Monday, August 13, 2012

Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Garth Williams

Little Fur Family has a special place in my heart.  Since becoming a librarian, I really no longer collect books for books' sake.  Almost every book I now own has some sort of meaning to me, some intrinsic value.  It may be attached to the story itself (for example, I have multiple copies of Lord of the Rings).  A special view are precious to me because of the physical book itself.  Little Fur Family is such a book.  Inscribed inside the book, in perfect "girl" penmanship, is this note:

To: Shawn
for "Perfect" attendance in Kindergarten
From:  Mrs. L. Lyon

It's in pencil.  "Perfect" is in quotes - perhaps meaning that while my attendance was perfect, I was not.

I don't remember Mrs. Lyon very well now.  She's a blob in what little memory I have left, in seventies dresses, with big glasses and black hair.

I could be all cynical and bitchy about Little Fur Family but I'm not.  It's a perfect little story, with nothing at all wrong with it.  Garth Williams illustrations are perfect.  Like all things Margaret Wise Brown, it's simple and graceful and majestic and pure.

There is something very European about the Fur Family.  They don't look American or English; they look and dress very Slavic.

It's a day in the life of a fur family, only a day from the past.  That kind of perfect day no longer exists for any of us.  It makes me sad.

The little fur child is sneezing, but it looks like he is crying.

The fur mother is absolutely comforting to me; I love this picture.

What kind of fur do fur children wear?

Little Fur FamilyLittle Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you read Little Fur Family in the 21st century, it's an almost sadly nostalgic picture book. The Fur Mother bathing her child in a old fashioned tub, the Fur Child's Depression-era coat and hat; the glow of lantern and candle and firelight as night falls at the end.  This isn't necessarily a deep story (although I've since read that there are themes of life and death, and the power over death, which is faintly disturbing to me); it's powerful because it's simple.  Small adventures - catching a fish, visiting grandpa, finding a neat looking bug. The majesty of this story lies in the sparse text, combined with its warm illustrations.

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