7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #349: Featuring Edward Gorey

h1 September 22nd, 2013 by jules

“We stood there in front of him. He seemed neither pleased nor disappointed to see us. … ‘I think,’ said my mother, placing a quieting and comforting hand on Ogdon,
‘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.

(Click either image to enlarge and see entire spread from which it comes)

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…

“The next morning I started a list. I wrote down every name I had ever heard. I looked for names in all the books we owned. I even looked on trucks and posters! Not that I intended to call him MATT’S MACHINE SHOP or ACME WRECKING or anything like that. I just wanted to get up a good store of possibilities. Naming a grownup dog is not like naming a baby, you know. You have to find the exact one that suits him, the one he has been waiting for. You can’t jump into a name just like that!”

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.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

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?

16 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #349: Featuring Edward Gorey”

  1. I had to re-read the title. I haven’t had any coffee yet.
    Gorey is a local legend around here. We used to live down the street from him.
    I didn’t know this book until now. Thanks, Jules.
    Mmmm good coffee and good books, yum.
    1. I managed to put a Society6 shop up online.
    2. I’m almost used to the back-to-school wake up time. Almost
    3. My creative kids working together to make fun videos with special effects
    4. Coffee (see kick #2)
    5. The library!!
    6. My handsome husband
    7. pencil sketching anytime anywhere
    Have a productive week all!

  2. Good morning, Jules. Have to say I like that you feature a book when you got the art a year ago. Sometimes in the rush to see everything new we forget the good that came before. I am looking forward to seeing this book.
    Enjoy your coffee and that special book.
    Moira: I think pencil sketching anytime anywhere is a wonderful gift

    My kicks:
    1. Flowers re-blooming roses, delphiniums, butterfly weed
    2. Cooler days, cooler nights
    3. Leaves changing color
    4. Children’s voices calling my name
    5. Pumpkins
    6. Rain
    7. Walking with Xena

    Have a wonderful week everyone.

  3. Hi, I love the open ending of the book. What a treat the Gory illustrations are.
    Jules, savor your book and coffee. I need to read some McDermott.
    Moira, I really like the beta fish at Society6 and agree with kick 2.
    My kicks:
    1. The instant comment from a third grader after reading The Story of Fish and Snail: “There has to be another book!”
    2. School.
    3. Books.
    4. Talks with daughters.
    5. First day of autumn.
    6. Fall weather.
    7. Poem pairings.
    Have a great week.

  4. Margie, crossed in cyber space…enjoy the cooler weather and walks with Xena. Am going to try to walk Buster before our rain.

  5. ACK, you all! The blog’s main page has centered all the text here before the “read more” tag, yet when you click on “read more,” it’s fine. Or if you click on the single post itself, it’s fine.

    The blog was recently upgraded, and it’s been giving me trouble. Sorry about that. I’ll get Mr. 7-Imp to look into it.

    Moira: Hadn’t heard of Society6 till now. Lookin’ good!

    Margie: I’m really looking forward to autumn, and we’ve gotten some cooler weather, too.

    Jone: I just remembered I never answered your McDermott email to me! Sorry. I got busy again, and my email fell behind. I’ll find it in a second here.

  6. I must say that book sounds absolutely charming. The first dog illo is adorable. Just look at the way he’s looking at Ogdon!

    What Margie says is true. There’s always a rush to feature “new books.” I do enjoy reading about older books just as much, especially when it’s something like this one, which I would have never known about if you hadn’t talked about it. 🙂

    Happy Sunday, Happy Fall to everyone!

  7. Hi, Jama! I agree about older books. The only reason I have a rule about new books is ’cause, if I didn’t have parameters of some sort, my head might explode from all the great books out there. This helps me focus.

  8. Good morning, Imps and Gorey groupies!

    Jules: Nothing like the last few chapters of a great book!

    Moira: Rock your shop!

    Margie: A zillion pumpkins appeared in front of the grocery store last week. Happy first day of fall, everyone!

    Jone: See above. Also, yay for the happy reader!

