Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Magic Meadow

Most homeschool families are familiar with the biographical and historical picture books of Ingri and Edgar Parin D'aulaire.  Besides the historical value of the biographies of notable historical figures such as George Washington, Pocahantas, and Bemjamin Franklin, the D'aulaire's are known for their vivid lithography.  Their biography of Abraham Lincoln, for instance, won the Caldecott Medal in 1940.

But until reading about their lives in order to write this post, I didn't realize how very prolific was their body of work, and how interesting their backgrounds. 

Edgar was born in Germany, but was of Swiss citizenship.  His father was Italian, and his mother appears to have been an American who lived in Paris.  Both his parents were artists.  Edgar studied under Henri Matisse.

Ingri was Norwegian.

After they married and came to America, both pursued careers in art.  They were drawn into the world of Children's literature by the director of the New York Public Library, and worked together to produce eventually 27 picture books.

They seem to have specialized in the folk tales and historical figures from their combined cultural backgrounds, producing stories of Norwegian, Swiss, and American heritage, and also an extensive book of Greek Myths.

A few months ago, before the school year started, I took my elementary aged kids to the open house at their school.  The school librarian had placed a couple of boxes of "free" books in the hallway.  Even though I was in the thick of weeding out our home library, I simply could not pass it by without taking a peak.  And as any true bibliophile can understand, it's pretty hard for me to take a peak at a box of old books without finding at least a couple that simply need to come home with me.

One of the books I found in these boxes was The Magic Meadow by Ingri And Edgar D'alaire.  This book presents many apsects of Swiss heritage, including the story of William Tell, the freedom loving representative governmental system of the Swiss cantons, the rugged beauty of the Alps, and a snippet each of folklore and the history of tourism based economic development.  And as a constant backdrop, through it all, flows the quaintly beautiful lithograph illustrations.

I'm not sure how the D'aulaires managed to come up with a story that included so much, but somehow it all holds together.  As are most of the D'aulaire books, this one, too, tells a sweet story with lasting value at many levels.

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