Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Good Book Finds: Ruth Sawyer ~ The Enchanted Schoolhouse

Books just end up on my desk. I am not always sure where they came from or why they are there. But, I look at them, of course, mostly just so that I can figure out where to re-shelve them. But, then, sometimes, I look twice.

A book called The Enchanted Schoolhouse, by Ruth Sawyer, ended up on my desk the other day. I am familiar, just a little, with Ruth Sawyer. She is one of those Maine authors (making her confusing, here, as she could be filed in several different areas: local authors, juvenile fiction, etc.). I am pretty sure I read a book or two of hers way back in the day. But, it’s been a long time.

I picked this one up and flipped through the pages, and was struck by the illustrations. They looked oddly familiar.

from The Enchanted Schoolhouse:

I thought for a minute, and then realized who it was: Robert McCloskey, you know, of Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, and Make Way for Ducklings fame.

Aha, I thought. That’s it. He’s the illustrator. And, furthermore, I thought, it totally makes sense. He’s a Maine author [illustrator], and she is, too. I flip to the front to find the credits and confirm my realization….

Only to be proved wrong. Illustrator: Hugh Troy. Hugh Troy? Who the hell is he? And, how can I be wrong???

I flip a little more, and discover this dedication.

This only deepens the mystery. Okay, she clearly has some connection to McCloskey. I sit around scratching my head for a little while. Here are the facts:

*Robert McCloskey was the father of the characters he wrote about in so many of his books, Sal and Jane.
*Ruth Sawyer was the grandmother of those very same girls.
*Ruth Sawyer is not McCloskey’s mother. Why, you ask? A little Wikipedia research, and, later, further study of some of the other books we have here of hers, reveals she is the wife of some guy named Albert Durand.

I finally come to this conclusion: Ruth Sawyer must have had a daughter who married Robert McCloskey, and was then Sal and Jane’s mother. Phew.
from One Morning in Maine, the mother and Sal and Jane in the kitchen:

A few more pieces of Ruth Sawyer trivia:

*She’s actually pretty famous, at least in my book-award-world view. Won the Newbery for a book called Roller Skates, in 1937.
*The library has at least five books of hers, in addition to The Enchanted Schoolhouse:

A Cottage for Betty
Roller Skates
The Little Red Horse

I think I will try to get Alden going on reading some of these. They look like the kind of books he might like…

I still don’t know the answer to the question that started me on all of this: why do the illustrations in this book look so much like McCloskey’s?

boat scene from The Enchanted Schoolhouse:

from One Morning in Maine:

Maybe it’s just me; maybe it is that pen and ink style; maybe McCloskey was influenced by Troy (I’m assuming he’s younger, given the family/generation conclusion I came to). If so, interesting then that McCloskey became so famous, and I’d never heard of Hugh Troy.

One last thing: another book of Sawyer’s, Daddles, illustrated by a third person – Robert Frankenberg, also has slightly familiar looking drawings. Maybe it’s just the time period they were all working in…


SVVMCS said...

Found this on Wikipedia: Sawyer married Albert C. Durand, an eye doctor. The couple raised two children, Margaret (Peggy) and David, in Ithaca, New York. Peggy, a children's librarian, married Robert McCloskey, who later became a children's book author himself. David, an economist and statistician, was a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Michelle Lee said...

No idea what SVVMCS is... Sorry for any confusion. Michelle

qcanoe said...

Clarissa, you might be interested to keep an eye out for my favorite illustrator of kids' books, John Schoenherr. In particular, I love Rascal (for older kids), and The Barn (for younger kids).

Clarissa said...

Michelle - I am always really glad to know that you are reading!

I think I read that same Wikipedia entry - but, somehow I did not totally process all the details that you captured there. Not sure if I was just skimming, or if I only read the opening paragraph.

anyway, it is nice to clearly see those further details.

Tony - ah...... Rascal..... you, or Steph, had mentioned it this winter. So, I pulled it from the shjelf here, when I saw it, early on this summer.

Gave it to Alden, who quickly read it, and, at some level, LOVED it.

HOWEVER, it was also totally heartbreaking for him, and after finishing it, he was really shattered by the ending (for other readers: boy finds and loves raccoon, then, sets raccoon free into the wild...).

So, we had some talks about the great sadnesses that accompany the great joys in this world. Or, the sadnesses that we have, that in some way make it so that we can also have great joy.

Heavy stuff, eh?

Clarissa said...

More on Ruth Sawyer:

Mom gave me more specifics. She (Sawyer) is not just a Maine author, but, really a Hancock/Hancock Point author. I sort of knew this. All the books we have here in the library have this cute little sticker on the inside cover saying "This book was written by a member of the Hancock Point summer community", or something like that.

Her house is what is now Gull Rock Pottery, for those of you who may be familiar with this area...

tuna said...

I'm wondering if the library here has Journeycake Ho, which is by Ruth Sawyer and has wonderful illustrations by Robert McCloskey. I'm pretty sure I read it here many years ago, but maybe it has disappeared (I didn't steal it, though I have pinched at least one book from the HP library - true confession time)