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Showing posts with label Clarion Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clarion Books. Show all posts


The Tailypo (1977)

Retold by Joanna Galdone

Illustrated by Paul Galdone

This is one of the great read-aloud spooky stories. It was first told to me by the mother of one of my neighbors who was down visiting. “Tom tells me you like stories,” she said, and it was a beautiful, sunny day – Earth Day I’m pretty sure it was – not a cloud in the sky.

“Yup, pretty much,” said I.

“When Tom was a kid I used to take him down to the Jonesborough Storytelling Festival…” she began.

“Hey, I’ve been there!” I said excitedly.

“…and his favorite was always the Tailypo .”

“The what?”

“You don’t know the Tailypo?” she asked, incredulous. “Well, there’s all different ways to tell it. There's a man in a cabin, and suddenly he’s attacked by this creature which moves so fast he can’t really see what it is. But he has an axe and he manages to cut off the creature’s tail. Then he boils it up and eats it.”


“And then, in the middle of the night,” she continued, drawing closer, “He hears a voice saying: I want my Tailypo. Tailypo, tailypo, I want my tailypo…” And her voice grew deeper by several octaves, throatier like a chain smoker. She was wearing these dark sunglasses, so I couldn’t see her eyes, but there was suddenly something about her that really invoked this creature. This sweet older lady, transformed before my eyes. “I want my Tailypo,” she continued. “Give me back my Tailypo!”

She kind of freaked me out.

It wasn’t until later that I found this version of the story, done by Paul Galdone and his daughter Joanna in the  seventies. It definitely does the tale justice.

There is really something about Paul Galdone, I cannot put my finger on it. I’ve felt it before. He has such a classic – dare I say, basic – way of telling a story. Very matter-of-fact. Like he’s just telling you the story the way he heard it with no elaboration. So, in a way, I almost put my guard down. But then there’s always an edge. He does not shy away from violence. I remember reading his version of Jack and the Beanstalk to Arlo once, and was slightly taken aback by the illustration of Jack triumphantly cutting the Giant’s head off (a la David and Goliath, it just now occurred to me! I love making connections like that!).

It was actually written by his daughter, Joanna Galdone. The back of the book tells us that she first heard the story from her grandfather (which is a great way to first hear a story). She set about researching its origins, and traced it to the backwoods of Tennessee.  It also says that Paul Galdone modeled the woodsman on a man who lived near him in an abandoned one-room schoolhouse. Wow. Every artist should be so lucky.

The man in the story is old, with long white hair and a thick mustache and lambchops which cover the bottom half of his face. He goes out hunting and finds himself a rabbit with the help of his hunting hounds. But then just as he’s about to fall asleep all contented-like, what should he find but that “a most curious creature crept through a crack between the logs in the wall. It had a BIG, LONG, FURRY TAIL.”

Indeed, that’s all we see, just a nice, long furry tail. Probably soft to the touch. Nothing scary so far, though it is a bit intense to see that hunter immediately roused and carting an ax. He manages to cut off that tail and, still hungry, figures, why not,I’ll just boil it into a stew and eat it.

“Tailypo, tailypo, all I want is my tailypo,” comes the voice in the middle of the night. As I read it, I could hear that throaty voice of my friend’s mother.

This occurs three times - and three times - the old man hollers after his hounds to go chase away whatever it is. But the third time, the dogs do not return. Did they run off in fright? Or…

“You know and I know, all I want is my tailypo.”

Galdone finally reveals the creature at the very end of the book, or at least the top half of the creature. We see him peering over the foot of the bed. He has two, large yellow eyes, two furry ears. A hand with claws reaching up over the bed sheets.

“I haven’t got your tailypo!” screams the old man.

“Yes you have. Yes you have.”

Now there’s nothing left of the old man’s cabin in the deep, big woods except the chimney. But folks who live in the valley say that when the moon shines and the wind blows, you can hear a voice say:

‘Tailypo, tailypo
now I’ve got
my tailypo.’


The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story About Suffrage (2010)

Written by Iris Van Rynbach and Pegi Deitz Shea

Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Text set in Old Claude

Clarion Books

"Taxation without representation," is the key refrain in this interesting and resonant picture book.  The year is 1869 and we're in a fully realized Glastonbury, Connecticut, which was drawn upon by historical photographs.

The main characters are Abby and Julia Smith, two elderly sisters who have lived their entire lives in Glastonbury and still run the old family farm.  The first page is the two of them in their field on a sunny day, holding milking pails and surrounded by their many cows.

They are good citizens of their fair town because - as the text informs us - "They had always paid their fair share of taxes, which funded schools, roads and other services."  However, ill tidings were afoot.  Taxes were raised.  The good sisters Smith - being the single, female landowners that they were - were called upon to pay much more than anyone else, as a result of a vote in which they - being the single, female landowners that they were - were unable to participate!

Taxation without representation!

The sisters did not concede quietly.  They made their frustrations known in town meetings, standing in oxcarts in the town green, drawing parallels between their case and the American Revolution - chanting, "Taxation without representation!"

Then, in 1874, enter George Andrews, slimy tax collector.  In lieu of the sisters paying their taxes, he demands seven of their cows.  The cows would be auctioned off by the town, who would then keep the money as payment.

There are many great, lively illustrations detailing the passage of the cows, being led this way and that, all seven of them, large and struggling, "bellowing in protest," and "resisting every way possible."

Finally, on the day of the auction, the townsfolk - in solidarity with the sisters, refuse to bid on the cows.  The sisters easily buy them back for a song, and the town is forced to take the loss.

This charade apparently went on for several years in Glastonbury.  The cows were made to trudge back and forth between the auction grounds and the Smith farm, and every year the result was the same, all the meanwhile the sisters continued to argue from their ox-cart:

"Our town should act as a family, with people working together and taking care of each other rather than rulung over one another and denying the women a voice!"

Newspaper and magazines took up the story, and the situation drew national interest.  The sisters toured America, giving speeches and writing about women's rights until 1878, when Abby Smith died.

Julia died in 1886.

It wasn't until 1920 that Congress added the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

"The Smith sisters didn't live to see it, but they had played a part in making it happen... and so, of course, had their cows."


Golem (1996)

Golem by David WisniewskiRetold and Illustrated by David Wisniewski

Cut paper

Clarion Books

This is an extraordinarily beautiful book which tells the story of the Golem, a giant made from the earth and given life by the Cabalist Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel in the year 1580. This story has been around for many centuries, and is considered to be the forerunner of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

There are no scientists here, however, only Cabalists and practitioners of the occult. Once the giant is raised and given its marching orders - to destroy the enemy - it does not then go quietly into the night.

"Your purpose is at an end," says Rabbi Loew, standing on the balcony and considering the many hundreds of graves strewn below.

The towering Golem asks if he will remember this day.

"No. You will be clay."

Golem by David Wisniewski

"Then I shall not obey you," responds the creature, his forehead still marked with the Hebrew letters which gave him life.

Golem by David Wisniewski
Add caption

The book is illustrated with incredibly detailed cut-paper, and the scope it offers is thrilling. Wisniewski is equal to the task of creating extreme close-ups in which we see both the sorrow and the bloodlust present within the Golem, and also city scenes with seemingly several hundred tiny figures rushing through the streets, brandishing torches.

More picture books about the golem!

More picture books based on Jewish Folklore!

Golem by David Wisniewski

Here's a book trailer I found online, pretty cool!

David Wisniewski
David Wisniewski (1953 - 2002)
Read his obituary.
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