Friday, September 25, 2015

Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss; pictures by Maurice Sendak (1960)

Ruth Krauss is some sort of wise philosopher, with pithy philosophy disguised as picture books.  I loved A Hole is to Dig so very much, but was unaware that Krauss and Sendak had collaborated on more books until I came across this darling picture and daring picture and prose:

What kind of glorious revolution was this, in staid 1960?  Maybe there is a direct line between a screaming song and the burgeoning peace movement - Krauss and Sendak lead to the summer of love?  I'm only jesting a bit here; there had to be some small but impressionable children who heard this read aloud to them in 1960 that thought to themselves "Mmmm...."

The truths of this book are sometimes wonderfully surreal and sometimes wonderfully pointed.

Yes, it is true that sometimes, you meet people, and you just know exactly what they are all about; and I think Krauss perfectly captures that.

I'm sure that's how I felt about my baby sister!

This isn't picture book land anymore;this is Thoreau.

And yes, "loveabye" is a good word to know.

Who exactly was this book for?  What was it's reception like?  Who was buying it in 1960?

Open House for ButterfliesOpen House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved A Hole is to Dig very much.  This book was certainly as enjoyable, and remarkably thought-provoking.  Krauss, with Sendak's help, takes us out of storybook land into a world that Thoreau would have been quite at home in.  Picture books can be philosophical - the best ones usually are.  But this combination of Krauss and Sendak is special.  The book starts with this bit of rebellious prose:  "a screaming song is good to know in case you need to scream" and goes on from there, sometimes wonderfully surreal, other times wonderfully pointed.  It's hard not to imagine a small boys and girls of the early sixties having this read aloud to them, and taking that "screaming song" and other bits of revolutionary thought into their classrooms and then to the streets (a line drawn from Sendak and Krauss to 1968).  Who knows.  I do know that this book is a small gem of genius.

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