Monday, July 6, 2015

A Hole is to Dig: A First Book of First Definitions by Ruth Krauss; pictures by Maurice Sendak (1952)

This is one of Maurice Sendak's first books.  I read an article about him and this book in The Horn Book .  I had never read this book before, and decided to take a look at it.  Our library didn't even own it, so I had to interlibrary loan it.  I was not disappointed.  I am just going to quote the article verbatim -I certainly can't do any better than Alice Hoffman, so here she is:

Unisexism, or gender equivalence, showed its face — maybe for the first time on record — in A Hole Is to Dig (1952), where Sendak’s drawings illustrate Ruth Krauss’s collection of kids’ off-the-cuff definitions. Along with “A hole is to dig,” in multiple embodiments, we find the indelible “Eyebrows are to go over your eyes” and “The world is to have something to stand on.”
This made me miss my little brother.  That doesn't happen very often.
Think of that! On his first try, Sendak had girls and boys doing what each was “supposed” to do. Krauss, a progressive thinker, pointed out that young kids didn’t behave that way and, according to Sendak, he made a few changes to eliminate the stereotypes. Altogether, he did more than that: there are no sex roles whatever in the pair-ups or group scenes, and no pat tableaux as a consequence. In an independent jacket drawing, moreover, one little boy holds a bouquet of flowers for another to sniff.A Hole Is to Dig, small but mighty, liberated little girls from dolls-and-doilies more than ten years before Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique touched off the second wave of American feminism — and, along the way, freed little boys from being he-men.
Truly, this was a delightful picture book.  I love the illustrations, and the sentiment expressed on various pages.

A Hole is to DigA Hole is to Dig by Ruth Krauss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm going to do my best to capture the essence of this lovely book in a few words: simple, sincere, humorous, subtly wise.  A good picture book does all of these things, a great picture book does them all without slapping you in the face.  This was one of Sendak's first books (as illustrator; his authorship of books is a few year in the future).  The joy of the book is infectious.  

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I like picture books that are full of wisdom, but not in your face about it.

Just beautiful

For all my book loving friends out there
My husband is an animal lover, but particularly a dog lover.
This illustration reminded me of him.  And our dogs, of course

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