7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #162: Featuring Old-Skool
Michael Foreman

h1 April 11th, 2010 by jules

“…All at once the general came upon a field of beautiful flowers.
Never had he seen such a wonderful sight…”

(Click to enlarge spread.)

I’ve got a couple of spreads to share this morning from the 50th anniversary edition of author/illustrator Michael Foreman’s first illustrated title, The General (published by Templar Books). And that’s ’cause I adore Foreman’s work and oh heavens why wouldn’t I take any and every opportunity to feature him?

The General, written by Janet Charters (this was also her first book), was originally published in the U.K. in 1961. It’s the very simple tale of a military general, General Jodhpur, who strives to be the most famous and well-respected general in all the world, but who falls off his horse one day, lands on some soft grass, takes some time to lay back in the warm sunshine, and then has a grand epiphany about how he’d never really taken time to notice things like flowers and bees before. As a result, he proclaims to his army that, instead of longing for the day when “he and his army would be so famous that a book would be written about them,” they need to “never harm or frighten anything again…I will try to help the animals and tend the flowers and plants and all other things that grow.” He even goes so far as to tell the soldiers to leave the army and return to their homes and jobs. Farmers plow fields and sow seeds, the fishermen head out to sea, and the army camp is turned into a “lovely city with shops and schools…{with} parks where children could play” (a spread whose illustration adorns the book’s cover if you think to remove the dustjacket). Eventually, the general is praised for having made his country the most beautiful in the world.

And that’s about it. Sure, it’s what a lot of folks would call a naive tale, as war is never an uncomplicated thing, but most of these picture books about war for very young child readers are such. (Think Davide Cali’s and Serge Bloch’s The Enemy: A Book about Peace.) The point, very obviously, as the publisher likes to point out, is that it’s a “celebration of peace and beauty,” a nudge to child readers to consider how hard we humans stomp, so to speak, on the earth. And that, ultimately, is a good thing.

Fans of Foreman will be pleased to see his art in action in this, his first published title. In fact, a fascinating note from the publisher at the book’s close notes:

One frightful night while a three-year-old Michael lay fast asleep, a bomb came crashing through his bedroom ceiling—this is his first memory. The bomb missed him by a few inches, bounced on the floor, hit the wall, and then dropped into the fireplace, where it exploded up the chimney. When the war ended, Michael looked forward to a world of peace, but unfortunately his teenage years were lived under the threat of nuclear war. In creating their first book…Janet and Michael wanted to produce a fun and lively story that encouraged a sympathetic outlook on the world.

And it is utterly fascinating to illustration junkies such as myself to see this, his early work, and compare it to, say, this (his later work). I was surprised at the very sort of John-Burningham vibe in this early work of his.

Here’s another spread for you so that you can see it for yourself and don’t have to take my ramblings for it:

“The fishermen took their nets and went out to sea.”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

* * * * * * *

THE GENERAL. Text copyright © 1961 by Janet Charters. Reprint © 2010 by Janet Abis. Illustration © 1961 by Michael Foreman. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press.

* * * * * * *

As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New folks are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1). Finally getting a compost bin. Do you even know how long I’ve wanted to do this?

2). Cilantro, dianthus, marigolds, moonflowers, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, sunflowers, basil, and much more for our gardens. Including catnip so that we can watch our cats get goofy.

3). A new song from Sam this week, a bonus track that comes from the EP pictured here. It is exquisite and spreads joy. Both the song and the EP, that is.

3½). As I’m typing this, I’m listening to Sam’s “Fan Dance” at the mp3 player at her site. This is ONLY MY FAVORITE SONG IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD.

4). The B-52s.

5). Finally making a bit of progress on some writing.

6). A great evening with a good friend on her back deck on a chilly spring evening with a fire in her chiminea (MY GOD, ALL THOSE PREPOSITIONS) and sharing a bottle of wine and just talking—and sharing good music—till about midnight. And a great phone conversation with a great long-distance friend, too.

7). Sunshine.

* * * * * * *

BONUS!: First, if you haven’t seen this post about the Guys Lit Wire and Operation Teen Book Drop event for Navajo and Apache teens, then by all means, head over there.

