Today I read a wonderful little story to my boys, and in a flash I was transported back to my blogging days of yore when I obviously had more time on my hands than I do now. And in that same flash, I decided to bring back the Friday’s Vintage Finds feature here at Hope Is the Word. Sharing good books is truly one of my greatest joys in life, so I just can’t let it go unsaid.
It is an established fact that I am a Robert McCloskey fan, through and through. I would love to get up to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, while the Robert McCloskey exhibit is there, but I’m afraid I’ll have to settle for enjoying his books with my children instead. Today I nabbed Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man off the shelf to share with my boys, ages six and three, sure that it would be a hit. I’m finding that it takes a certain kind of book to really grab my boys’ attention, and this book has it all: excitement, snack-crackle-pop language, humor, and fabulously emotive illustrations. This is the story of the titular character, one Burt Dow. He’s old and retired, but that doesn’t mean he’s given up seafaring; in fact, he still has two boats: an old dory that serves well as his flowerbed and an old double-ender, the Tidely-Idley, that’s leaky but still operational. Burt takes the Tidely-Idley out one morning and has quite an adventure when he comes up close and personal with a whale. I don’t want to give away the plot, but can I just say that combining whales, peppermint-striped band-aids, and Burt Dow and the Tidely-Idley taking refuge from a storm (“like Jonah,” in the words of three year old Benny) make for a mighty appealing story.
Who could resist a story that includes a little scene like this:
Burt Dow has a giggling gull for a pet. Every morning she roosts on the roof of the shed where Burt keeps his fishing gear.
The gull giggles, “Tee-he-he-hee!” until Burt comes out and tosses her a pancake or a popover, or sometimes a piece of cinnamon toast.
The value of this fun story shouldn’t be underestimated: from the wonderful imagery to the alliteration that’s sprinkled throughout the story to the humorous characterization, it has a little something for everyone. Burt Dow is just such a likable character! Add this book to your list of vintage gems to be on the lookout for. Highly, Highly Recommended. (Penguin, 1963)
- Exhibition overview on the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art website–slideshow contains artwork from this very story!
- Author/Illustrator spotlight: Robert McCloskey at Hope Is the Word
- Review of A Caldecott Celebration by Leonard S. Marcus (mention of Robert McCloskey in this very interesting volume) here at Hope Is the Word