A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teen-Ager (in the Iowa Review)

I’m honored to be a part of The Iowa Review‘s special section on children’s literature, and even more honored that the journal has chosen to feature my essay on-line, for free. Two and a half years ago, “A Manifesto for Children’s Literature; or, Reading Harold as a Teen-Ager” began as a blog post.  It means a great…

Created Equal: The Planned Integrated Community of Village Creek, Conn.

For America’s Independence Day, here’s a little-known chapter in the history of American anti-racism. Following the Second World War, progressives founded a dozen planned integrated communities across the country. While working on my biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss, I learned about one of those communities — a section of Norwalk Connecticut directly adjacent to where Johnson…

The Archive of Childhood, Part 1: Crayons

We tend to imagine the self as an unbroken whole, but it might better be described as plural, a series of selves that, though temporally contiguous (and often overlapping) are not always the “same” self.  That’s one of the conclusions suggested by Robert Krulwich in “Who Am I?,” a Radiolab podcast from 2007.  It is…

Harold Around the World

For Crockett Johnson‘s 108th birthday, it’s… Harold around the world!  Whether you know him as Valtteri, Paultje, Pelle, Tullemand, Harold, or something else, you can read about his adventures in at least 14 languages. I have copies of Harold and the Purple Crayon in nine languages (Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, and its original English)…

A Very Special House

This past Friday, I spent the afternoon at Crockett Johnson’s house — 74 Rowayton Avenue (Rowayton, Connecticut), where he and Ruth Krauss lived from 1945 to 1973. Though I wrote their biography and had seen (and photographed) the house from the outside, I’d never been inside. I’ve seen all of their homes from the outside, but…

Purple Crayons in Connecticut: Two Talks This Week

People of Connecticut! This week, I’ll be giving two talks on two children’s-literature luminaries of the Constitution State — Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss.  One is free and open to the public, and the other is $5.  Both are lavishly illustrated.  Here’s what you need to know: Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 4:00 pm “Not So Simple: The Genius…

Crockett Johnson’s Elusive Allusions: Errata for Barnaby Volume Two

You don’t need to get all of Crockett Johnson’s allusions to enjoy his classic strip, Barnaby. But I’m the sort of person who wants to know these things. So, at the back of each Barnaby book (5 volumes, Fantagraphics, 2013-2017), I’m providing notes for other readers like me. You know who you are. But Crockett…

Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby Volume Two (1944-1945) is here!

Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby Volume Two: 1944-1945 will be shipping soon!  I know this because my copies arrived in today’s mail. (I co-edited this book with Eric Reynolds) It looks great! (You can get Barnaby Volume Two from Fantagraphics or at your local comics retailer. Ask for it by name!) As we did in Barnaby Volume One and will do…

How Much Is That Crayon in the Window?: Harold at Compas, L.A.

Crockett Johnson‘s Harold appears in Madeline Stuart‘s window design for Compas, as one of the “Novel Displays: Storytelling by Design” windows at La Cinega Design Quarters‘ “Legends” event (May 7-9, Los Angeles). Surprising no one, I always enjoy reports of Harold sightings. The addition of three crayons behind Harold departs from Johnson’s book, but their presence helps viewers recognize…

Nine Kinds of Pie

Happy Pi Day!  In recognition of 3.14 (today) and this blog’s Pi pie avatar (logo?), here are Nine Kinds of Pie (loosely defined). 1. The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter: 3.1415926535.  When I was a kid, I memorized the number out to its tenth decimal point. On a long strip of paper,…