March 5th, 2013 at 10:06 pm by Dr. Drang
It began snowing around 9:00 this morning, and by the time I left work the snow was thick enough to swallow all the sound. The few cars that drove past my office were like those silent futuristic vehicles in science fiction movies—just a low whoosh when they went past. As I brushed the snow off my car I thought about Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day.
Image from Not Just Cute.
There are many wonderful things about The Snowy Day, but what sticks with me is how Keats managed, with both the pictures and the words, to evoke the enveloping quiet of a big snow. It was a great to use as the last bedtime story, because it soaked up all the energy of the day. When I read it to my kids, I’d speak slower and more softly with every page. They were never asleep when I finished, but they were ready.
The Snowy Day was a necessary antidote after another of my favorites, The Sailor Dog, by Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams.
Image from Etsy.
The plot of The Sailor Dog was almost lysergic in its wild swings and continuity breaks. I used to wonder if it were written using the Marvel Method, with Brown outlining a rough plot to Williams, forgetting it by the time his illustrations came back, and then just making up a new story to kind of fit.
I loved reading The Sailor Dog, adding bits to my performance with each kid. By the time our third was nearing the end of his bedtime-story-reading days, I was like Gielgud playing Hamlet or, more fitting, like Shatner playing Kirk. It always started with an explosion in a gravelly, pirate captain voice:
Born at sea in the teeth of a gale, the sailor was a dog. Scuppers was his name.
The “coat on a hook for his coat, spyglass on a hook for his spyglass” part was done in one breath, as fast as I could talk, with a huge, dramatic intake of breath before I started and a croaking gasp as I finished.
Reading to your kids is one of the many things you miss as they get older. You don’t really want them back at that age—they worked hard and deserve to be age they are—but a time machine that works for just a few minutes every evening wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.