Illustrator, Erik Blegvad, died last week aged 90. He illustrated over 100 children’s books in his lifetime. Today’s perfect picture book is one of my favorites. He illustrated it for for friend and fellow Dane, N. M. Bodecker.
Written by N. M. Bodecker
Illustrated by Erik Blegvad
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1998
Themes: nonsense verse, elderly couple, winter
Hurry, hurry, Mary, dear, fall is over winter’s here. Not a moment to be lost,
in a minute we get frost!
In an hour we get snow!
Drift like houses! Ten below!
Dear harried, elderly Mary rushes hither and thither from kitchen chores, to gathering and canning, to wood chopping and fire stoking, even oiling the old tennis racquet-like snow shoes. She must,
Pick the apples, dill the pickles, chop down the trees for wooden nickels.
And what is her husband doing throughout these rigorous physical preparations for the onset of what looks like a (rural) winter like the one we have been having this year? Nada, niente, nichts! Yes, this rotund, aging gentleman sits and rocks and gives his wife continual advice on what needs doing before the storms arrive. I will leave it to your imagination to come up with skinny Mary’s gesture on the final page!
Why I like this book:
Originally written as a nonsense poem, this story nevertheless has a clear story arc, beautifully set in a bygone time when butter was churned and cheese was curdled. Blegvad is a master of these traditional scenes, capturing rural farm life fifty years ago as well as the augmenting stress and fatigue of dear Mary in wonderful watercolor! This is a story of adult domestic drama and yet I am quite sure that young children will get it and find plenty of humor. It is a fabulous read-aloud with flowing whimsical rhyme, that will have parents more than happy to give repeat readings. Kids will enjoy spotting the black cat on each spread! There is an illustrator’s note at the beginning detailing his relationship with the author, which dated back to their art school days in Copenhagen in 1951.
If you didn’t get a chance, do read the NYT article about Blegvad as you may be surprised to know that he illustrated some of your favorites like, BEDKNOB AND BROOMSTICKS!
With younger children I would make lists of chores that might need to be done in cities and towns to prepare for winter.
With older children, I think one could discuss chore-sharing!
Every Friday, authors and Kidlit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the perfect picture books with resources, please visit Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.