Jerome

Cover

Written by Philip Ressner, Illustrated by Jerome Snyder

Parents Magazine Press, 1967

One day in a pond in a summery green hollow, a big frog named Jerome was sitting catching flies when a witch came by.

The plot in a nutshell: A frog does some princely deeds.

Jerome says hello to the witch, who is upset that he calls her a witch. She makes some magic and tells him she’s turned him into a prince, even though he still feels and looks like a frog. Laughing, she tells him to go into town. Jerome goes to the townspeople and announces that he’s a prince who does princely deeds and they all laugh, but challenge him to stop the giant crow from eating all their corn. Jerome talks to the crow and solves the problem by negotiating with the crow. Then the people task him to slay the dragon who is burning all their homes and forests. Jerome visits the dragon and convinces him to burn the local garbage pile instead. Finally, the people (who are beginning to suspect he may actually be prince) ask him to get rid of the evil wizard who lives outside the town. Jerome has a conversation with the wizard, who accidentally grants his own wish to be a young boy again and runs off in search of fun. The townspeople cheer for Jerome and give him a castle to live in, where he mostly hangs out in the pond catching flies.

Poster Boy Jerome

With all those colors everywhere, the black and white makes him look dignified.

Here is another childhood favorite from Parents Magazine Press. As a kid, I loved the trippy artwork and the smart approach that Jerome takes to solving all the problems laid at his feet. Reading it again as an adult was an eye-opening experience, in which I realized that author Philip Ressner put a lot more into this story than I had taken away as a child. I saw that Jerome was tasked with getting rid of problems and instead, he collaborated with those involved to resolve the issues in a way that made everyone happy. I also saw that the question of whether or not Jerome was actually turned into a prince is immaterial. He believes himself to be one, and he acts accordingly. Consequently, the people see him as a prince but even that doesn’t change how he fundamentally sees himself.

Illustrator Jerome Snyder was a graphic designer who was the first art director of Sports Illustrated. His artwork here is very indicative of the psychedelic 60’s with lots of jeweled tones and swirly shapes. I don’t think it’s an accident that Jerome is drawn with a mouth that tilts up at the edges, giving him a perpetually optimistic and smiling face. He’s that kind of character. Looking online, I’m glad to see that so many other people remember loving this book as a kid.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that if you think you’re a prince and you act like a prince, you’re probably a prince. Even if you’re actually a frog.

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