The Cucumber Princess, Caren Caraway

I have to be honest, this is one of the most bizarre picture books I've come across. I'm not even sure if it's intended for children. Written by Jan Wahl and illustrated by Caren Caraway, I can't help but think that this story has something to do with female empowerment.

At the beginning of the story we have Kukuroo, a rag picker, who finds a freshly laid egg among the withering cucumber vines. She takes it home to hatch.

A tiny girl hatches out of the egg and the shock of it causes Kukuroo to faint. But the young girl has business to conduct and insists that she be taken to the King.

There she finds Totoco-Ahpop, King of the Eagles and the Wind, admiring his
tattoos. She informs him that she wants to rule his kingdom and that she is stronger than him. The men laugh. She then confounds the king by picking up a heavy jade stool with ease and building a finer palace than his in less than a day.

This angers the king and he orders "Toss the wench into the mud-caked
lake. Now I'll be stronger." But they mistake a cornhusk for her and she
makes a run for it, calling fishes to make a wiggling raft to take her across
the lake.

Here she grabs the tail of a jaguar and safely hides among the brambles and thorns.

After getting a ride from a woodpecker into a field, she pushes her toes into the soil. Rain starts to fall and she starts to grow. She asks herself: "What am I?
Why am I here?" "The wind blew yet she stood firm and the beasts and birds snuggled close and she learned how to grow and love and give warmth." (The feet turning into roots is creepy.)

Speeding ahead, the Cucumber Princess confronts the King, puts him through some tests so he can admit his weakness which causes the princess to love him.
When he asks "Who are you?" she answers; "I Am She Who Makes the Rain Fall. I am She Who Turns the Corn Ripe. I am She Who Gives. Together, TOGETHER we can both make a powerful Kingdom."

There is lightning and thunder, butterflies throng the air and a blue rain falls down. The King and the Cucumber Princess learn to rule together. Kukuroo (the rag picker) was made Keeper of the Butterflies. Weird.

The book states that Caren Caraway's illustrations are inspired by ancient Aztec art with a bit of Mixtec influence. According to Wikipedia the Mixtec (or Mixteca) are indigenous Mesoamerican peoples inhabiting the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Guerrero and Puebla in a region known as La Mixteca. The explanation for the dots is that the Aztecs used dots with day-symbols in their paintings, in this story Caraway used a 21 day cycle.

The Cucumber Princess
By Jan Wahl
Illustrated by Caren Caraway
Stemmer House Publishers, 1981


The Train They Call the City of New Orleans, Michael McCurdy

Today's picture book has striking scratchboard illustrations by artist Michael McCurdy. The lyrics from City of New Orleans by folk singer Steve Goodman provide the story (such a great song - so well written). Goodman won a Grammy for the song. A great songwriter was lost when he passed away in 1984. 

Michael McCurdy has had a long and prolific career as an illustrator of children's picture books, doing both scratchboard and wood engraving. He is one of my favorite illustrators. To read more about Michael McCurdy click here. To view a previous post on McCurdy, click here. 

The Train They Call the City of New Orleans
"City of New Orleans" words and music 1970 by Steve Goodman
Illustrations by Michael McCurdy
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2003


Deep in the Forest, Brinton Turkle

Today's vintage children's book is a wordless story and a reverse take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I really like Brinton Turkle's approach and the sepia color tone - he is a great illustrator. To read more about Brinton Turkle, click here.  To see  previous posts on other books by Turkle, click here or here. And don't forget to click on the pics for a much larger view.

Deep in the Forest
By Brinton Turkle
E.P. Dutton, 1987


The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, Paul Goble

This is my first post on a book by Paul Goble. It was a little surprising to learn that someone from England would make a career out of illustrating and writing books about Native Americans from the plains. He does it in a beautiful stylistic way. In his illustrations Goble accurately depicts Native American's clothing, customs and landscape.

Goble immigrated to the U.S. in 1977 and became a citizen in 1984. He resides in Grand Rapids, South Dakota with his wife. Goble has been adopted into the Yakima and Sioux tribes. He has won numerous awards for his work, among them a Caldecott medal for The Girl Who Loved Horses. To read more about Paul Goble, click here.

The Girl Who Loved Horses
Written and illustrated by Paul Goble
Scholastic, 1978


Squirrels by Brian Wildsmith

My dog would love to catch one of the many squirrels in our yard. It just doesn't seem to register with her that they are much too fast. Plus the fact that she is on a leash... yet she doesn't give up. Persistance

So, with Spring on the brain, here is Squirrels by Brian Wildsmith.

For reasons unknown my scanner refused to scan the entire image of the book,
even though I redid it twice. 

I had no idea that squirrels swim.

By Brian Wildsmith
Franklin Watts, 1974

To view my previous posts on books by Brian Wildsmith click on the title:


Give me something good to eat...

Here are a few pages from Volume 7, How We Get Things from Childcraft, 
The How and Why Library that involve food.

Desserts, Illustrator John Alcorn

Photo: Pepsi Cola Co., art by Paul McNear

Art by Pat Rosado

Art by Bob Keyes

Art by Charles Harper

Art by Don Almquist

This is the best illustration I've ever seen involving mincemeat pie.
However, now that I know what's in it only confirms why I never liked it.

The How & Why Library
Volume 7 - How We Get Things
Field Enterprises Educational Corp., 1972


They Didn't Use Their Heads, Jo Ann Stover

Today's vintage children's book is They Didn't Use Their Heads, written and illustrated by Jo Ann Stover. This mid century picture book uses humor and examples to get kids to think about their behavior. Nice pen and ink illustrations by Stover and I like the crayon treatment for the cover. I wasn't able to find much information about Stover who passed away in 2009, but I did find a nice article in which her daughter was interviewed. You can read that here.

They Didn't Use Their Heads
By Jo Ann Stover
David McKay Co., 1963