Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic
The Man Who Didn’t Wash His Dishes
By Phyllis Krasilovsky; illustrated by Barbara Cooney
Who knew that in 1950 a prescient picture book could deal a bit absurdly and delightfully with the very topic reality shows flaunt –clutter! Two-time Caldecott winning illustrator Barbara Cooney who won for Ox-car Man and Chanticleer and the Fox has provided a subtle series of pictures of housekeeping gone awry. Ms. Krasilovsky’s story of the mustachioed little man who lives alone and cooks up fantastic meals for himself is a classic.
Anyone who has cooked a “soup to nuts” meal knows that at the end you’re faced with the inevitable clean up. I’m sure we’ve all been there with a mound of dirty dishes in the sink, like the little man –“I’ll just leave these in the sink for the night; I’m feeling a bit tired.” “There’s plenty of time TOMORROW.” But what if tomorrow is just a delaying tactic that follows one day into the next for the little man? What if, as days go by, the dishes begin piling up because he’s too tired to do them and it’s easier to just use OTHERS! Pretty soon the little man runs out of dishes and table space to put them on. This is where a picture really is worth a thousand words.
No clean dishes left? Oh well, this candy dish might do and I can always drink out of this vase. How about a stray flowerpot for a bowl? Might work. It seems like a practical plan at the outset, but so do many hilarious half-baked schemes. The troubles mount for our little man as the substitute dishes run out and every square inch of house space is filled with them. Poor guy can’t even get to sleep because he can’t find his bed, books (always an essential) or alarm clock! The lesson of the down side of procrastination is a hard one to learn and in this classic picture book it’s hysterically funny!
But when an idea for a solution pops into the little man’s head brought on by the sound of RAIN beating against his windowpane, it’s even more humorous. Hint: What do you use to wash dishes? Water. And what is rain made of? Get the picture?
Kids will certainly get it and love it. Don’t be surprised if they ask to help mom do the dishes after the read. The motto “Don’t put off till tomorrow, what you can do today” is a saying the little man and they, will remember from this charmingly comic classic!
A Note About Way Back Wednesdays
You may have noticed that many of the Way Back Wednesday books I’ve selected are Caldecott Award winning books. You may or may know that the Caldecott medal is given yearly to “the most distinguished picture book for children published in the United States beginning with 1937 publications.” It is awarded to the illustrator by The Association for Library Service to Children- a division of the American Library Association. The award is named for Randolph Caldecott, who a 19th century English illustrator and here are the criteria for the award:
- The book must be published in English in the United States during the preceding year
- The illustrations must be original work
- The artist must be a citizen or resident of the United States
- The book must be considered for the artistic technique employed, pictorial interpretation of story, appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures and recognition of a child audience
- The book must display respect for children’s understandings, abilities and appreciations.
- The book must be a self-contained entity, not dependent on other media for its enjoyment.
The reason I so often select Caldecott winners for Way Back Wednesday blog entries or videos is because I feel that these stories have stood the test of time. And time is the great leveler. I feel they have something in their themes that still speak to consecutive generations, even though some of them were written 60-70 years ago. They may have fallen off the radar for many parents or grandparents who remember reading them in their youth and so one of my goals is to bring them front and center again for a new batch of readers to enjoy.