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February 9, 2010

Remembrance Of Past Soup

Twenty eight inches of snow in Philadelphia reminds me of making soup which reminds me of TOO MANY BABAS, the first book I both wrote and illustrated. I had been working on illustrating a play about a fire breathing dragon for a textbook assignment. The children and teachers were supposed to get ideas for making the dragon's and other character's costumes from my pictures. Obviously, the Dragon could not use real fire so here is a rough sketch of my dragon costume. To "breathe fire" the "Dragon wiggled his firey fingers (fire painted white gloves) in front of his face under the brim of his green cap (dragon's upper jaw). Brilliant, yes?
The criticism came back. When he wasn't "breathing fire" the Dragon should take off his gloves (the fire) and put them in his pants pockets!! So now there would be fire coming out of his pockets. I still don't know why. But it reminded me of the sayings, "A camel is a horse. designed by a committee!" and "Too many cooks spoil the broth!" My Aha moment! I had also just seen an incredible exhibition of historic Russian costumes at the Metropolitan Museum in NY. With my head full of fabulous peasant costumes and decor, my Babas were soon "helping" Baba Edis make soup in her cozy little dacha.

In my first version the story ended with the ruined soup.

I showed it to my friend Barbara T. , who asked me the important question, "What are you trying to say to children?  YOU may think that too many cooks spoil things, but is that what you want to tell kids about working with others?" (actually, at the time, I wouldn't have minded) But of course she was right, so back I went to clean up my act, or at least my story. 

(click on art to enlarge)

TOO MANY BABAS, HarperCollins (I Can Read)
A good warm read on a cold day!!  ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Carolyn this is one of my favorite stories from my childhood! Im an ensemblem member of Theatre Zarko in Evanston, IL and would love the possobility of turning it into a puppet play. Would you grant permisson to use your story, or know where I could go to get permission? Thank you. Happy Birthday. Tony Koehler