Jon Agee and Tommie dePaola probably were not thinking about politicians or government shut downs when they wrote these picture books for children, but maybe they were trying to ingrain some thoughtfulness into children at a young age – hoping it would stick with them into adulthood.
Agee’s The Wall in the Middle of the Book is supposed to protect one side of the book from the other. The key words are “supposed to.” A brick wall runs down the spine in the center of book, and the action takes place on both sides. As the “safe” side slowly disintegrates and floods, the knight is forced over to the other side, where he thinks the monsters will eat him. Surprise – no one eats him and he makes new friends, What a waste of five billion dollars to build the wall. Preconceived notions about things and people, over a boundary or otherwise, are often distinctly wrong.
Tommie dePaola’s Quiet has a clear message for all adults tired of listening to the news or rushing around trying to perfect the holiday celebrations for all – “To be quiet and still is a special thing.” The little girl says, “I can think when I am quiet.” The little boy says, “I can see when I am still.”
For all those who know the beauty of quiet – pass it on to others.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you may remember those portraits on the wall that came to life. Before the “Fat Lady” was grudgingly opens the door to Gryffindor Tower, Jon Agee had created living portraits in his children’s book – The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau.
When Felix, an unknown French painter, enters his painting of a duck in the “Grand Contest of Art,” others ridicule his simplicity – until the duck quacks – earning Clousseau the grand prize. With illustrations that are reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s style, Agee continues the incredible story with a boa constrictor that slithers out of the frame and a cannon that fires out of the picture – until the poor artist is sent to jail and all his pictures confiscated.
The one portrait of a dog still hanging in the royal palace wakes up one night to catch a thief trying to steal the crown. Clousseau is exonerated and awarded the Medal of Honor. The last page may be the best – with the old painter walking into the frame.
Children’s author Kristin Cashore listed The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau as a book with a “perfect ending.” I agree; have you read it?