Rediscovering William Steig
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about illustrations and childhood.
My heart sank in Astoria upon seeing The Museum of Moving Image closes at 7PM. I had been looking forward to reconnecting with Jim Henson’s Muppets all week! And I had failed my colleagues in the office! After all, I volunteered to write this week’s Illuminations. Walking back to the N at 36th Street, I remembered I had two books with me I’d ordered earlier that week and hadn’t yet read: William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and CDB! The ride back to Brooklyn wasn’t as long as it sounds.
Steig’s whimsical, subtle illustrations immediately bring me back to the carpeted corner nook of my 2nd grade classroom with beanbags strewn along its wall and a bookshelf stuffed with Caldecott Winners. In addition to Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, which won the 1970 Caldecott Award and was banned in many libraries around the United States because of Steig’s anthropomorphized pigs as police, Steig wrote the Newberry Award winning Doctor De Soto and Shrek! (the latter being the inspiration for the motion picture). CDB! is a rather experimental picture book where the text is simply letters. One reads the letters aloud—each page is a story of letters, accompanied by a picture. The slight changes in facial expressions and wide range of characters show Steig’s mastery of illustration.
I beg you to revisit the picture books of your youth. I can guarantee you’ll find something you didn’t pick up on as kid—or, if you’ve forgotten that special message in the throes of adolescence and burgeoning adulthood—you’ll be able to relearn it.
Image Sources: http://onthebutton.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/untitled.jpg?w=333&h=512