Today is the birthday of Arnold Lobel (b.1933), author and illustrator of many, many children’s books including, Frog and Toad Are Friends and Owl at Home. In fact, one biographer noted that Mr. Lobel died in 1987 leaving a legacy of over 100 books that he either wrote or illustrated. What a legacy!
It’s an especially fine legacy since many of Lobel’s stories are memorable and thought provoking for adults as well as children. A long time ago a friend read me the story Cookies from the book Frog and Toad Together. In this tale, Toad makes some cookies, and then Frog and Toad try, unsuccessfully, to keep themselves from eating all the cookies. In the midst of their fight against temptation, Frog says that they need will power which he defines as “trying hard not to do something that you really want to do.” At the end of the story, Toad is sad because the cookies are all gone. Frog says, “Yes, but we have lots and lots of will power.” Toad is not consoled. Neither am I when left with useless will power but no cookies. And isn’t it true that when I need will power to resist temptation it’s never enough, and I only have plenty of will power in the abstract when there’s no real place to exercise it.
Other unforgetable stories include:
A List in which Toad loses his list of things to do and is paralyzed and unable to do anything
A Lost Button in which Toad loses his button and shouts this immortal rant, “The whole world is covered with buttons and not one them is mine!”
A Swim in which Toad looks funny in his bathing suit.
Tear-Water Tea from the book Owl at Home in which Owl thinks of sad things to make himself cry so that he can make tea from his tears.
Mouse Soup in which a mouse tells stories a la Sheherazade in order to keep from beng cooked into a weasel’s soup.
Lobel was a great story-teller himself, and I am indebted to him for many smiles and pleasant read-aloud times.
Some of Arnold Lobel’s books:
- Small Pig (1969)
- The Great Blueness (1970)
- Frog and Toad Are Friends (1970) (A Caldecott Honor book)
- Frog and Toad Together (1972) (A Newbery Honor book)
- Owl at Home (1975)
- Frog and Toad all Year (1976)
- Mouse Soup (1977)
- Grasshopper on the Road (1978)
- Days with Frog and Toad (1979)
- Fables (1980) (A Caldecott Medal winner)
- Uncle Elephant (1981)
- Ming Lo Moves the Mountain (1982)
- The Book of Pigericks: Pig Limericks (1983)
- The Rose in My Garden (1984)