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Young Critic Raves Over Old Book!

My husband Herb’s grandmother was first cousins with Marie Hall Ets, winner of the Caldecott Medal for children’s picture books, and Herb remembers as a child being taken to visit her New York City apartment, where he was impressed by the pet mice she kept in cages as models for her charcoal drawings.

Over the years he has searched out copies of her various books from antiquarian book sites, but recently, as it became time to introduce the star pupil of the Wake Robin Farm Daycare and Academy for Exceptional Grandchildren to her works, he realized he was missing his own childhood favorite, In the Forest.

When the precious copy arrived from a couple of nice-sounding ladies in upstate New York doing business as Book Rescue LLC and also Happy Dog Farm, Inc., (surely a story in itself) we couldn’t wait to see what our resident 23-month-old critic would have to say about it.

Five stars!

“Read again! Again! Start over.” One particular page fascinates him. “Go to the gooder page.” Something about the boy in the story trying to ascertain if one of the animals—a stork—was “real” seems to intrigue him. Maybe it’s all the discussion around here about the difference between the logo deer on the John Deere tractor and the “real deer” that come up out of the forest to graze in the yard. As we read it over and over and discussed everything, he finally looked at us solemnly and said, “We talking all about this.”

I love that Marie Hall Ets wrote and illustrated this book seventy-five years ago and today, despite the musty smell of the pages, her story is as alive and fresh as the day she finished her charcoal drawings and decided she had the words down just right. Wish she could see how beautifully and mysteriously her work still speaks to this child.

You have to hand it to the people who write, illustrate, edit and publish children’s books when they manage to nail it like this. The Caldecott Medal means nothing to this little guy, but he knows what he likes, and the people on the committee that year--all long gone, I'm sure--knew exactly knew what they were doing.

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