As Nick Hornby taught us back at the beginning of this century, for all categories of “things”, there are subcategories and more subcategories, and when we compose lists of favorites, we must duck and weave through the intricacies of these tiered groups. So when I repeat myself over and again through the course of this blog, when I tout one favorite after another, please allow for the categories and subcategories, each vying for its special place in the crowd. After all, if I contradict myself, it is because I am human, and I contain multitudes…
And so, to add to the list of personal favorites: Julian Scheer and Marvin Blick’s Rain Makes Applesauce. I only discovered this book a short bit ago in my wanderings through the library. It has no place in that category of “deep” or “meaningful” books, nor in the subcategory of “clever” or “eye opening.” If I had to give this book a place among favorite kid’s books, it’s “my all-time favorite children’s book loved first as an adult reader that fulfills all the promises of magic, glory, and art.” It’s perfection.
Of course, this has been thunk before. I’m not one to put too much stake in honors given, but someone thought this brilliant book deserved the Caldecott Honor in 1965 (though tragically, it was a runner up to Montresor’s May I Bring a Friend?. Really?). If it were up to me, this one goes floating out of the park and settles on a cloud of cotton candy.
Simply put: without any direction, tangible plot, or identifiable characters, Rain Makes Applesauce explodes in a carnivalesque orgy of nonsense. Now, there are a few moments of blatant pedantic lesson-giving cloaked in the thin guise of glorious gibberish (“Candy tastes like soap soap soap”), but even that can be forgiven in the face of such flying fun. Reading almost like a fable, the series of lyrical sentences seem as though a grandmother could be telling her grandchild about the origins of the world, all the time using analogies to the known fact that indeed, rain makes applesauce. Just as “salmon slide down a hippos hide” or “my house goes walking every day”, well, rain makes applesauce. And though the book itself calls its narrator out with “you’re talking silly talk”, the fact that rain pummels apple into puree is affirmed again and again. The back and forth between that quick check-in with reality and the subsequent dismissal of it gives the story both momentum and the excuse for reveling in the ridiculous.
And that plays out quite well when the ridiculous is so exceptionally illustrated. Julie Scheer’s words are glorious nonsense, and Marvin Blick’s illustrations, pastel colors with tons of thin lines and negative white space, are out of control. It’s even a little creepy, made up of hordes of patched dolls, giant clouds of collaged landscapes, and fragmented colorful lines splaying all about. The big lesson? It turns out that when you put vague, lyrical, silly words next to eery, happy, gesturing pictures, the drum grows louder and you’re marching to the beat of a circus, coerced by the compelling music of the mayhem.
Thank you for posting. I adore this book! I seem to be missing two of the pages though, do you happen to have copies of all of the pages? I am missing the “candy/soap” page and the “tiger/elephant” page. Any help would mean so much!!!
Thanks, keep up the great work! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pingback: Kick off: what makes a picture book good, besides the pictures? « Little Book Review