Tuesday, April 7, 2009

'New' Favorites

Children's book author and illustrator James Marshall started his prolific outpouring of works in the mid 70s. I first came to know him through his retelling of classic fairy tales.

In 1989 his retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears was recognized as a Caldecott Honor book for his outstanding illustrations. That was followed by The Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel and my personal favorite Red Riding Hood. The heroines in his hands are spunky, sassy gals who have no trouble defending themselves.

I kept these titles in my stock of must share texts that I bring out year after year. Somewhere in the periphery there were the Miss Nelson books, and the Fox stories.

However, it wasn't until this year that I became a huge fan of Mr. Marshall.

It started with the George and Martha series. These are very short stories, usually five to a book, about two portly hippopotami who share a close friendship. Children can witness as they negotiate the larger themes of honesty, friendship, loyalty, respect and privacy.

An added bonus is the rich, delicious vocabulary sprinkled throughout the texts. Sadly, there are only seven titles in the series. Lauren went exploring on the Internet to see if there were any more in the pipeline and that is when we discovered that this unique author/illustrator passed away in 1992.

Another recent favorite is Snake: His Story about a snake who, unlike his parents who are deaf, can hear. There is a bit of a dilemma about what to do with this little guy who swings to the music his family does not hear. Of course it all works out well in the end.

Other titles you might want to check out are The Guest about the friendship between a moose and a snail and a book series about The Stupid Family. The Stupids are really, really stupid but rest assured, it is okay to laugh at their antics.


Dumdad said...

I'd never heard of James Marshall but do now thanks to your link. What a tragedy that a man with such a wonderful talent should die so early at 50 from a brain tumour. But, at least, his stories continue to delight.

Barbara said...

I had forgotten about the George and Martha books. I read those to my children and they loved them!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

when em was little the george and martha and the stupid family stories were among our favorite....thanks for reminding me of this children's book genius. I have totally forgotten about him and hence have yet to introduce tasha to the joys of james ...but you can be assured that next tuesday we'll be cruising the shelves of the library and checking out all my ol' faves

I knew nothing of mr marshall's bio, and am greatly saddened to learn of his premature and tragic death....

Arielle Lee Bair said...

I freaking LOVE reading about children's books. I also seriously LOVE hippos. I'm not kidding--I kind of...collect them.

Spunky heroines are so needed these days! Not to mention, children's stories that DON'T talk down to kids and spread vocabulary around in a way that allows the kids to learn through context.

Such a shame that a great creator like Marshall is no longer with us. He did leave a legacy though.

Gary said...

Dumdad - Yeah, I couldn't believe that he died so young. It's a tragedy. But, you are right. He did leave his wonderful artwork and stories for so many others to enjoy.

Barbara - I saw that George and Martha is also a TV show for children. I have never watched it, have you? I wonder if it is any good.

Kimy - Excellent. Ms. T is getting so big. I was amazed at the change in the last picture. She can probably read these books to you. Reading the 'Stupid' family books was really funny because after each page the kids would say "that's stupid" and laugh and laugh. Finally I had to stop and ask which part of that is stupid. I noticed that the text is quite normal and it is only when you look at the picture that you discover how stupid things are. I think I can work that into the importance of using pictures to inform young readers. Kinda cool.

Arielle - Then perhaps you'd like Seven Little Hippos by Mike Thaler. It's one of those number books where one jumps off and bumps his head, Momma calls the doctor... You know the rest. The pics of the young little hippos are adorable and the anguish on Momma's face is priceless.

Arielle Lee Bair said...

Gary! I HAVE Seven Little Hippos! I LOVE that book. It makes me smile. :D

lettuce said...

a moose and a snail eh? how fabulous

WAT said...

I watch my fair share of kid's films from time to time and I enjoy them, but maybe I should start checking out books as well. This kind of stuff makes me happy and forget my problems.


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