While I was hunting for a book for our first "Next Chapter" Reading Club of the school year, I came across Rats on the Roof by James Marshall and knew it was the one. It is short - good for our first book, has animal characters so I don't have to debate the whole boy/girl thing already, and has that unmistakable James Marshall artwork on the cover that makes me love him. And love him I do.
Which makes this factoid all the weirder - he wrote (sometimes as Edward Marshall) and/or illustrated all his greatest stuff during the years I was not reading or appreciating them. Aside from maybe the first two in the George & Martha series, I was in middle or high school or college when he worked on things like:
But I'm fairly certain I do remember this title he illustrated as something I read BEFORE learning about James Marshall's books in college and graduate school:
His simple characters (and that witch!) are now classic Marshall - they look at least familiar to anyone who has read his books to their children at some point. How he conveys so much with such simple faces and expressions reminds me so much of Charles Schulz.
At our Next Chapter meeting, we talked about his illustrative style, and tried our hand at creating our own characters from some James Marshall body parts and faces:
So make sure your kids get to enjoy some James Marshall books while they're still young. Or sorta young. Oh, just read them no matter what age you are!