This is the third in my series of children's books that inspired me...
Robert McCloskey was born on September 15, 1914 in Hamiltion, Ohio. He is best known for creating such children's masterpieces as "Make Way for Ducklings" and "Blueberries For Sal". But it was this book "Lentil", his first book as author and illustrator, that first caught my attention as a youngster.
McCloskey had such command of his artistry, his pen and ink work was remarkable! There was no need for color with pen skills like this. As a child, I was drawn to the exaggerated expressions shown on the faces and in the body language of his characters, they nearly jumped from the pages of his books. There was such fluidity to his drawings, they had a rhythm and motion all there own...I found them to be utterly fascinating. There is a certain sense of timelessness that black and white illustrations can evoke, a feeling I tried to capture in my first book "I Hear the Wind". I wasn't sure if I had the patience to do all the illustrations in pen and ink like I first envisioned, so I rendered them in black and white acrylic paints. I was happy with the results!
"LENTIL" is set in the fictional small town of Alto, Ohio. (Which was loosely based on McCloskey's own hometown) The story involves a boy named Lentil who, because he could not sing or whistle, learns to play the harmonica. One day the town started to buzz with word that Colonel Carter, the town’s most famous former citizen, would be returning. Everyone was happy about this except Old Sneep, who was a very bitter and despicable sort of character.
All kinds of festivities were planned to welcome Colonel Carter home, including a brass band which would greet him at the train. When the train finally arrived, the only sound heard in the town was the sound of Old Sneep sucking on a lemon! The old man knew this would make the musicians pucker up and be unable to play their instruments. A very confused and disappointed Colonel Carter stepped off the train, where was the great fanfare he expected? Not effected by the sound of the slurping Sneep, Lentil puckered up, blew on his harmonica, and filled the air with lively music! The story ends with Colonel Carter and the rest of the town continuing the celebration... even to the delight of Old Sneep!
Robert McCloskey died on June 30, 2003. He was a master of illustration. I will forever be inspired by his work and his contribution to the world of children's literature.