Back when I was pregnant with O., I discovered the books of Lois Lenski. I was shopping in Home Goods for some things for the nursery, and found this book in amongst the odd assortment of children's books they always have on the shelves there. Most of my readers know that the title of this blog is more than a simple descriptor of the fact that my life is overrun by small children. It also happens to refer to our last name. We are, quite literally, the Small family.I was just delighted to find this book, along with companion titles Cowboy Small and Policeman Small. I bought them, wrapped them up, and gave them to J. the Christmas before O. was born, and I'm pretty sure it was his favorite present that year. Each book is a little story about a day in the life of the title character, and always ends with the line something like, "And that's all, about Cowboy Small."
I recently learned that Lois Lenski was born in Springfield, Ohio, a town not far from where I grew up, and went to Ohio State University. She was popular in the fifties, and was well known for illustrating the Betsy-Tacy books (which I enjoyed as a tween before we were called tweens). Her mid-twentieth century Midwestern values come shining through in her books. Sometimes I feel a little awkward about loving these books as I do, since they are humorously dated, and problematic from a feminist perspective, such as when Mama Small does the dishes while Papa Small takes a rest after dinner. However, on Saturday, Papa Small is out mowing the lawn while Mama Small puts her feet up on the front porch.
The Fireman Small title is my favorite for comic relief, as fire safety rules are woefully misrepresented when all the furniture is hauled out of the house before someone is rescued from the top floor. And when the fire is out, Fireman Small tells everyone "All right, move right back in!" For some reason, the world presented in these books is more comforting and heartwarming than off-putting.
My kids love the fact that their name is in a whole series of books, and enjoy the colorful, simple illustrations. I could recite the entire text of The Little Train in my sleep. "Bang! Bumpity Bump! Three cars are hitched behind."; "Engineer Small will sleep in the city all night and take the little train back to Tinytown in the morning."
When it came time to design a header for this blog, I called on Nap Warden to come to my rescue. I knew I wanted to call to mind Lois Lenski's art, and she did a fantastic job of making my vision a reality.
There's just one thing. Whenever we read Papa Small at our house, and hear about the adventures of Papa, Mama, Paul, Polly and Baby Small, my kids have always recognized that this family is not quite like our own. "But we don't have a Baby Small at our house," says O.
Come late September, the real Small family will indeed have a Baby Small, and we will truly match that illustration you see above. Just don't count on me to be wearing a red shirtdress and heels anytime soon. J. is seriously considering the bow tie, though.