Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Read This: The Man Who Lost His Head

 This book, The Man Who Lost His Head, is everything I like in a children's book--eye-feasting illustrations, imaginative with a bit of absurdity, a well-written story, and a classic in that it has endured for almost 70 years.  It is written by Claire Hutchet Bishop, and illustrated by Robert McCloskey who you probably know better as the writer and illustrator of Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings (which won a Caldecott medal, in case you care).
The story, as one might imagine from the title of the book, revolves around a man who awakes one fine day only to discover he has lost his head (and who has not had a morning like that, I ask you?).  From there, he goes about trying to replace his head with something temporary but suitable so he can feel comfortable in public while he tries to locate his head...
Naturally, he first tries out a pumpkin...
.. and when that does not quite work, overcorrects with a parsnip...
...but then works out that custom carving (a dangerous feat one might imagine with no head to begin with!) a little something may work best.   With that done, he can truly set about trying to find his head...
...which, of course, involves a trip to the county fair where he plays toss the ring games, rides a carousel, and almost gets his replacement head taken off by a tiger--amongst other things (none of which involve actually finding his head).
Ultimately, he meets a bright if cheeky boy who is determined to help him find his head once and for all through whatever means necessary.  I suppose the story is a parable, but I simply find it to be fun--unpredictable, filled with silly yet wonderful writing that never talks down to the reader, and black and white illustrations burbling with clever details.  I am, in fact, so captured by the illustrations every time I read this book--the dotty pajamas the main character wears, the rural 1940's era characters in overalls, the black cat playing in the background, the boy's cowlick and freckles--that I could almost forgo reading the story--except that Beeper really wants to hear the story too because it is too good not to read.  

And if it is interest to you, you may want to know that this is part of the New York Review Children's Collection--which is a collection of varied and lesser-known classic books, all beautifully designed and bound in such a way that it reinforces their status as books deserving to be kept, cherished,  and read again and again, over time. 

1 comment:

sugabeats said...

I remember that book from when I was a kid! Thanks for reminding me about it.