Secondly, there is so much poetry goodness going on at various and sundry blogs this month for National Poetry Month. Too many to name, but the bottom of this post over at A Year of Reading names the ones I’m doing my best to follow (such as, Jama, Tricia, Jone, Greg, Andi, Kelly—not to mention A Year of Reading, too—and many more. See. I named some of them anyway. Don’t ever believe me when I say I’m not going to do something.)

* * * * * * *

What are YOUR kicks this week? Anyone around? If it’s quiet today—’cause you’re all suffering Spring Fever and feeling very ADHD and jumping around outside, as I am—then I’ll understand.

26 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #162: Featuring Old-Skool
Michael Foreman”

  1. I just read this one and loved it – so beautiful to look at and the story is simple but works. My son was mightily impressed as well and since he’s the target audience (8 yrs old), I think that says alot about it’s timelessness

    My kicks:

    1. The wishlists for the Ojo Encino Day School & Alchesay High (in the Operation Teen Book Drop link above). This was such a long hard slog to get together but man oh man has it been awesome to see all the generosity from so many folks. It’s a two week event and I’d love to see 300 books go to each of these schools; here’s hoping our momentum holds.

    2. Neil Gaiman not only tweeted about the wish lists (resulting in 3,000 visitors to GLW in a few hours) but also tweeted me personally. My inner fangirl nearly fainted with joy. Totally.

    3. I found an interesting connection between Jack Kerouac and my father which has transformed an essay I’m working on. Can’t say more now, but weird to be writing about my father, again.

    4. Donuts on Friday night. Just ’cause.
    5. Sunshine & 60 degrees promised this week. At last!
    6. 3 Booklist reviews written and sent in. (whew!)
    7, New issue of Bookslut went up – and next month is my 6th anniversary there. Can you believe it? I can’t!!

    Thanks for the link to GLW, Jules – really appreciate it!

  2. I love Michael Foreman’s general walking into thin blue trees, peacocks, and ivy covered animals. And so glad to hear about all the planting and sun, and wine and music, in your life, Jules. Colleen, yay on the book gathering, writing, and getting a tweet from Neil Gaiman!

    1. I heard Borrowed Names will get a starred review from The Horn Book! Pinch me. Or don’t.
    2. And Jules, thanks for your sweet words about the book.
    3. I’m setting about 20 plates on the table(s) for week-after-Easter, when it seems that everyone is free to come. Including one four month old who will have a crash course in moving between many hands.
    4. The lemon cake is cooling.
    5. I can make above as two of my favorite teens are bringing brownies, for those who insist on chocolate. My mother-in-law asks, “Is the Z family coming?” Meaning, should she just basically skip lunch and wait for these melt-in-your-mouth bars.
    6. It’s poetry week, or week-ish (a few other things must be crammed in) in my children’s lit course. I decided to let go of control and just have them bring in poems they like. I’m kind of bracing for an all Shel Silverstein day, which could be fine, but I hope for some surprises.
    7. Daffodils from the yard on the table. And the big dog smells like mud: spring’s price.

  3. 1. Sleeping in.
    2. Yesterday’s Aprily goodness (blue skies, sun, blooming EVERYthing)…hoping for more today!
    3. 10 poems written in 10 days!
    4. My students’ foray into poetry writing.
    5. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.
    6. Franki’s tireless energy.
    7. Did I mention sleeping in? 🙂

    Now, while my brain is fresh, I’m off to write annotations, grade papers, clean the house, work in the garden, plan summer workshops, and write a poem!

  4. Happy Springy Sunday!

    I do love The General. Thanks for sharing the spreads. And Sam’s album cover! Like the big kitty :). Your kicks are full of sunshine and great music and lovely garden things. So nice!

    Very cool about Neil Gaiman and Jack Kerouac, Colleen!

    Congrats on another starred review, Jeannine! Love your book SO much, and think it’s going to make you EVEN MORE famous all across the land . . . :). But, you are a lemon cake and brownie tease!

    Keep those poems coming, Mary Lee. Am so enjoying visiting your blog every day.


    Spring is back after a strange bout of tropical weather.

