Swimming and picnic fare with friends is planned for Monday, but my weekend struck an epitome of celebration yesterday when Jama jamarattigan and her husband took a break from visiting relatives to meet me and Peter at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Little is more exciting than meeting in person someone you’ve come to know and adore on their blog. Jama is as sweet and funny as you’d guess from Alphabet Soup.
We saw the Tomi Ungerer exhibit with lots of art from the Mellops, a pig family, and Jama was won over by the mother carrying a cake almost as tall as she was. There was also a bat chasing a moth with a net, crocodiles, boa constrictors, a flying kangaroo, and an octopus playing checkers and the piano. Most were drawn with delicate but assured lines, which I preferred to some of the bolder Ungerer pictures I’ve seen reprinted: of course these do look better reproduced small, and that’s why I, too, chose to put one here. Ungerer says, “If my books teach children anything, it’s to make fun of adults, especially those who are taking themselves too seriously.” Here's a recent New York Times interview.
He is a friend of Maurice Sendak, who I learned was also was an early encourager of Barbara McClintock, whose work often shares his fascination with stage design. One gallery featured art from what I believe was Barbara McClintock’s first book, Heartaches of a French Cat (David Godine, 1989) which someone told me took about eight years to write and draw. Certainly her labor shows in the elegant detail. She was inspired by a Balzac play to come home and create an 87 page sketchbook from memory, and the show displays the gesture drawings and photocopies she made to experiment with different color schemes. I love the sense of place and history in all her work, and how she credits some of this to growing up near grandparents who lived in an old Victorian house, which included her grandmother’s special collection of woman writers. Sigh of happiness. I hope that collection was passed down to her.
The third gallery was the one devoted to Eric Carle, which included artifacts going back to early childhood drawing and examples of the design work he did as a young man. We saw the cover of A Week with Willi Worm. Astute editor Ann Beneduce asked him to change the protagonist to a caterpillar, which became the Hungry, Hungry one we know, and offered the ending with a butterfly. There were also pages from other works, a display case with tools and examples of linoleum block prints, and a very green costume designed for a 2001 production of The Magic Flute.
After leaving the museum, Jama, our husbands, and I ate fat sandwiches and daintier carrot cupcakes at Barstow’s Longview Farm talking about life, writing, and hoping to set the ears burning of bloggers including Sara Lewis Holmes, Kelly kellyrfineman, Jo jbknowles, and Jules of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast as we marveled at their energy, wisdom, and kindness, while we enjoyed cool drinks, a warm breeze, and a view of the Holyoke Range, slow-shuffling cows, and Cornelius.
Now I’m drinking the delicious macadamia-cocontut tea Jama brought me via Hawaii, but already missing her smile. And hearing rain and thunder. That beautiful lake with wonderful friends may have to wait for another year, but my weekend feels pretty great.