Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Song ~ Book

Singer/Songwriter Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary held a book signing for his beautiful new children's book Puff, the Magic Dragon at Barnes and Noble in Fairless Hills, PA on Monday evening. Much to my chagrin I could not attend the event but I was lucky enough to pick up three autographed copies this afternoon.

The illustrations by Eric Puybaret that accompany the lyrics to this well known folk song are so exquisite. The paintings capture the magic and adventure with simple, clean lines and comforting colors.

I love this book!

I guess it does not hurt that I also have a soft spot for this song. However, the book stands on its own as an engaging tale for children to read again and again. It is high quality goods that my description here can never do justice. The book also includes a four song CD containing new recordings of Puff, the Magic Dragon, Froggie Went A-Courtin', The Blue Tail Fly and an instrumental version of Puff, the Magic Dragon. I feel a bit like the cat that caught the canary as my mom would say.

This idea of giving new life to a song by re-imagining it as a children's book got me thinking about other songs that have gone the same route. A few years ago I bought my sister the children's book Sunshine on my Shoulders originally written and sung by the amazing John Denver.

This song has special significance for my sister and I as it is our song. When she was little there was a television program called The Sunshine Years (which I cannot seem to find any information on) about a widowed father raising his young daughter, Jill. He was a musician and they traveled around singing and spreading his wife's ashes. The dad was very loving and protective of his daughter and I always likened that TV relationship with me and my little sister. Sunshine on My Shoulders was one of the song's he played for Jill and I used to sing it to my sister when I tucked her in at night. Over the years I have given her the music and sang it to her accompanied by my trusty player piano. When this book/CD came out I simply had to get it for her.

Now she plays it for her youngest daughter who is four years old. When I was out on LI to see Josh (who is still in ICU with a bleeding spleen but on the mend) I sat and listened to the song while my niece and I followed along in the book. We did this twice and both times the song/book brought tears to my eyes. I am such a softie.

The book is adapted and illustrated by Christopher Canyon who has also transformed two other John Denver songs; Grandma's Feather Bed and Take me Home, Country Roads into children's books.

I shall conclude this list of song ~ books with the title that was actually the first instance of this phenomenon that I came across. It is Dolly Parton's masterpiece Coat of Many Colors. If ever there was a song that screamed children's book this is it.

Not only is it a beautifully moving song with a perfect message but it also translates effortlessly into a book for children and adults. The illustrations by Judith Sutton initially did not do it for me but I have come to appreciate the fact that they were perhaps meant to take a back seat to the lyrics. I ask you...Is there anything that Dolly cannot master?

So, good for me. I have two more Christmas gifts bought now that I am really excited about and another wonderful book to share with my first grade students this fall. Yippee! Somehow it seems so wrong that I could walk through the children's section at Barnes and Noble and feel so blissful. Children's books are getting better and better. Well, there will never be another Curious George but I must admit to the world that yes...I am a children's book addict. Can you say "Welcome, Gary"?


Pod said...

i always wanted to frollick in the autumn mist in a land called honah lee....

but the talking flute used to freek me out a little when i was but a tiny pod

a podule


Mikey said...

call me when they do a book of "Private Dancer" :)

Gary said...

Pod - I think you are mixing your Puffs. Puff from the song did indeed live in Honalee but the talking flute was from the TV show HR Puffinstuff. I was freaked out by Witchepoo, but that whole show was so over the top.

Mikey could you imagine the children's book to Private Dancer? Maybe I Can't Stand the Rain would be a better choice?

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

You need a 12 step program my friend. *WINK*

Seriously, I love it when things that are "old" become "new" again - how cool is that?

P.S. - I still think about how good your legs are from your Mexico pics. :-)

la bellina mammina said...

I love Puff The Magic Dragon!! An autographed you say? Can I sweet-talk you into selling one to me...???? Please? Pretty please??? :-)

Dumdad said...

I'll out myself: I love the Puff the Magic Dragon song. Radio DJ Ed Stewart, known as Stewpot, used to play it every weekend on his show when I was a kid. You've just sent me hurtling down memory lane!
(Weeren't there suggestions at the time that it was all about drugs?)

Reya Mellicker said...

I love your new banner ... is that what they call the top part of the blog?

And I LOVE the featured artwork. Wow!!

Hope you're recovering from the frightening experience of nearly losing your nephew.

marxsny said...

When I was a child back in the dark ages I too had a 45 of 'Puff the Magic Dragon" which I would listen to on my Close'N'Play. How could anyone suggest the song is about drugs. It's like saying "White Rabbit" or "Mother's Little Helper" are about drugs.

Junk Thief said...

Those all look good, but the illustraions for "Puff" look best. I've always had a weak spot for dragons.

Gary said...

JDZ-S, You have inspired me to get up off of my lazy summer bottom and get some exercise. Thanks! I want to feel as though I deserve your flattery.

La Bellina, If you are serious and really want one I can pick up another autographed copy today and send it to you. What is the postage like to Singapore? Let me know ASAP and I'll run out. No problem.

Dumdad, I was going to put in some talk of drugs in this post but could not seem to fit it in with the direction I was going. Thanks for bringing it up. A friend of mine said to me when I was off to buy it "Now, if there was ever a song about drugs that was it". I had to laugh. I mean, Puff? LOL.

Reya,I had several banners made by Cade over in Australia. Check him out at his blog

if you would like him to create one for you. He is fantastic and wants to do this for practice. His email is on his sidebar.

Mark, Of course I know what a Close'N'Play is! I used to love those things. How efficient.

Gregg, I agree. The illustrations for Puff are so wonderful.

Pod said...

oh yes. that's right.
still, frollicking is always good
have a smooth weekend


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