    Our dogwoods are blooming! Tiny green leaves returning to trees.

    Some of our warped floor boards from this winter magically unwarped themselves.

    This happened around the same time our Kit Kat clock magically started wagging its tail again after a long period of stillness.

    Enjoying all the great poetry events around the blogosphere. Susan Taylor Brown’s Father-Daughter poems are so moving.

    Have a good week. Glad your writing is going well, Jules.

  5. Hope all of you are doing well! I apologize for doing another quick fly-by. I have an all-day rehearsal and I have to leave very soon!

    1) Visiting family
    2) Turning cartwheels on the beach
    3) Hope restored
    4) Prepping for Operation TBD
    5) Good books
    6) Calm
    7) Rest

  6. Timeless books are so wonderful. Thanks for sharing this on, Jules.
    Glad to hear about your writing, too.
    Colleen, thank you for organizing the book drop to such great places.
    Jeannine, woot on the starred review.
    Mary Lee, I am loving your poems.
    Jama our dogwoods are about to burst.
    LW, cartwheels on the beach? How cool.
    My week:
    1. Mary Lee and Jules stopping by to see the writing of the students or my poems.
    2. 10 days and 10 poems
    3. Friends and support.
    4. My husband, Chuck
    5. Naps
    6. PTA springing for a spur of the moment poet to come to school on Tuesady, Susan Blackaby.
    7. Comment from 5th gradt boy to his mom,”MsMac trusts us, she lets us read books with swear words in them.”

  7. Jules,

    There’s so much going on “poetry-wise” in the kidlitosphere that I can’t keep up with it all. It’s good that so many bloggers are celebrating poetry this month. Now…if we celebrated poetry all year long–that would be fantastic!


    1. I’m with you on your kick #5. I had an extended dry spell in regard to writing. But things changed recently. I’m been writing up a storm…of poems–and posting most of them at my blog. It feels so good to feel inspired and to be writing regularly again.

    2. I made a video of original flower poems and photographs I took of forsythias, tulips, and a dandelion in my yard–and posted it at wild Rose Reader this morning.

    3. We had glorious weather on Easter! We even sat outside after dinner. Never done that before on Easter Sunday.

    4. Had our taxes done on Friday–and we’ll be getting money back from the federal government…for a change.

    5. We had a big surprise 30th birthday party for my nephew who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease last summer–and who is now in remission!

    6. My daughter asked recently if I’d do a reading at her wedding in July. I was going crazy trying to come up with an idea for a special wedding day poem that I’d write specially for my daughter and her fiance. I finally found an idea and inspiration in “You Begin,” a poem written by Margaret Atwood. I feel so relieved. The pressure is off!

    7. It’s National Poetry Month–and lots of folks are celebrating!

  8. Happy Spring, all! Enjoying everyone’s kicks and happy to leave some of my own after missing a few Sundays.

    WOOT! on the writing progress, Jules, and of course, I love the Sam kicks. Two of my kicks are duplicates of yours, but they were definitely highlights of my week.

    Colleen, happy to hear about all the great book-related goodness!
    Jeannine, big congrats on the starred review for your book! Fantastic!
    Mary Lee, I slept in today and it was great (I rarely do that).
    Jama, I gave my parents a Kit Kat clock years ago, and its tail stopped wagging awhile ago. I will have to find out if this glorious season somehow gave it the incentive to start up again.
    LW, if I even attempted cartwheels on the beach, I would probably be arrested for public clumsiness. Good for you!
    Jone, friends and support are on my kick list also. Very grateful for friends.
    Elaine, I just watched your lovely video — “lapping up sunlight” is a beautiful description of what flowers do this time of year. Wonderful news about your nephew!

    My kicks:
    1) A great phone conversation with a great long-distance friend, who is also a fantastic listener.
    2) Sam’s new song, “Heart on Wheels”. Can’t get enough of it.
    3) Playing tennis with a friend after at least 2 years of not playing. Lots of fun.
    4) Unexpected spring flowers from my boyfriend.
    5) Learning to become an “imperfectionist”. I have found this blog to be very helpful and inspiring (hope the link works): http://christinekane.com/blog/you-might-need-to-become-an-imperfectionist-if%E2%80%A6/
    6) Inside information
    7) Seeing “Alice in Wonderland” after a nice lunch with a good friend yesterday. Mixed feelings about the movie, but thought that Helena Bonham Carter (The Red Queen) and Johnny Depp (The Mad Hatter) were fantastic.

