Sitting on the patio of the guest house where we are staying in Arizona. Just about bedtime. My Prince had a first full day of baseball with a double-header…ball from 9-5, almost like a full day’s work. The weather was spring-like, with plenty of sunshine and a slight breeze. PC’s team didn’t fare well but he had fun, scored a run, played third base and catcher and had the proudest wife on the team.
Going to share another Caldecott with you real quick before we call it a day. The book The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward won the Caldecott in 1953.
Author/illustrator Lynd Ward tells the story of young Johnny who longs to have bearskins hanging in his family’s barn just as all of the neighbors do. Meet Johnny.
He goes into the woods, determined to catch and kill the biggest bear around. But instead of a big bear, Johnny encounters a young, orphaned bear cub that becomes his pet.
That is, until the cub grows into the big bear Johnny was originally hoping to kill and skin. As the bear has grown older and larger, he has become quite out-of-control.
Johnny is faced with making an adult decision about the wild animal he loves as a pet.
The story is set in Ontario, where Ward had recuperated from a childhood diagnosis of tuberculosis. He used casein paint to create this monochromatic artwork. I had to look up casein paint…my art ed background failed me. It is paint attained from milk protein. Casein paint is water-soluble but after time becomes insoluble. This paint was often used for murals until the development of acrylic paint. Acrylic paint I do know.
Ward’s unsophisticated sepia paintings relate the story as much as the prose. Johnny’s impish ear-to-ear grin is almost a caricature. He reminds me of Opie (actor Ron Howard), Andy Griffith’s TV son on the “Mayberry Show”.
I can almost make out a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of his nose and can imagine Johnny’s hair to be the same shade of strawberry blonde as Opie’s.
In the illustration of the Orchard family meeting bear for the first time, the characters are painted in a curious balance between simple and detailed. The grandpa wears evidence of a hard life in the lines and wrinkles on his face. But the shoes appear like flat, afterthoughts. And the proportions of the characters’ arms with the rest of their bodies seems awkward. Somehow it all works together, with casein as the perfect medium for portraying this simple backwoods family living in an equally simple time.
In researching Lynd Ward and The Biggest Bear, I came across a website that offers a kind of buy and sell platform for 1st edition books. There is a section for “Children’s Picture Books”, and under that category, listings for “Caldecott Award” winning books. Apparently, for the correct edition of The Biggest Bear, collectors are paying upwards of $1000.00. Check it out here.
Remember that copy of Animals of the Bible I withdrew from my library? I was torn about removing it from the library collection but it hadn’t been checked out in years. And The Little House book that I loved as a child? They are both mentioned on 1stedition.net. Apparently having first edition Caldecotts can be quite profitable!
I bet I could find some real treasures in some of the El Paso school district libraries where little weeding/withdrawing has been done. Maybe that should be my next hobby? Looking for first edition Caldecott books. Do you have any old, valuable books I could relieve you of?
My baseball-playing PC has retired for the night. I need to put this away and climb under the covers, too. Wishing you a peaceful Monday.
Hugs and kisses,