I’ve been on a Roger Duvoisin kick lately. This is for a couple reasons. One, I found a couple of treasures from him this summer at a garage sale… Day and Night (of which I had no prior knowledge) and The Beaver Pond (which was on my wish list for some time). More about these titles later. The other reason I’m on a Duvoisin kick is because I discovered he has a bunch of out-of-print Christmas titles that I’m aching to see. In a future post, I’ll discuss how I finally saw some of the books on my “Top 10 Out-of-Print Christmas Titles I Want to See” from my Christmas motherload post… and have quickly refilled those unseen titles with some Duvoisin ‘new’ ones. (As a teaser, check out these photos.)
Most of you probably are familiar with Roger Duvoisin’s work through his covers on the old New Yorker magazine and his most famous picture books he wrote and/or illustrated: White Snow, Bright Snow, Petunia, and The Happy Lion. All are great. So are all the other books from his I’ve read so far.
Anyway, I’ll tell you a bit about Day and Night. It is one of those books that would never be printed by today’s publishers. Not because the art was quirky and wonderful… alternating pages of full color and black and white as was sometimes common. Not even because it’s charmingly dated with Mr. and Mrs. Pennyfeathers depicted in their separate beds at night-time. Not because the boy’s name is “Bob.” Nope, this book is absolutely off its rocker in its implication that dogs are not IN the family… rather PART OF the family, which is an entirely dated concept. There’s a distinction. And it was not lost on me as I read this book. Oddly, it’s just in the conclusion to the story’s problem of the friendly owl (Night) and the dog (Day) striking up a friendship that couldn’t make their hours
meet. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Bob builds a dog-house for Day to sleep in. Do people still do that? Have dog-houses? It seems our culture is so bent on making sure dogs are simply furrier members of a family; they live indoors, have insurance, and a cushy place to sleep. Listen, I’ve got nothing against indoor pets. But I am one of the increasingly few people that has nothing against OUTDOOR pets either! So it goes…
In The Beaver Pond, we find the perfect example of a LIVING BOOK. Authors like Jim Arnosky for example, are diamonds in the rough in the category of “educational picture books.” I have to admit that picture book biographies are doing quite well, with exciting new additions to that genre published each year. But it seems to me that high quality science or nature books are a bit harder to come by new. (Great, out of print ones exist.) Anyway, The Beaver Pond is one of those perfect stories that teaches (without preaching) so much about biology and ecology while still maintaing the necessary elements of a storyline to hold a child’s attention. I am so glad I was able to get it!