CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1968
Barbara Emberley, author
Ed Emberley, illustrator
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967
Interests: art, poetry, history, war
Also by this illustrator: The Wing on a Flea, One Wide River to Cross, Ed Emberley’s Drawing Books
A brief, repetitive poem in which various military personnel bring and assemble a cannon, though the most lowly, Drummer Hoff, gets to “fire it off”. After the ceremonious blast the final page shows that the gun blew itself up, and now birds and bugs make their home in it, as the grass and flowers grow over top.
(NB. There is no warfare depicted, the men are simply assembling and trying out their new cannon.)
I was fascinated by this book as a child, so my judgement may be suspect, but this is a really fun book to read and look at. The repetitive poem encourages children to join in, especially with the “But Drummer Hoff fired it off.” And the double page where it fires (“KAHBAHBOOOM!”) still makes my daughter giggle. The illustrations are really wonderful – wildly colourful, and somehow invoking both psychedelic art of the 1960s and also traditional “primitive” woodcut prints. I remember being interested in learning the military ranks, from private to general, but also obsessively copying the illustrations. There’s just something about the simple yet ornate, chunky characters that compelled me to try to draw them too.
On that topic, Ed Emberley has also written many how-to drawing books for children. He believes that any and every child can draw, and his books break down the process of drawing almost anything into the basic shapes and squiggles. There’s one dedicated to drawing cars and trucks, if that’s where your child’s interests lie. We just went through Ed Emberley’s Fingerprint Drawing Book, which has inspired many masterpieces. I highly recommend these books! I would even buy them for grownups who insist they cannot draw.
More information about Ed Emberley can be found on his website. (I don’t usually plug authors’ websites, but I am a big, big fan and this site is quite fun – with drawing guides, how-to drawing videos, and printable activities and colouring pages.)