    Have a lovely week, everyone!

  9. HI, EVERYBODY! Suddenly I sound like this guy:

    Thanks for visiting, even on this springy, hard-to-stay-inside, very-ADHD kind of day.

    Colleen! Happy Bookslut anniversary; one needs no reason to eat donuts, except for just ’cause (was it Homer who said, “donuts: is there anything they can’t do?”); and CONGRATS on the Neil-Gaiman mention. Wow!

    Jeannine, seriously. Your kicks are always like savoring a good poem. First of all, big congrats on the starred Horn Book review! That’s most excellent. And well-deserved. Have a great dinner. Enjoy the lemon cake. And chocolate. And please report back if you get any surprise poems. I’d love to know. (I secretly—er, not-so secretly—want to teach children’s lit one day to teacher wannabes.)

    Mary Lee, whew. Your kicks made me tired. But happy. A Year of Reading is a great place to be right now, but then it always is.

    Jama, glad you have magic flooboards. AND SPRING where you are! I know you love that. And I love that you have a Kit Kat clock.

    Little Willow, tragically, I cannot do a cartwheel. Never have been able to. I must learn one day. Have a great time at rehearsal.

    Jone, do you even know how much I love your last kick? A whole bunch. The world needs more librarians who trust their students.

    Elaine, DOH! In my head, you were included in the list of blogs I’m following during poetry month. You really were. This is what I get for typing fast. Anyway. Yes, we should celebrate all year, but then we have blogs like yours, which do that anyway. So, woot!…You’re going to write an original poem for your daughter’s wedding? ELAINE! That is gonna be fabulous. And July will be here before you even know it. …Congrats again to your nephew! Such good news.

    Jill, yes, that was YOU in kick #6, part deux. I still haven’t seen Alice. Guess it will be a DVD-watch for me. Kick #4 is especially nice. So is tennis, though I’m pretty awful at it. I like playing, though.

    Thanks, Jill and Elaine, for the links….

  10. I haven’t been around the house much in the last few weeks, but am glad to be home and here kicking with you all!

    Your garden sounds gorgeous, Jules! And I’ll check out Sam Phillips. My quest to try to listen to new music has stalled recently.

    Colleen, that’s great news about the extra hits thanks to Neil Gaiman! (and the personal tweet of course!)

    Jeannine, I was just thinking about lemon cake today! Hope it’s yummy. And congrats on the review!

    LW, I wish I could do cartwheels at all, let alone on a beach!

    Jill, how great are phones? It’s really cheap now to phone from UK to Australia and I love that I can ring people back home and chat for ages.

    1. It is sad I have reached this point, but I am overjoyed at the fact that the weather has crept into the late-teens (celcius) and I can shed my outer coat!
    2. I travelled to Geneva for work, and what I was expecting to be a very scary meeting went well.
    3. But even better than that, I got to catch up with my Swiss friend who took me out for fondue on the lake. It was a very basic place that only served fondue and wine, but it the best fondue I’ve ever had!
    4. We went to Jersey over Easter, and it was lovely. Great cliff walks, pretty beaches and best of all, yummy seafood in nice cafes overlooking those beaches.
    5. And we went to Gerald Durrell’s zoo, which I had been wanting to do since I read his books about setting it up years ago.
    6. We celebrated the warmer weather by getting out the bicycles and riding to a local spring fair (or fayre as they like to call it), where we bought small geranium plants and hand made cheeses.
    7. The newest addition to our vegetable boxes is wild garlic – green leaves that taste like garlic! A yummy addition to stir fries. I am now eyeing up all the green plants on the way to work in the hope that one of them might be wild garlic.

