a beautifully colored bird, resting on a branch. The littlest member of the group greets the bird, but the others hush him. "Shh! We Have A Plan."
Battle Bunny is an exercise in sheer picture book anarchy. Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett have struck gold by inventing a sweet story called Birthday Bunny, reminiscent of the Little Golden Book series, then drastically adapting it for their own twisted purposes. We learn from a note on the title page that the book Birthday Bunny was a gift for a boy named Alexander, who has made some severe editorial changes with a lead pencil...starting with the cover.
Birds of a feather may flock together in Telephone, by Mac Barnett, but that does not mean they understand each other. Taking place on an actual telephone wire, the story begins with Peter the pigeon's mother asking a friend to tell him to fly home for dinner. Anyone who has played a game of telephone before will know what happens next.
I set off one morning in my little red canoe.
My dog wagged his tail.
“Can I come, too?”
It’s a perfect day to explore the lake for a young girl and her dog. They’ve got snacks, paddles, and life jackets--everything a One-Dog Canoe needs. The only problem is, they’re having such a good time that soon all the critters in the lake want to join them.
"This hat is not mine. I just stole it."
This is Not My Hat invites us into the mind of a tiny fish who cares nothing for his underwater brethren. The fish offers many reasons why he will succeed in his crime, why he deserves the hat over the much bigger fish he snatched it from. Obviously, we are dealing with a sociopath here.
Rosemary Wells is one of our best-loved writers and illustrators for very young people. Her “Max and Ruby” books capture the relationship between a bossy big sister and her inquisitive (and stubborn!) little brother. That they happen to look rather a lot like rabbits makes no difference to the stories. Rosemary Wells’ wry humor turns these brief books into rather perfect treasures for the preschool set.
“I have always thought my best stuff was in my sketchbooks. I have hundreds and hundreds of sketchbooks. I like to work at night, I suppose because that’s when my defenses are sort of low. I have my most creative ideas at night. I’m less inhibited, and I really let it rip.”
From: Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, edited by Leonard S. Marcus. p. 96; pp. 82-106 are on James Marshall
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, James Marshall’s whimsical drawings added humor to dozens of children’s picture books. While many were made for other writers’ works, including classics such as Mother Goose, Edward Lear, and Ogden Nash, he was also a talented writer on his own. Indeed, he became one of the most popular and prolific illustrators in children’s publishing. In high school, however, he wasn’t so much about the art--though he did doodle, as he called it--as about the music which he saw as a way to get a scholarship to college far away from swampy Texas town where his family lived.
If only I had read I'd Really Like to Eat a Child when I was small, life would have been so much easier.
This is not because I fell victim to some carnivorous beastie that could only be satisfied with devouring yours truly--though once I was surrounded by a ferocious herd of petting-zoo goats. Rather, I might have understood the importance of eating whatever my parents told me to.
I am a former picky eater. Fruits and vegetables were not my bag, and hot dogs reigned supreme. One time I even threw a stuffed pepper out the window. Fortunately, time has passed, and I began to appreciate the foods that I once avoided. But I know how the little crocodile Achilles feels when he rejects his parents' meal of freshly-picked bananas. "Today, I'd really like to eat a child."
What is a bear’s favorite baseball team? Why the Cubs of course! In Grin and Bear It, by Leo Landry, Bear is becoming confident in telling his jokes on Woodland Stage in front of all his friends. The only foreseeable problem is that Bear suffers from stage fright. Whenever he tries to speak in front of people, his knees knock, his paws pause, his fur freezes while he stutters, barely being able to speak. Bear rehearses over and over again in front of his mirror while constantly writing new jokes. He feels ready.