Monday, I was struggling to decide what book I wanted to feature and feeling very wishy-washy about the whole thing. Then as I hung out our laundry and watched my daughter sort clothespins and my dog chase things around the yard, I was struck by the freshness of the season and the little things of nature and animals and pure imagination. And this book came to mind. Not an exact match for my thoughts, but a perfect book to celebrate the wonders of childhood. This is a cleverly simple book, with short lilting rhymes and stunning illustrations, that follows the vivid imagination of a little girl as she shares all the ways she can be just like her favorite creatures. Here is I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair, 1951.
At the very beginning of the book, before the title page even, there is a sweetly bordered sheet of music also called “I Can Fly” with words by Hilda Marx, and music by Alec Wilder. Doing a quick search, I came up with nothing about this song and can only assume that with its inclusion in the book, and the general lyrics and theme that match the book’s text, Ruth Krauss must have used it for inspiration and a jumping off point. I mention it as well, however, to add that this book would be possible to sing instead of read if one so desired. I prefer Krauss’ more expansive text and rhymes; but either would work.
“A bird can fly. So can I.” And thus the book begins with a soft illustration of our book’s protagonist swinging high next to a few little birds. What a perfect way to start this lovely book, the near epitome of childhood: a swing. Next up, we have the girl mooing with a cow.
With each beautiful spread we see the many ways this girl can play, enjoy nature, and become anything she wants to be. She squirms like a worm, crunches like a goat, picks like a chick, makes a house like a mouse, and more.
This is a book by a powerhouse duo, if I ever saw one. I’m an avid fan of Ruth Krauss’ many writings. The book jacket blurb states it perfectly when it says, “She was a keen observer of children and one of the first authors to capture their language and perspective.” I Can Fly is an excellent example of just such work. I feel like a kid again when I read it and imagine how I would act out a certain animal. Collaborating with fantastic illustrators like Maurice Sendak, Marc Simont, Crockett Johnson (her husband), and here Mary Blair, Krauss has created many groundbreaking children’s books that have etched their way onto the classics shelves time and again.
The work of illustrator Mary Blair is a marvel to behold. While working for Walt Disney, she developed her style known as an “explosion of color.” Blair was a Disney illustrator off and on for over 30 years and heavily influenced many iconic Disney movies through the 40s, 50s, and 60s. She only illustrated a small handful of picture books, this of course being my favorite. Her character and animals are just adorable and that “explosion of color” is most definitely evident throughout the book. No matter when I pick this one up, I always finish it feeling incredibly cheery and optimistic.
I hope the newness of the season and the possibilities of the summer are filling your days with joy. And amidst all the busyness, I hope you find time to fly like a bird, walk like a bug and become merrier than a terrier!