A Story Is to Share: How Ruth Krauss Found Another Way to Tell a Tale
Enthusiasts of books for children will be quite familiar with the work of author/illustrator Ruth Krauss. Her children’s books include The Carrot Seed, A Hole Is to Dig, A Very Special House, How to Make an Earthquake, I Write It, and Open House for Butterflies among other titles. Several of her books were illustrated by her husband Crockett Johnson (author of Harold and the Purple Crayon), and she collaborated with the wonderful illustrator Maurice Sendak on many books, helping him launch his career.
In A Story Is to Share: How Ruth Krauss Found Another Way to Tell a Tale, author Carter Higgins has the enviable task of showing young readers a slice of the life of this classic American writer, Ruth Krauss, and how she came to create stories for children. Higgins begins Krauss’ story with her early childhood: born during a storm, sicknesses, and how from the start she approached life her way. “She listens listens writes and draws/stitches pages sews a book/She finds another way to tell a tale.”
As the story progresses, Krauss ages up, still maintaining her idiosyncratic ways. “Then this girl grows up a bit picks up a violin/Like this/But the right way is the wrong way and the near way is too far away . . . She finds another way to play a song.” She wears her clothes backward at summer camp, “she dances when she shouldn’t wears a shoelace for a tie/Like this/. . . She finds another way to be herself.”
Throughout, Higgins’ clever storytelling and word play mirrors Krauss’ whimsical style. Isabelle Arsenault’s ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations also capture Krauss’ quirky and curious nature. Higgins notes that as an adult Krauss painted and “finds another way to ploosh and swirl.” Krauss also begins to write stories for children, though she is met with a lot of rejection. “Now a writer with ideas and thoughts just right for books/Like this/but people say NO THAT’S NOT GOOD/OR THAT ONE/THAT ONE EITHER.” Still, Krauss scribbles and doodles, scratches and crumbles up paper, and thinks and plans. She also faces the questions like, “What happens when ideas get stuck or when the stories hush? What happens when you chase them and they scatter?”
Krauss is known for her keen ability to speak to children with her words and depicting her child protagonists as inquisitive and filled with wonder. Higgins and Arsenault conclude their book by sharing Krauss’ inspiration for her first book The Carrot Seed: She meets her young neighbor. “Here’s her neighbor much much smaller he sees the world he says the words/Like her.” Together they plant carrot seeds and wait for them to grow.
In A Story Is to Share: How Ruth Krauss Found Another Way to Tell a Tale, Higgins reminds us all about the world of children seen through the eyes of Ruth Krauss and how she so adeptly saw children. Higgins also reminds anyone interested in writing books for children to follow Krauss’ lead in always remembering to view the world from the perspective of a child. And to do so unconventionally, just as Krauss did. “When she listens and she wonders and she’s playful she remembers/She finds another way to tell a tale.”