The other day, Bruce at Wordswimmer recommended Leonard S. Marcus‘ interview with James Marshall in Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book. I’ve read and loved many of Marcus’ books about the history and making of children’s literature (and told more than one person that Marcus has the greatest job on the planet), but this is one I’d missed.
Bruce was right on the money about the intimacy of the interview — Marshall didn’t seem at all reserved in talking about his adolescence (“I was the school creep!”), his “collaborator” Edward Marshall (an attempt to dupe Houghton Mifflin editor Walter Lorraine), and the trove of manuscripts still unpublished at the time of the 1989 interview, 3 1/2 years before Marshall’s death:
I have drawers and drawers of George and Martha stories. Some are finished, others not. I have always wanted to do a book — and I may do one — as a sort of scrapbook, or sketchbook with bits of stories — maybe even a sort of funny, juiced-up workbook for kids. I have the beginnings, I guess, of a hundred stories that never went anywhere, which I know somebody could finish. I have one picture of cows dancing a tango-y dance, and the caption reads, “From the day the Hoovers learned they could dance, their lives have never been the same.” Then you turn the page and — NOTHING. I have lots of stories like that. Then I have middles of stories, and I think it might be fun just to put eight of them together and say, “Take it, kids — and send me the royalties!”
Marshall was a native Texan (“I was born across the street from the Alamo!”), but until this month I had no idea. Shame on us Texans. We’ve got about as many Halls of Fame as we do guns, we put on a marvelous book festival, and Abilene is even home to the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, but when it comes to enshrining our homegrown creators of children’s books, we’ve not outdone ourselves.
Honor winner Marshall seems a safe bet. I wonder: If there was a Texas Children’s Literature Hall of Fame, who would be in it? CaldecottNewbery Medal winner (and transplant from two coasts) Louis Sachar seems even safer. But who else, and why?