Sunday, July 22, 2007

Apologies and classics...

I want to apologize for the lapse in posting. Between the two small children (one of them colicky), the ongoing sinus infection, the bout of pinkeye, and the book deadline, I'm not doing a lot of reading...

But what I am reading, I'm loving.

Remember Mister Dog?

With words by Margaret Wise Brown (of Goodnight Moon fame) and pictures by Garth Williams (he brought Little House on the Prairie to life) Mister Dog was a childhood favorite. And when I read it (for the first time in 30 years) last week I remembered why.

There's something disjointed about the book. Almost unedited. There's no real storyline at all. Rather, the book is a list of details about the life of Mister Dog.

We're told that Mister Dog is named Crispin's Crispian because... he belongs to himself. We're told about how he takes a little walk and discovers a land of rabbits and cats, and another one of dogs. About how he finds a boy who also belongs to himself, and about how he and the boy go back to Crispin's Crispian's house to make themselves some dinner. We learn that Mister Dog is a conservative (and what that entails is funny) and... that's pretty much the book.

Now, why does this make me love Mister Dog?

Because this book breaks all the rules. No tension or mystery of any kind. Nothing to resolve. Just a list of random details in one day in the life of a dog who wears a straw hat.

And the characters aren't even that loveable. The boy who belongs to himself refuses to share his chop with Crispin's Crispian, and looks to be a little standoffish. Crispin's Crispian is a biot of a loner (why doesn't make friends with the other dogs) and also a neat freak.

And yet... and yet these characters feel human to me, honest. They feel like people I know. Lonely people. Imperfect people. Highly unusual people in the world of kiddie lit.

And then of course, the pictures are amazing, and the words are... well... they're the words of Margaret Wise Brown.

Who was, perhaps, drunk when she wrote them. Or lonely and depressed. Or pulling our legs.

But still a genius.

Now, back to my insanely messy child-filled house (since I am *no* conservative!)


p dog said...

So it's not just me that wonders about Ms. Wise Brown's state of mind when she wrote Big Red Barn and The Color Kittens...!

Even Goodnight Moon, man, the thing just doesn't track!

Laurel said...

I know! But remember, that was back in the days of "cocktail hour" and sleeping pills...

I'd like to see anyone sell those books in today's market!

SarahP said...

Such an odd book...

Our favorite was always Four Fur Feet. We had a version with these funky illustrations.

Alice said...

Yes! Mister Dog. A true classic.

Dunno why exactly..... anything with Garth Williams' drawings is enchanting. All those details Wise Brown has.... "taking himself for a walk"... groogy eyed in the morning making his breakfast... arranging clean dishes just so because Hr. D is a "conservative".. Bump into another loner and both are happy - but still the same in their skins. A funny old dog... in a why that makes you think and laugh at the same time.