    Jama: The weather is cooling. You know what that means: More soup soon!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Hopefully, today
    2) Audition
    3) Callback
    4) Reading
    5) Mentoring
    6) Calm
    7) Okay

  9. Hi Jules et al! I know it’s been awhile since I’ve visited. Thank you for the Gorey post.

    My kicks:
    1. I’m writing songs again.
    2. The ukulele helps my songs not sound like mopey dirges.
    3. My husband wants to learn to play uke so that he can accompany me on the song “Tonight You Belong to Me” (see the Steve Martin & Bernadette Peters duet for his inspiration).
    4. After I post this, I’m going to get ready for Pilates.
    5. My friends.
    6. Slowly, as I begin to fill my shop again, the sales are starting to trickle in. (If I sell dolls, I get to make more!)
    7. The Waterboys.

    I send you all good wishes and blessings this week. –Farida

  10. Jules, thank you so much for sharing He Was There From The Day We Moved In. And a good book plus good coffee is my OTP (Only True Pairing).


    1. The other week YA authors Margaret Stohl, Alyson Noel, and Melissa de la Cruz were in the Philippines and I got to meet them.

    2. Wattpad co-founder Allen Lau was in the Philippines too and I got to meet him too!

    3. The Manila International Book Fair

    4. A cultural exchange with authors, illustrators, and storytellers about picture books from India, South Korea, and Sweden

    5. I’m still dieting and working out and my clothes are now too loose on me.

    6. It was my birthday yesterday and I celebrated with my family and closest friends!

    7. Teen girls who say they want to be like me. It’s terrifying and humbling and inspiring.

  11. Well that is truly weird, weird, weird….I posted an additional comment to Margie because we crossed in cyber space and yet is says that Margie made a comment to Margie! My walk with Buster was a bust….rain! Now rain and wind!

  12. The blog is being weird today, Jone. I am having big-time server issues. I’m sorry! I’m lucky I am here now; it won’t even let me in today, and I’ll be lucky, I suppose, if this comment posts.

    Little Willow: I like your first kick. I send you best wishes that what you’re hoping for pans out today.

    Farida, I’m about ready to buy another doll from you, actually! Our collection needs an addition, I think. Glad you’re filling your shop again. The Waterboys are definitely a kick. As well as you writing songs.

    Tarie: Happy birthday again, and ooh, all your kicks are good, but especially #4!

  13. Farida: So glad for the music. 🙂

    Tarie: Happy birthday!

    Jules: Thank you. Lots.

  14. What a book – so glad you blogged about this, no matter how long ago…. etc. Am looking forward to reading it in person.

    Nice to read everyone’s kicks! Good stuff happening. Given that my Little LOVES his ukelele – I am smitten by Saints and Sinners kick number 2:
    2. The ukulele helps my songs not sound like mopey dirges.
    My hubby and I laughed out loud.

    Hope server problems are solved really soon, Jules. Very depressing and worrying for you, we are all hopeful.

    My Kicks:
    1. GREAT visit with my mother’s 3 sisters (my aunts!) from Northern New England, who travel rarely. They sure had fun seeing the tourist sites, etc. here in LA. We had fun hosting them.
    2. Finally back posting on my blog – so happy about it.
    3. Exhchanged lovely emails with on of my favorite picture book writer/illustrators about a book of hers getting republished.
    4. Ordered the cute and funny book Good Night Sleep Tight by Mem Fox illustrated by Judy Horacek. One for me (I mean my Little), one for my niece in NYC, and one for our school library.
    5. slightly cooler temps, even here in LA, mean looking forward to lots of buttered toast (even if it is gluten free) and large mugs of hot tea. I’m starting tomorrow!
    6 and 7: the RED SOX still have the best record in baseball in a year that was anticipated (by everyone except Red Sox Nation) to be a rebuild year after 2 miserable years. Oh wait, sorry – this is a illustration blog, not SI.com

    Have a great week everyone!

  15. I think it’s a great idea to review older titles and especially enjoyed hearing about this one which I had never heard of before today…thankyou! Love to all imps and the queen imp! Lisa

  16. Baseball is allowed here, Allison! Kicks can be about anything. … So glad you had a good visit with your aunts. That sounds lovely. Enjoy the cooler temps!

    Hi, Lisa!

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