ETA: If you are here from googling after seeing Google’s awesome Mary Blair doodle, hello! Welcome! Isn’t she the best? You might also like the illustrators Gyo Fujikawa and Alice and Martin Provenson. Just saying.
It as satisfying as it is rare when it so happens that Harper, Adam, and I all enjoy the same book so much that we (the adults) can stand the constant, near-psychotic rereadings that are these days demanded of favorite books. I Can Fly, by Ruth Krauss, with illustrations by Mary Blair, is one of these rare birds.
“Fly,” as Harper calls it, is a 1951 Little Golden book that’s been re-released, and a good thing, too. It’s just too bad it hasn’t been printed as a board book, since its simple, brief text and bright illustrations would I’m sure be appealing to a smaller baby too, and as we all know babies tend to enjoy their books, shall we say, with all their senses. Especially their chewing senses.
Anyway, this book really is amazing. First of all, it has my current favorite text-to-image ratio. I know this sounds uncouth, particularly for a so-called writer, but a lot of kids’ books just have too many damn words. Read the same book a thousand times with a toddler flipping the pages and you’ll know what I mean. Secondly, the text itself is just so sweet. Involving as it does all sorts of animals (one of Harper’s particular interests right now) and a little girl playing pretend, it incorporates a sense of imagination and possibility that I feel like is the essence of childhood. Or should be, anyway.
No surprise then, that it’s written by Ruth Krauss, who wrote about a million kids’s classics, and was a member of the experimental Writers’ Laboratory at the Bank Street School in New York during the 1940s. Okay, actually, I was surprised. I just learned this now upon looking her up. How interesting! And I thought I liked the book because Harper enjoys saying “Moo!”
But then of course, also, obviously, the illustrations by the wonderful Mary Blair, which I like so much it makes my eyes hurt. The adorable-but-not-princessy girl, the crazy-but-also-just-right use of color, the kinetic playfulness throughout. I kind of want Harper’s whole childhood to look like this book. Is that too much to ask?
Mary Blair illustrated a few children’s books and also a concept artist for – gasp – Disney. She even designed the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland. She was like a scientist of whimsy!
Let me tell you from extensive experience, it’s easy to fall into an internet hole of beautiful Blair artwork. Here are some findings from my most recent excavation: a nice compilation of Mary Blair information and an excellent flickr set of Mary Blair illustrations. Enjoy the ensuing Blair-induced bleariness!
So anyway, I Can Fly definitely gets five balloons. Seriously, I could read it all day. Oh wait, I do. And PS, it’s a Little Golden Book, which means it’s only $3.99. Helloooo budget holiday gift.