I was sad to hear that Beverly Cleary (1916-2021) passed away this week. I fell in love with Cleary’s characters (Henry, Beezus, Ramona, Mitch and Amy) when I read her books to my kids. Cleary’s books have been blessed with images by talented artists, including Louis Darling, Alan Tiegreen, Joanne Scribner, Tracy Dockray, and Jacqueline Rogers. (Here’s a Smithsonian article comparing the contributions of these illustrators.) And graphic designer Laura Mock talks about the challenge of redesigning Cleary’s Ramona books for a new generation of readers, along with Ramona Kaulitzki’s art. (Below is a non-Cleary Kaulitzki image.)



Children’s book author Sandra Boynton and cellist Yo-Yo Ma have collaborated on Jungle Night, a book that takes kids on a trip through a jungle teeming with sleeping animals, with the noises and snores of the animals provided by Ma’s cello. Boynton and Ma also collaborated on an animated Jungle Night video, featuring Keith Boynton reading the book. After you’ve watched the video, go to the Time magazine site and read kid reporter Sophia Hou’s interview with both Boynton and Ma about the project. Other videos are available on Sandra Boynton’s website, including musical collaborations with Alison Krauss, Ryan Adams, and Dwight Yoakum.


On the Comics Beat site, Gregory Silber—in his column “Silber Linings”—writes about the “10 Goodest Dogs in Comics,” and many of his choices are irrefutable. (Some may be unfamiliar to you—do you know Pizza Dog?) Lockjaw, #3 on Silber’s list, is my favorite: he’s gigantic, he weights two tons, he’s the pet of a hidden race of super-powered beings, he has antennae sprouting from his forehead, and he can transport from one location to another instantaneously. (Above are Crystal the Inhuman and Lockjaw, from the ill-fated Inhumans TV show.) Second on my list (#5 on Silber’s) is Ace the Bat-Hound, a German Shepherd who wears a Bat-Mask to hide his secret identity while helping Batman and Robin fight crime. Here’s Silber’s entire list!


On Thursday, April 8 at 8pm EST, the Library of Congress begins their Zoom series “Object Lessons”—featuring deep looks at historically significant pieces in the LOC collection—with an examination of the original art from the very first Spider-Man story, written by Stan Lee, drawn by Steve Ditko, and published in Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962). Librarian Sara Duke will “share selected images from the drawings, and insights into the collaboration that led to the development of the teen superhero. This family-friendly event promises to be fun for superhero experts young and old.” Register for the Spider-Man “Object Lessons” event here. (Above is a picture of the first page of the “Spider-Man” art, where Ditko’s initial webby logo for the story was replaced by glued-on, conventional block lettering.)


Salon celebrates short films for children by Joan Micklin Silver, who would go on to direct such highly regarded features as Hester Street (1975) and Crossing Delancey (1988). Silver’s shorts, made for a company that specialized in educational films, are the charming, slyly subversive “The Fur Coat Club” (1973) and “The Case of the Elevator Duck” (1974), and copies of these films are available to watch as part of the Salon essay. Be sure to read the article too, as film scholar Dr. Marsha Gordon unearths fascinating background on Silver’s early career and argues that these 1970s New York films “deserve a place alongside Silver’s later feature film work, offering viewers today a cheery, fantastical counterpoint to Fran Liebowitz’s decidedly more curmudgeonly recollections of the era currently streaming in Martin Scorsese’s Netflix docuseries.” (Just to point out a couple of North Carolina connections: Gordon is a Professor of Film Studies at NC State, while the copies of Silver’s shorts are provided by A/V Geeks, a Raleigh archive of over 36,000 16mm movies run by historian Skip Elsheimer. Check out the A/V Geeks website to watch numerous samples from the collection!)


We’ve spotlighted the comics of Cara Bean before, especially her Let’s Talk About It, her free, 24-page guide to mental health and self-care she made for The Center of Cartoon Studies. Now Bean gives us a lovely seven-minute “Doodle Relaxation” on YouTube, effortlessly drawing and coloring a brain and a pencil dancing together. Take a deep breath, watch “Doodle Relaxation,” and then browse around Bean’s website.

This weekly blog post is written and compiled by Craig Fischer. To send along recommendations, ideas, and comments, contact Craig at craig_fschr@yahoo.com [.]

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