Mooresville Public Library

Mooresville Public Library
MPL Courtyard

Thursday, October 27, 2011

There Are Many Moons

James Thurber became famous as a humor columnist for The New Yorker magazine, but he also wrote wonderful children's books. One of my favorites is Many Moons, first published in 1943.

Many Moons won the Caldecott Medal in 1944. The book was first illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, but in 1990 it was republished with illustrations by Marc Simont. It has been adapted into a stage play, an opera, and movies.

Grown-ups and young children (particularly those just learning to read) will enjoy Thurber's command of language and phrasing. Thurber's style is straightforward but filled with humorous observations, puns, and other silliness.

Watch our book trailer to see if you'd like to read it.

The book is available in our Evergreen Indiana catalog.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Children's Classic to Trumpet About

"Make every word tell," advised Professor William Strunk, Jr. (1869-1946) to his English students at Cornell University.  His book, The Elements of Style, first published in 1918, was a standard collegiate writing guide for decades.  I used it during my first year of graduate school over 30 years ago.  Strunk taught students to write with economy, power, and precision.  One strongly influenced student was E. B. White (1899-1985), essayist and children's book author.  He was "Andy" to his friends, a nickname he was given from his freshman Cornell days (after Andrew Dickson White [1832-1918], Cornell's co-founder).

White was a staff writer at The New Yorker.  He shared office space with fellow staff writer James Thurber.  The magazine's founder and publisher, Harold Ross (1892-1951), wanted White and Thurber to be managing editors--the running joke around the offices was that, at one time, all of Ross' employees were saddled with this job--but both White and Thurber simply wanted to write and so tried valiantly to get fired until Ross realized that this literary duo was much too valuable to waste on management.

Many scholars have suggested that White was the premiere American essayist of the 20th century.  You'll get no argument from me, although I'd rank Thurber alongside White.  White used language deftly and skillfully, in ways that most of us writers can only hope to imitate.

If you have never read any of E. B. White's many essay collections and children's books, you have denied yourself literary greatness.  You should immediately visit your local public library and check-out a half-dozen or so of White's works.  They are quick reads because White followed Professor Strunk's creed, "Make every word tell."  Nothing is surplus in White's prose; every word is meaningfully crafted. It is a genuine pleasure to read what he had to say, if for no other reason than the sheer pleasure of reading something superbly written.  His content was worthwhile, too.

The Trumpet of the Swan, by E. B. White, was first published in 1970.  It was White's third children's novel, following Charlotte's Web (1952) and Stuart Little (1945).  I could summarize the plot, but, frankly, it would so pale in comparison to White's sparkling words that I would rather not sully this fine story by attempting to reduce it to my descriptive capabilities.  Anyway, we just made a book trailer (above) that gives a brief synopsis.  For some insightful commentary, read author John Updike's book review in The New York Times (June 28, 1970).  There's an online version available, but if I put the hyperlink here (actually, I've placed it below this paragraph), the N.Y. Times website requires you to log-in to see it.  But you can circumvent that by simply going to Google and searching John Updike book review trumpet swan White.  Your top hit should be the following, which took me straight to the actual article when I clicked it on Google.  Try your luck on Google.

The Trumpet of the Swan

If I could write like either E. B. White or James Thurber, I would be happy indeed.  I will gladly settle for reading their many wonderful books, essay collections, and other stories.  Many great authors make reading fun, but none more so than these two friends who goofed around together in their shared office at The New Yorker.

William R. Buckley, J.D.
MPL Indiana Room Historian & Adult Services Reference Coordinator

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I'd Like a Doughnut, Too, Please

If You Give a Dog a Donut, by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond (illustrator), is the latest children's picture book in the popular If You Give... series.  As with the other books in the series, anything can happen, and the fun comes from pursuing the unpredictable sequence of events from one zany turn to another.  Adults will enjoy reading the book to their young children, who likewise will love the beautiful and colorful illustrations and the flowing prose.  It is another excellent circular romp that will hold everyone's attention until the conclusion, or the beginning, depending upon one's perspective.  Like a musical round, we start where we finish, so the adventures flow seamlessly into a Möbius strip of imaginative verbal and visual imagery.

Bill Buckley
MPL Reference Coordinator, Adult Services
& Indiana Room Historian