After Mr. C clonked me on the head with some kind of blunt object, maybe it was his Schleich alligator, or one of his Thomas the Train engines, I’m not sure. I lay on the floor of his room holding my head saying ‘Ow, ow, ow’ over and over.
‘Don’t worry Dada, I’ll get something that will make you feel better!’ he said.
I waited patiently on the floor in my dazed state, somewhat amused and wondering what he might have in mind. In a few minutes he brought over a book.
‘It’s your favorite book, Dada!, this should make you feel better!’
It was a book that I found at the Martha’s Vineyard booksale , ‘Town and Country’ by Alice and Martin Provensen. I’m not sure how he knows, but it really is one of my favorite books. I’ve been reading it often since I came across it at the sale. I’m not sure wether it is because of the nature of my former career in the visually oriented world of advertising, but I really love a good children’s picture book. He has quite a collection of books now, and so many of them are almost little works of art, he couldn’t have picked a better book as being my favorite.
There’s a story in Ms. J’s family that her younger sister loved one of the Provensen’s book’s so much that she had her Dad read it to her every night for at least a couple of years. That book is ‘The Year at Maple Hill Farm’, which is also very good, but I prefer the more detailed art in ‘Town and Country’. I have to admit that I had not heard of the Provensens before I heard that story, but whenever we go to used book stores I now check out the Children’s book section to see if they have any of their books. They’re probably most well known book is ‘The Color Kittens’, though they published quite a few, including more than one book of illustrated fairy tales, myths, and fables.
Unfortunately, I believe that most, if not all of their books are out of print. I’m not sure why, I’m assuming it is because their artistic style might be considered out of date by publishers. It really is unfortunate since their work is so rich and detailed. I believe they wrote or illustrated more than 40 books, starting in the late 1940’s through the early 1990’s. Martin passed away in 1987, Alice is apparently still working on her art in her mid-90’s.
First published in 1984, it tells the story of their commute into New York City from their house in the country. The city is described as being filled with interesting places to go and things to see, bustling streets, exotic restaurants, parks, museums, and all kinds of activity.
For some reason, I’m convinced that these two kids are self-protraits of the artists as children, with Alice on the top floor looking at the window, and Martin just below her in the apartment below her.
Here’s another detail of a page from the ‘City’ section, showing the variety of stores and restaurants.
Their prose might be considered bland, but really should be read aloud from start to finish for its lyricism to be appreciated.
‘Weather isn’t very important in a city.
Rain or shine, hot or cold,
you can go to the Zoo.
The Library is open.
You can go to a Museum,
to the Aquarium, the Planetarium
or to a theater to see a play.”
I’m sure the above illustration is of The Metropolitan Museum with its view of Central Park. They have a varied style, some of their work reminds me of Marc Chagall, this one above reminds me of a simplified Pieter Bruegel.
The ‘Country’ section is much more sedate. Describing the relaxed way of life of their home in upstate New York.
“If it is stormy, you can lay in the hayloft of the big barn where it is quiet and warm and dry.
Or you can find an out of the way place to read a good book while the rain drums on the windowpanes.”
Mr. C has a lot of books. Some he has received as gifts, some we bought for him as gifts, some we found at library book sales. They fill an entire book shelf already. I’m sure that as he gets older he will go though some of his books and want to discard some of the ones that he feels that he has outgrown. Maybe we’ll give some to friends or relatives, and others we’ll give back to the library for them to sell at their book sale again, or maybe we’ll give some to charity.
I’m going to make sure that we keep this one though.