  11. Emmaco, durn. You are always always living the good life. Simple, rich kicks. Always. I love it. Fondue on the lake in Geneva. Jealous. And I’ve never even heard of green leaves that taste like garlic, but I think they need to be in my life. And hmmm….I’m thinking we should add regular ‘ol garlic to our garden, too. Why haven’t I thought of that before? It’s the best.

    Glad you got to shed your coat and that the meeting wasn’t scary. Enjoy your week, Emmaco.

  12. Happy Sunday! Love the difference in illustration style between The General and Micheal Foreman’s later work, so very cool to see.

    Yay for all the writing and poetry-related kicks this week!

    Jules and Jill – those long-distance phone calls with friends can be so awesome.

    My kicks this week:
    1. A 2 hour hike with a friend and 4 dogs in SE Washington yesterday – windy, beautiful and fun.
    2. Dinner, wine and good conversation and catching up with 2 friends Friday night.
    2.5 We watched The Fall later that evening. So beautiful to look at, and loved Roy and Alexandria’s connection.
    3. Currently house/dog-sitting with 4 dogs plus my 1 dog. Five dogs equals a whole lot of puppylove!
    4.Being truly heard.
    5. Two long long phone conversations with my favorite person who is so far away.
    6. Coffee and yoga this morning.
    7. Started reading Alicia Silverstone’s “the kind diet” this weekend.
    7.5 Listening to Keb Mo, reading 7 Imps, while eating a perfectly made free-range roasted chicken sandwich with spicy pickles and fresh organic greens on toasted Dave’s Killer Bread.

    Have a great weekend!

  13. Enjoyed all the wonderful kicks! Wow, sounds like people had some very special moments this week!

    Mine include
    * A touching fan letter
    * A thank you from a teacher for the poems I had put up in the halls for poetry month
    * Making children happy at an event I helped with
    * Wonderful soccer games (soccer season has started again!)
    * The blossoming trees on either side of my house. The one in the back looks like it is snowing petals.
    * French toast made with challah bread for my husband’s birthday. The birthday dinner was good too, but it’s the French toast I remember the best!

    Have a great week, all!

  14. Hello all you happy kickers! It’s been AGES since I’ve been here. Life seems to get all discombobulated on the weekends and I’ve been doing my best to avoid blogging on my days off (if you could call them that). That means I’ve missed one of my favorite Sunday haunts.

    1. Gaiman’s poem INSTRUCTIONS comes out as a picture book at the end of the month. I can’t wait to see it. The book trailer looks terrific.
    2. National poetry month goodness EVERYWHERE you look.
    3. My Kindle is getting a real workout and I am loving it. I get to download samples of books (at least a chapter or two) and decide if I really want to read them. I almost always do, BTW.
    4. Baking up a storm this week in an effort to find the perfect recipe to accompany my poem for Jama’s poetry potluck.
    5. Two weeks left in the semester. This has been a long year and I am looking forward to its conclusion.
    6. One of my students will be heading to Uganda after graduation to teach in a school that was started by her hometown librarian. They have nothing, so we’ve been collecting books and materials for her to take with her. I’d love to see her blog, but the resources are so limited I don’t know that she’ll have access.
    7. Fed a giraffe this week. He ate right out of my hands and at one point we were nose-to-nose. It was definitely the highlight of my week.

    Have a good week all!

  15. Jules, What kind of a compost bin did you get? This is one of those things I think about often but have not gotten to do.

    Also, your gardens sound wonderful! It is too early to think of planting much here, but it was nice enough to do some weeding and dreaming here today, which I took advantage of.

    Jama, It’s like you have a self-healing house superpower. I need that.

    My kicks:
    1. I know the sun is trying to kill us, but I love it anyway, especially this time of year.
    2. I kind of hated this week’s episode of LOST, but I enjoyed hating it.
    3. I had friends over for dinner and games Thursday night, and I didn’t get all panicked about any preparations. I even made brownies. And on a work night besides.
    4. Speaking of work, I wrote a little grant proposal on Friday that I’m pretty excited about.
    5. Yesterday, we went to feed the chickadees at Mendon Ponds Park. Always fun.
    6. Earlier this week, a friend had a really successful opening for her very first photography show. She’s had a rough couple years, which makes it extra-wonderful.
    7. I have much to look forward to this week: a presentation, dinner out, lunch out, another episode of LOST to maybe hate. Life is good.

