This week's library book was a favorite of mine as a child, George and Martha by James Marshall. There are several George and Martha books, each consisting of four or five short stories about the adventures of two best friends. This book is a compilation of all the George and Martha books, over 300 pages of their adventures.
In the foreword, James' friend Maurice Sendak explains, "If one of James's most remarkable attributes was his genius for friendship, then George and Martha are the quintessential expression of that genius. Those dear, ditzy, down-to-earth hippos bring serious pleasure to everybody, not only to children. They are time-capsule hippos who will always remind us of a paradise in publishing and—both seriously and comically—of the true, durable meaning of friendship under the best and worst conditions."
I have always loved James Marshall's illustrations. I especially love the hand drawn type which introduces each story. I spent hours as a child trying to replicate his bubbly letters. As Sendak says in the foreword, "Much has been written concerning the sheer deliciousness of Marshall's simple, elegant style. The simplicity is deceiving; there is richness of design and mastery of composition on every page. Not surprising, since James was a notorious perfectionist and endlessly redrew those "simple" pictures."
I read that most of the George and Martha books were printed as four color overlays, so Marshall had to make four different drawings, one for each color. For a 48 page book, this meant he had to create almost 200 pieces of art. He sometimes had a hard time meeting his deadlines. As his publisher writes in the afterword, "He was a great storyteller personally as well. His grandmother died three times, according to Jim, to explain overdue artwork."
I was putting together a board on Pinterest of all the library books I've shared over the years, and realized how much I love seeing our books this way. Documenting our favorites has gotten a little harder now that my daughter Bee (my most patient hand model) is in school all day, but I love doing it. Some of our favorite books have been checked out from the library several times and feel almost like old friends.