‘he is waiting for something to eat.’ My mother is a very practical woman.”
That was just really fun to say: “Featuring Edward Gorey.”
As if he’s here, visiting 7-Imp.
(Oh, pictured left is Ogdon, who is four years old. He is shouting, “He is waiting for me-e-e!” More on that in a minute.)
I’m doing something different today. I have a hard and fast rule here at 7-Imp (a land without very many rules at all, honestly) about always featuring new children’s books. Or, you know, new adaptations or re-tellings or re-releases with new illustrations. You get the idea.
Last Fall, the New York Review Children’s Collection re-released Rhoda Levine’s He Was There From the Day We Moved In, illustrated by Gorey, which was originally published in 1968. When they re-released it, I got a bit of art from the publisher so that I could blog about it.
Yes, last Fall.
Sometimes I’m just really slow.
I never got around to blogging about it in 2012 and so sort of gave up on the idea. But today I’m feeling contrary (breakin’ the law, BREAKIN’ THE LAW!), and I’m going to blog about it, even though this lovely re-release was nearly one year ago.
And I mean, hey. It’s Edward Gorey, dear friends. It’s always fun to post about Edward Gorey.
This is the story (long on words and shorter on illustrations)—told from the point-of-view of a young boy, who is the older brother to the four-year-old at the top of this post—of a family who moves into a new house and finds a dog planted in the front yard. I love the book’s very matter-of-fact title and how it’s the first line of the story: “He was there from the day we moved in. He was there sitting in the garden.” I also really like the unsentimental voice of the older brother, who is our narrator, remember. He’s smart. Pragmatic. It’s a nice counterbalance to the exultant joy of his younger brother.
The family wonders what the dog could possibly want, and Ogdon (pictured above), the four-year-old, is particularly smitten by the animal, trying everything he can to bring him inside. (The moment when he brings him a stray cat is pretty funny.) Nothing really works. Not trying to lure him into the house with corn flakes. Not Ogdon’s somersaults or skipping on two feet. Not raw hamburger and a soup bone. And not green lollypops.
The huge dog simply doesn’t budge, though the mother just knows that he was there waiting for all of them.
Ogdon gives up. (“Well, it’s hard,” Levine writes, “to stay interested in someone who is not interested in you, I don’t care how old you are!”) But his older brother keeps thinking on the case. Eventually, he decides that it’s a name the poor creature wants. When he lets this slip to Ogdon (who gets so excited at this news that “he was backing up while I talked”), Ogdon heads out to whisper the dog’s name to him. The poor child is so proud and happy, but the dog walks away.
“Marilyn.” He’d named the dog “Marilyn,” and “I must say that I would have walked away too,” says his older brother to the reader.
Ogdon’s brother manages to convince the dog to stay and gives him a list of potential names, none of which the dog likes.
And the dog, the story concludes, is “still sitting and waiting. … Ogdon hugs him a lot, though he doesn’t say much to him.”
And the very, very end? I love this:
You know, I think we’re bound to find the right name sooner or later. I, myself, am still working on the whole thing. He is waiting; I am thinking. We’re both trying. And, like my mother always says, that’s the best anyone can do…
Here’s one of those delicious open endings to a picture book, the kind that gives some parents near apoplexy. Much like John Burningham’s Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present, for which I possess an abiding devotion.
Nope, the dog never gets a name. All the more wonderful, I say. Children who read it may be thinking about that for a while. And thinking is okay. It could even make them want to write about the story themselves, draft their own sequel.
Not to mention life is, after all, full of best-we-can-do moments. It’s okay for children to know that, too.
HE WAS THERE FROM THE DAY WE MOVED IN. Copyright © 1968 by Rhoda Levine. Illustrations copyright © 1968 by Edward Gorey. 2012 edition published by New York Review of Books, New York. All illustrations here are used with permission of the publisher.
Note for any new readers: 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 kickers are always welcome.
My kicks this week are a) good coffee and b) a really great novel. I have both in hand now, and I’m going to make them all seven of my kicks in one. I’m finishing up Alice McDermott’s Someone. She’s my very favorite writer for grown-ups. Do you think if I read the last chapters slo-o-o-o-o-wly, I can make it all last longer?
What are YOUR kicks this week?