To This Great Stage of Fools: Born September13th

Carol Kendall, b. 1937. I loved The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall (b. September 13, 1917) when I was a child, and I still remember images and ideas from it. For instance, I’ve always had a desire to paint my front door red or orange or yellow. And I sort of like being different–sometimes just for the sake of difference. The Gammage Cup was published in 1959. The story of five non-conformist Minnipins who become unlikely heroes probably hit a nerve in the non-conformist sixties, but it’s still a great story. The Periods, stodgy old conservatives with names such as Etc. and Geo., are wonderful parodies of those who are still caught up in the forms and have forgotten the meanings. And Muggles, Mingy, Gummy, Walter the Earl, and Curley Green, the Minnipins who don’t quite fit in and who paint their doors colors other than green, are wonderful examples of those pesky artistic/scientific types who live just outside the rules of polite society. One of them, Muggles I think, isn’t consciously a nonconformist nor an artist; she just gets caught up in the adventures of the others and finds out that she, too, has her own desires and dreams and talents.

Today is also the birthday of Else Holmelund Minarik, b. 1920, author of the Little Bear stories for beginning readers. What is your favorite Little Bear story? I really like A Kiss for Little Bear in which Little Bear’s grandmother gets some friends to deliver a kiss to Little Bear. The kiss unfortunately gets “all mixed-up” when a pair of lovestruck skunks keeps exchanging the kiss instead of delivering it, but everything turns out all right in the end. I also like the quote from Little Bear’s grandfather when Little Bear suggests that Grandfather might be tired and need a rest. “Me–tired? How can you make me tired? I’m never tired,” says Grandfather, just before he falls asleep in his lawn chair. Then, there’s the story of how Little Bear visits the moon and comes back in time for supper. Oh, yes, and I love Little Bear’s Friend about Little Bear’s friendship with Emily. Little Bear is about as fun and as profound as Frog and Toad. Who ever said that children’s books were boring or unchallenging? They have to be better than adult books so that we can enjoy reading them over and over again until they’re memorized.

Also born on this date in 1916 was Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. To tell the truth, Dahl is too gross-out icky for my tastes, but lots of kids and adults love his books.

Finally, Mildred Taylor, b. 1943, is the author of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry which won the Newbery Award in 1977. It’s the story of Cassie Logan, a black girl growing up in Mississippi in the 1930′ during the Great Depression.

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