Thursday, May 16, 2013

Searching for Lost Books from Childhood ~ and Happy Poetry Friday!

Howdy, Campers!

Happy Poetry Friday, which the indefatigable
Ed Decaria is hosting
--thank you, Ed!
~ my poem is below ~

And Happy Children's Book Week!

Jeanne Marie introduced our current topic: In honor of Children’s Book Week, share the title of the book we wish we still had or are sorry we loaned (and never got back) or one we (god forbid) threw away.

Heavens to Betsy! The search for my cherished book turned into a detective story.
The first thing I did was to ask God...errr...Google for the title of the book about a surprise birthday party for an old woman named Lisette.  Bello, her dog, directs the other animals while Lizette is at the market--he tells the goats to get apples, the ducks to get candles, etc. He and Lisette's two cats (Molly and...Ruly?) bake a bundt cake that burns on top, so they put powdered sugar on it at the last minute to hide the burned part. 

But who was the marvelous author/illustrator and what was the name of the book????

In the course of my search, I found a site called Old Children's Books which has a page called "Looking for a Book?"

I searched and searched and searched...with binoculars, with a flashlight, with a light on my miner's helmet...
(me...but my search was not as grim as pictured)

Finally, I remembered that at the end of the book was a little kitten. And I remembered that the author/illustrator wrote another book about him. In fact, the cat's name was the title of the other book. So if I could just remember the name of the was...Pitchie!

But I couldn't find a book called Pitchie. Or Pitchy. Stumbling down the corridors of the internet, bumping into walls, I finally found the other book! It was called PITSCHI (published in 1948). I now knew the name of the author/illustrator: Hans Fischer. Which meant I was close to finding the book I was actually looking for!

But first, let's take a detour. Click here to enjoy Hans Fischer's fantastic lithographs in Pitschi "the kitten who always wanted to be something else. A sad story, but one which ends well."

All the same characters are in the book I have been looking for...and now I can plug in Hans' name and come up with THE BOOK--right?

Yes! On I found it--The Birthday: a Merry Tale with Many Pictures (1954)! Worldcat summarizes the story: "In a clearing in the forest lived old Lisette with her animals. On her seventy-sixth birthday, Lisette went off to the village, and while she was gone the animals prepared a wonderful birthday surprise for her."
This is the book from my childhood that still makes my heart sing.

With all the searching, I learned a few things about my good friend Hans from Children's Books and Their Creators, edited by Anita Silvey. He was Swiss, he lived from 1909-1958 (only 49 years?). And he studied under the artist Paul Klee who taught him how to use color. No wonder I fell in love with Fischer's style--I love Klee!

Klee said, "It is not my task to reproduce appearances...for that there is the photographic plate. I want to reach the heart."

And isn't that what we want from books we read...and those we create? (Actually, I wouldn't mind if large corporations took that as their company motto...)

Legendary editor Margaret McElderry discovered his work, bought the US rights to Pitschi, and went on to publish his other books, including The Birthday.

So here's my song to Hans Fischer and The Birthday.


by April Halprin Wayland

What's the title?
Can't remember.

And the plot?
It was so tender…

Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…

The book was in her skin, her cells,
she turned each page and oh! the smell…

At every page
I looked and listened,

the little kitten on a mission,
delicately, in pastel.

He was drawn and he was written
to cast a purring lifetime spell.

What's the title?
Can't remember.

And the plot?
It was so tender…

Why is this your favorite book?
It lit a spark, it fanned an ember…
poem & drawing © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

What's the book you wish you still owned?  Why not write a poem about it?

Remember that our blogiversary contest runs through May 19th--there's still time to be a winner!
See Carmela's post for all the details.

P.S: Take a moment to read Esther's post, below, featuring the wonderful poet and author, Holly Thompson, her newest verse novel...and her fab writing exercise. Thank you!

by April Halprin Wayland, who is grateful that you've read to the end ~ :-)


April Halprin Wayland said...

ACK! I made a mistake and published early, stepping all over Esther's post. Please take a minute to read her fab post below this one (which inludes an inspiring poetry exercise) and comment. Thank you!

michelle kogan said...

Great Post, Art and writing! I bought "Pitschi" years ago for my son, but probably secretly because I fell in love with the illustrator/writer Hans Fischer. I'll have to check out "The Birthday." Thanks, Michelle

Cathy Ballou Mealey said...

Oh so sweet - those little chicks climbing up the covers and bunnies bearing carrots for the sick kitten! I think I must buy a copy of this quickly! The cover reminded me a bit of "Kitten's First Full Moon."

Definitely spark and ember material!

Carmela Martino said...

Wow, what a terrific story, April. And I'm so glad your quest has a happy ending. :-)

Jill said...

I don't know this one, April, but now - oh, I WANT to!

jama said...

So glad you found your cherished book! What a great story about finally locating it.

I remember loving a story about a King who wanted a special dessert, "as hot as summer and as cold as winter." His subjects tried to create several, which he rejected . . . until someone came up with a hot fudge sundae. Don't remember the title or author and I know somebody else out there has heard of it . . . :)

mary ann rodman said...

Jama...I haven't thought of that King's dessert book in fifty years. I DO remember it...I can see the illustrations...I just can't remember the freakin' name of it. I thought it was The King's Dessert...but that is coming up in any of my searches. Woe is the librarian who can't resurrect the title of a long lost favorite book. I WILL find it!

Liz Steinglass said...

What a great story and a great poem. Those books we loved when we were young get into us so deeply.

Ruth said...

Was it as wonderful as you remembered?

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

Ruth--yes! It is as wonderful as I remembered!

Jama--OF COURSE you loved a story about dessert!!!! (Mary Ann will find it or no one will!)

Those stories do get into our DNA, don't they?

Anonymous said...

I missed this last week. This is a great story! I "found" my favorite book, The Surprise Doll by Morrell Gipson, by searching the internet, too. I love your poem and the idea of books lighting sparks and fanning embers.