Written and Illustrated by Marjorie Flack, Betty Miles, Remy Charlip, Abner Graboff, Ursula von Hippel, Sesyle Joslin, Maurice Sendak, Munro Leaf
Once there was a small pond at the edge of a wood.
The plot in a nutshell: Six stories collected in one book
This book is an amazing collection of stories that I had when I was a little girl. After my kids gave me the wonderful gift of replacing so many of our lost picture books, my mind kept coming back to others I remembered that I wanted to replace. In this day and age, you can pretty much find anything you’re looking for somewhere on the internet. But I hadn’t seen this book for decades and didn’t remember what it was called or anything specific about the stories. So I posted what I remembered in a forum for finding books and within an hour someone responded with the title and a few days later, I was holding it in my hands. We live in an amazing age.
The first story, Tim the Tadpole and the Great Bullfrog, tells the story of Tim’s desire to sit in the sun with the other frogs, turtles and lizards in the pond and his progression from tadpole to frog. Marjorie Flack includes both color and black and white pictures in the story, with a particularly interesting yellow sky. We switch to bold blue and stark white as the central colors of Betty Miles’ poetic, A Day of Winter. Ms. Miles covers all the senses in describing how winter sounds, looks, feels, tastes and smells. Remy Charlip’s bold illustrations take us out into the snow with this boy and his cat and then wrap us warmly in a checkerboard blanket. Abner Graboff’s visual take on Ten Little Indians is the least interesting and most controversial, considering the racial stereotypes and violence.
The last three stories are the ones I remembered most. Ursula von Hippel’s The Story of the Snails Who Traded Houses is a simple fable about being happy with what you have and it’s ridiculously fun to read aloud because of the long descriptions and repetition. Next comes an excerpt from Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak’s hilarious and wonderful guide to manners, What Do You Do, Dear? with illustrations in yellow and green. Rounding out the collection is Outdoor Safety, a selection from Munro Leaf’s Safety Can be Fun, originally published in 1938. It profiles some different types of ‘nit-wits’ and the trouble they get into while not being safe.
Short story collections like this one were more pervasive when I was younger and I had quite a few of them. I remember loving this one because of the vast difference in artistic styles and color palettes between the stories. I haven’t been able to locate very much information about the Tiny Tots Picture Book series, although I have found (and ordered) another compilation online.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that short story collections show us an example of how different themes, viewpoints and styles can combine to teach and entertain in a whole new way.