I have not posted anything in more than a year. I don't quite have enough of a need to share to the Universe and play the blog game. But.... I just found out that Remy Charlip has died and I need to broadcast to anyone who might find this what an amazing guy he was. Reading his obituary in the NY Times, I am even more impressed - dancer, artist, writer, theater... and in every picture he is smiling.
I don't remember when I got Charlip's book THIRTEEN, but I know it was a gift. It was published in 1975, so I was already in college, thinking of writing for children. This book was a surprise. It kept me enthralled for hours and still does. A lamp becomes an envelope - an envelope becomes a house - as sand forms a pyramid in front of a pyramid. Visual puzzle, quirky backwards collection of multiple connected stories, Charlip's sequential images must be seen to be understood. They are visual puns, sequential jokes, abstract musings. I just love the doodley intellectual whimsy of it.
Catalogers must have had fits with Charlip's books as they don't fit in anywhere particularly. Here is the Library of Congress' description of ARM in ARM: " An illustrated collection of tongue twisters, riddles and endless tales all of which feature a play on words and images. A collection of connections, endless tales, reiterations and other echolalia." How many summaries use the word echolalia!
THIRTEEN won a number of awards, particularly for the playful watercolor and line illustrations. But it is the books as a whole that I want to rave about. What I particularly admire about Charlip's work is how he understood children's need to explore and imagine their own stories, that children do not always need a clear narrative with an arc and ending. The I Spy books, David Wiesner's illustrated stories of pictures within pictures are all direct descendants of Remy Charlip.
On the last page of ARM in ARM, telescoping hands hold a telescoping book that says, over and over, smaller and smaller, THIS IS NOT THE END. How fitting! Thank you Remy.