Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic
by Don Freeman
I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves in the position of receiving an invite to a simple party and planning to relax and attend as ourselves with little hoop-de-doo involved. Well, that’s what Dandelion the lion, invite in hand, in fancy gold ink no less, “plans” on doing as he receives a tea- and-taffy party invite from Jennifer Giraffe.
Things start to spiral out of control quickly for Dandelion as he begins his prep for the party with a simple haircut onto a manicure, a wave and curl, fancy sport jacket with added hat and cane to top it all off. Did I say simple preparation? The final touch is a bouquet of dandelions for his hostess. What he doesn’t bargain for is the fact that his hostess, with pearls draped on her lovely long neck, fails to recognize this dandy of a lion, slamming the door in his face. Wouldn’t you know it, the skies darken, gusts of wind spring up and Dandelion’s beautiful bouquet, hat and hairdo are blown to the four winds as he is left standing under a weeping willow tree. To say that he looks bedraggled in both style and spirit is putting it mildly. But as the sun peeps out following the rain, with curls undone, wet jacket hung on tree limb, Dandelion in his original form, emerges.
He slowly disengages from check jacket, cane and his other un-Dandelion like accessories and spies, as he sits on Jennifer’s stoop, three dandelion flowers beneath the step. With a resolute, “I think I’ll try again”, he bravely rings the bell and finds himself welcomed heartily by all of his friends. Jennifer, in turn, relates the story of a silly looking lion that previously appeared at the door and the whole group laughs along with the incognito Dandelion.
Don Freeman, author of “Corduroy”, “Norman the Doorman”, an ALA notable book, and many others has perfectly captured the common desire of all of us to ‘gild the lily’, as it were, when as Dandelion so succinctly states at the end for us all, “ From now on, I’ll always be just plain me.”
So, kids, take a lesson from a lion called Dandelion and just be you and believe that that is enough, not just for lions but also for everyone.
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.