I got an email earlier this week from my cousin near Chicago:
Hi Cousin Dan and Family!
While rearranging furniture for the Christmas tree, I saw something in my bookcase and immediately thought of you. It is an original (Aunt Betty) Patterson Pick. I was going to send you my 40 something year-old copy, but I’m selfishly keeping it. Hooray for Amazon! Watch your mail……
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I have over all these years!
What a tease! What could Sara be sending us? I imagined a certain picture book I remembered from so long ago, one I loved to look at when we visited them.
Last night the book arrived. The same book! Must have been a Christmas present my mom bought for her when I was five or six years old. Feel like I might remember helping pick it out at the store with Mom. Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield. It’s this large format 1967 book originally published by Rand McNally, the altas people. In all these years I’ve never seen it anywhere but at Aunt Mary and Uncle Ed’s house when I was a kid.
It’s a great story, a fairy tale about a wise king whose beautiful daughter is attracting all the eligible princes in the neighborhood. Only problem is the princes always stay for dinner and cut into the king’s share of his beloved pickle chiffon pie. (Mental note: find the recipe.) The king sends the three nicest princes on a quest, to bring back the most unusual and marvelous thing so that the winner may marry the princess. In the forest they find ordinary things like small dragons, a troll peaking out of a tree, etc. But they also see marvels like a three-headed dragon toasting marshmallows and a lion juggling six cans of root beer soup while rollerskating. Prince Bernard is sure he has found the winner when he captures a Three-nosed Snozzle who bakes enormous pickle chiffon pies. But while he’s dragging the Snozzle back, the Snozzle cries over the little Snozzle youngsters he’s being dragged away from. Prince Bernard lets him go and returns empty-handed.
I think you can predict, as my son did, how the story turns out. It’s a literary marvel: a story with no badness that rolls along and keeps the reader fully engaged. And yes, the prince’s kindness is rewarded.
It’s a great story, but the magic for me was the great pictures. When I was six, it was important new visual information. (I was all about drawing.) And I still admire the fun, cartoon style. The drawings are in bold, black lines. Some spreads are fully colored. Others are a mix of the black outlines with only part of the picture colored in, such as the five black line mice painting bright, bold mouse variations on Whistler’s Mother, Toulouse-Lautrec and American Gothic.
Jolly Roger Bradfield has many books out. He’s 88 years old, and would you believe he created the first Keebler elves in 1964? He had a syndicated comic called Dooley’s World in the ‘70s, and he illustrated a new book in the Alvin Fernald series in 2009. Go Roger!
Thanks, Cousin Sara! We’ll treasure Pickle Chiffon Pie for many years.