justice_turtle: Image of the TARDIS in a field on a sunny day (Stan Rogers in the yard again)
justice_turtle ([personal profile] justice_turtle) wrote in [community profile] readallthenewberys2013-09-05 11:28 am

Newbery Honor: The ABC Bunny (Wanda Gág)

I'm jumping ahead to 1934 here because The ABC Bunny is due back at the library in a week and I'd rather not have to order it on hold again.

* According to the jacket flap, this wasn't a Wanda Gág solo effort but a family collaboration: Wanda's sister Flavia composed the "ABC Song" on which the book is based, her brother Howard did the lettering, and Wanda did the story and illustrations.

* The title page credits Howard - "Hand Lettered by Howard Gág" - so I still don't know whether his lack of credit on The Funny Thing was because he didn't letter it or because he just wasn't credited. o_O

* The book is dedicated "To Gary"; nothing else about Gary is specified.

* The first thing in the book is the "ABC Song" by Flavia Gág, with tune; about half the words are "tra la la la la la la", repeated after every line of the song, with a few extra tra-la's at the ends of stanzas. O_O I don't have a piano handy and I can't sight-read music well enough to tell how the tune goes without a musical instrument, so I venture to YouTube to look for a rendition there.

* Ah, here we go. The ABC Bunny Song performed by Shannon R. Linville. The music is really pretty and quite... perky, I guess is the word I want; it has a good pace, although I question the placement of the ritardando on the line "in a flash". o_O The lyrics, though, are... less than inspired?

* And the lyrics are the entire text of the book, seems as if. *sigh* WHY. Why did this take a Newbery Honor when The Funny Thing did not. (Just because there was no Caldecott for it to take yet?)

* The pictures seem to be done in charcoal or soft pencil instead of Ms Gág's more usual pen-and-ink. They're quite detailed and professional, as usual - Wanda Gág almost always has whole scenes with little backgrounds and framing details where most other illustrators would do backgroundless sketches or doodles.

* The story is very simple. An Apple falls and scares a sleeping Bunny, who runs "Elsewhere in a flash" -- there's a signpost pointing down the road to "Elsewhere", which little touch makes me grin.

(C and D are covered by "C for Crash! D for Dash!", with the pictures indicating that the apple has fallen and the bunny run away startled. This book really should have had a Caldecott nomination instead of a Newbery, if only the Caldecott had existed yet; the text doesn't hold up without the pictures, which it seems to me is kind of a basic requirement for "literature", even children's literature.)

* The bunny meets a Frog. There is a rainstorm. ("G for Gale! H for Hail!" I must admit, it's a good exercise in inference, if you're trying to follow the text without the pictures. I highly recommend watching the video I linked above, which has the pictures.) Bunny runs away from the storm.

* Bunny meets Insects, a Jay, a Kitten, a Lizard... each one has a full-page black-and-white picture filled with elaborate plants and leaves.

* M is for Mealtime, a double-page spread where Bunny eats greens in a garden, after which he is seen Napping in a Nook.

* Bunny meets an Owl, a Porcupine, some Quail sitting on a Rail, a Squirrel... again, each (except the Quail and Rail, which share a page) with its own detailed full-page illustration.

* Bunny is then seen Tripping back to Town (Bunny Town, as the signpost on this page informs us); he stands both Up and Upside-down. You see what I mean about the... uninspired quality of the lyrics? I mean, I know it's hard to make alphabet books terribly gripping, but at least Richard Scarry introduced a xiphias in his. He did, really. It played a xylophone. :D

* Seriously, I think somebody - Wanda or Flavia - was running out of steam by this point. V is for View and Valley, W for Welcome ("Welcome to Bunny Town", says the sign), X for eXit -- I kid you not. The picture is bunnies diving down their holes.

* Y is for You ("Take one last look"), and Z for Zero ("Close the book"). I am really, deeply, massively unimpressed. Even the pictures aren't super-awesome - bunnies weren't Wanda Gág's best subject, and graphite wasn't really her medium. :P

*sigh* At least the Caldecott will come along in a few years and send the Newbery to focus mostly on non-picture books for older readers?

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