After Friday’s post about his law firm reading, Jim Shepard is back on our homepage to tell us why he, his family and his dog all love William Steig’s Rotten Island.
The only kinds of children’s books in my house when I was growing up were non-fiction books (as in, All About Volcanoes or The World of Dinosaurs or The American Heritage History of the Civil War) since my parents, who hadn’t gone to college, believed that if you were going to read a book you might as well learn something. So I encountered all of those children’s books that everyone else knows only glancingly, at other kids’ houses, until I met my wife Karen and she showed me how wonderful the books she loved as a child really were. And then of course we had children and I got to see for myself how much kids loved those stories.
Rotten Island is a particular favorite because all three of our children – now 20, 15, and 9 – loved it; in fact, it’s been such a family favorite that, as you can see from its upper left hand corner, even our newest addition – Cosmo, another beagle – enjoyed it, at least until it was taken away from him.
As a disconcertingly cheerful rendition of the world’s most awful place – the kind of place where there’s “an earthquake an hour, black tornadoes, lightning sprees with racking thunder, squalls, cyclones and dust storms,” and your best chance for some R&R is bathing in the volcanoes’ lava, or stretching out on hot embers in the broiling sun – it’s perfectly in keeping with our family ethos. The drawings, in their spastic aggression, are wonderful. The humor is deadpan. The result is joyfully unruly, if not subversive. Sort of like childhood itself.
Be sure to check out last week’s Photo of the Week with Alex Simmons. Happy Reading!