  16. RM, kicks are good when you have two #7s. What a good week you had. A two-hour hike and good wine and good friends….and I’m so glad you watched The Fall.

    Tabatha, mmm. French toast. Haven’t had any in so long either. A thank-you letter from a teacher goes a long way, huh?

    Tricia, just two weeks left? Where did the time go? What are your summer plans? Looking forward to seeing you at Jama’s place. Oh and to seeing Gaiman’s book, too. I didn’t realize it’d be out so soon. Just watched the video. SO GOOD.

    Adrienne, did you play board games? God, I love board games. I never play them anymore. I need to fix that. Congrats on the grant; they’re stressful to write, I assume. Here’s the compost bin we got. I’m so glad to finally be composting.

  17. Jules, emmaco, Jill: Cartwheels are so much fun.

    Tricia: I love Instructions so much that I (mentally, silently) yelled, “YES!” When I read your first kick. Please, please, remind me when it comes out.

    Update: On the way home from rehearsal, I got a phone call, offering me a part in another production, a new musical. DOUBLE YES! This means I have three staged readings on my plate: one (a straight play) tomorrow night, one (another new musical) four weeks from now, and the other musical six weeks from now. WOOT!

    Jules: Listening to a good new CD by a favorite artist is a treat! Yay!

  18. I love reading this kicks section. Jeannine – congratulations on the imminent starred review. I’m enjoying and reading your book these days!

    All this spring talk is making me think it’s time to open up that bag of ahem “organic” material in the garage and get it into the garden. This is my first time using the stuff and I had great fun explaining to my 7 year old what it was.

    I’m not sure I have many kicks. I’m working on line-edits into the wee hours while the kiddies are asleep. Maybe that’s a kick. The spring allergies are giving me a kick, too. 🙂

  19. Aw, thanks Jules. I’m lucky I get to do so many interesting things living over here.

    Your compost bin looks great! I’ve been nagging work about organising one for the site, and it looks not only like we might get council permission (we have sheep on the site and apparently this makes it a health risk) but that I might have to help. Gulp. It sounds harder than my current take all the teabags home to my council food collection service!

  20. This last week we’ve enjoyed another Foreman book about war – War and Peas – amazing illustrations of food and a fun story too.

  21. Little Willow, congrats! Big congrats!

    Sheela, getting work accomplished while kiddos sleep is always a kick. I agree.

    Emmaco, hope you all get permission. I bet it’ll be easier than you think. At least I hope so.

    Zoe, haven’t read that one. Must fix that.

  22. Jules,

    I really really loved the look of The Fall, and real life story of Roy and Alexandria (how stinkin cute is that little girl?!) But I think I need to watch the whole thing again by myself. We had 5 dogs milling around and a few other distractions going on, so I probably wasn’t giving it my completely undivided attention. That trailer is so gorgeous, I sent it to a ton of friends to check out.

    Thanks for sharing the trailer and turning me on to another movie that I am sure will remain in my favorites list.

  23. Well, right back atcha, RM. You kickers are always recommending great stuff for me to read and see and do. I always look forward to Sundays, ’cause of it.

  24. Kicks
    Watching the Texas bluebonnets dancing in the sun.
    Getting taxes done!
    Wrote a sentence that sang.

  25. Years ago (really, back in the Cretaceous) Michael Foreman and I did a book called RAINBOW RIDER (and gee, I wish someone would bring it back into print!). His work is always moving and centered and I love it.

    My kicks this week are mostly centered around writing.

    1. Began, revised 5 times, and sent off a new picture book to my agent, about a Little Frog who discovered that scary things are just new thing you haven’t really taken time to look at and to listen to.

    2. Surprised myself by starting a new novel early.

    3. Won three writing awards.

    4. Flew off to Portland OR to give two talks, have lunch with an ex-student, breakfast and lunch with Jinny Ewer Wolfe.

    5. Paid taxes.


  26. Congrats on your singing sentence, Varsha, and on your awards, Jane!

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.