Did you all know that this year is the 75th anniversary of the publication of Virginia Lee Burton’s Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has released an anniversary edition, and I have a wee bit of art today from it — in the name of celebration.
So much has been written about this book, and many of you likely know it well. One thing I’d like to add on its birthday is this: If you have never read Barbara Elleman’s Virginia Lee Burton: A Life in Art—and if you enjoying reading about picture books and picture book creators—then I highly recommend it. Elleman, the founding editor of Book Links, opens the book, published in 2002, with the wonderful story of Dick Berkenbush, a story my late co-author, Peter D. Sieruta, once blogged about and a story we included in Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Litearture (“The Boy Behind the Asterisk” in the “Hidden Delights” chapter).
I love what Elleman says here about Mike Mulligan, which is really a statement about Burton’s talents as an illustrator:
Underlining the basic story lies a concern for the changing times—both cultural and mechanical—that confront Mary Anne. Burton dealt with the changes visually: automobiles share the scene with horses and buggies, and faces reflect a diversity of age and economic status — an aspect not often found in picture books of the era. Furthermore, she supplied instant personality in the bend of an old man’s knee, the hunch of a child’s shoulder, the gesture of a woman’s hand, and the cock of a dog’s head.
Here are some spreads from the book:
Mike Mulligan took such good care of Mary Anne she never grew old.
It was Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne and some others
who dug the great canals for the big boats to sail through.”
(Click to enlarge)
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MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL. Copyright © 1939 by Virginia Lee Demetrios. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.
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.
1) I spoke this week at the 2014 conference of the Tennessee Association of School Librarians. Jazz hands and spirit fingers for good school librarians!
2) This made me laugh till my sides hurt.
3) Look at this new blog about picture books!
4) When I meet someone new, who also loves picture books, and they ask what my favorite picture books of the year are AND they have passionate responses to the same question when I ask them? That’s a kick.
5) The branch of the Nashville Public Library system that I use that is closest to my home has a brand-new, kickin’ location in a brand-new space, and I can’t wait to go see it. See? This is such a boost for that part of Nashville, and I’m so happy the library invested the money in it.
6) I linked to this last week, and I keep thinking about it. But I forgot to share THE BEST PART:
While we were working on the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, Danny Boyle met David Hockney and talked to him about Humphrey Jennings’s Pandaemonium – a book I’d given Danny which evokes the industrial revolution and is filled with the clanking of machines, the yells of protests, tears of goodbye, cries of excitement and whispers of conspiracy. Hockney gave us this amazing image to think about. He said, imagine this, the sun pouring down energy from the beginning of time, energy that went into algae and into the leaves of trees, which then sank into the earth and fossilised. What is coal or peat but the stored memory of millions upon millions of uninhabited summers. When the industrial revolution came along, someone opened a hole in the ground and reversed that process. That energy poured out and was harnessed and turned into engines and rockets and aeroplanes and central heating and motor cars, unleashing this wave of incredible creativity. That’s how it should be with stories. They should be sunlight pouring down upon your head and being stored as energy until the day you need them. Whenever we ask for something in return, they are taking that powerful charge and earthing it. Wasting it into the ground. May I take this opportunity to wish you all endless sunlight.
“Stories should be sunlight pouring down upon your head and being stored as energy until the day you need them.” I’m gonna have that tattooed on my forehead.
7) Did I already kick about these wise words from Sam Phillips?
What are YOUR kicks this week?