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April 3rd, 2017


Caldecott Monday: Ox-Cart Man

Alas, alas - my library did not get me the next Caldecott book in time for my Monday read! WHATEVER SHALL I DO?

Well, fortuitously, next week's book is one that I already own and love and have in fact posted about before: Ox-Cart Man, written by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. You might think that I would have run out of things to say about it in that previous post, but you would be WRONG - and yet again fortuitously, I didn't write much about the artwork in my earlier post.

Barbara Cooney was probably my favorite illustrator as a child; I also liked Patricia Polacco and Jan Brett, but Cooney was the one who illustrated books about the Power of Imagination (although, fair warning, Ox-Cart Man is not even slightly about the Power of Imagination) which was basically the theme of my soul when I was five.

I like the stories she tells/chooses to illustrate, and I also like her style. There's a certain Grandma-Moses-ishness about it in this book - the detail, the rolling landscapes, the neglect of mathematical perspective in favor of what one might call emotional perspective (maybe you can't see quite this many hills at one time, but you can feel the hilliness all around you) - although her figures seem more supple than Grandma Moses's to me - more like real people and less like wooden dolls in a carved barnyard scene.

There's a particular illustration of the Ox-Cart Man walking home after taking all his goods to market, a new iron kettle over his shoulder and money in his pocket - walking down the dusky path past the vast vista of the darkening hills, a small village with lit windows, the sky deep red with sunset, up the hills to his own house. The promise of coziness is so strong.

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