Fox Tales

fox -- head in profile
watercolor | Fox | copyright Liz Macklin 2015

A fox ran past our house the other night. I spotted it under the streetlight. My neighbor saw it, too.

My favorite book from childhood, The Anthology of Children’s Literature, included “The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story” by Joel Chandler Harris. You might also remember the story from the Disney movie, Song of the South. Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox trick each other. The fox catches the rabbit with a very sticky ruse, the Tar Baby. To avoid becoming barbecue, the rabbit pleads, “Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!” Of course, the fox flings the rabbit straight into the thicket.

Virginia Hamilton retells this story in her anthology, The People Could Fly, and the rabbit cries, “Hot lettuce pie! This is where I want to be,” as he lands in the briars — free and safe.

Peter Spier’s The Fox went out on a chilly night features a roguish fox that fares better. He races through town and country and arrives home with dinner for a den full of kits. Emily Gleichenhaus sings this melody on the CD for her program, Sing Books with Emily. You can catch her performances for children at libraries in Northern Virginia.

For glimpses of foxes — I paint the taxidermy specimens, alas! — in Arlington, Virginia, visit the nature centers at Potomac Overlook Park and Long Branch Nature Center.

Note: I noticed today (May 14, 2015) that my copy of The Fox went out on a chilly night, the seventeenth printing, has only “The Fox” capitalized in the title. The other words are written underneath in lower case. As the photo on Emily’s web site shows, more recent printings capitalize using familiar rules, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.

Celebrating with The Reading Connection

 

The Owl and the Pussycat

   In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

The anthology includes a short biography of Lear, who was born in 1812 as one of twenty-one children. He began his career as an illustrator of nature studies and was known for his colored drawings of birds. While living in the home of the Earl of Derby, he entertained the children with silly rhymes and drawings, and those high spirited activities lead to the publication of his first  Book of Nonsense.  As a landscape painter, Lear divided his time between Britain and the Mediterranean. The article in the Anthology of Children’s Literature says that he taught drawing to Queen Victoria, but using a quick internet search, I’ve been unable to confirm the fact. Please let me know, if you find a source that gives an account of teaching the queen!

Lear is famous for his limericks, and you can find more information about his life and writing at the web site for the Poetry Foundation. One of my favorite poems is this verse about the Quangle Wangle. In March my first grade students will learn about animals and their homes. I hope to have them draw their own version of the tree with the Quangle Wangle and his houseguests!

The Quangle Wangle’s Hat

by Edward Lear

I
On the top of the Crumpetty Tree
      The Quangle Wangle sat,
But his face you could not see,
      On account of his Beaver Hat.
For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide,
With ribbons and bibbons on every side
And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace,
So that nobody every could see the face
            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.
II
The Quangle Wangle said
      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, —
“Jam; and jelly; and bread;
      “Are the best of food for me!
“But the longer I live on this Crumpetty Tree
“The plainer than ever it seems to me
“That very few people come this way
“And that life on the whole is far from gay!”
            Said the Quangle Wangle Quee.
III
But there came to the Crumpetty Tree,
      Mr. and Mrs. Canary;
And they said, — “Did every you see
      “Any spot so charmingly airy?
“May we build a nest on your lovely Hat?
“Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that!
“O please let us come and build a nest
“Of whatever material suits you best,
            “Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!”
IV
And besides, to the Crumpetty Tree
      Came the Stork, the Duck, and the Owl;
The Snail, and the Bumble-Bee,
      The Frog, and the Fimble Fowl;
(The Fimble Fowl, with a corkscrew leg;)
And all of them said, — “We humbly beg,
“We may build out homes on your lovely Hat, —
“Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that!
            “Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!”
V
And the Golden Grouse came there,
      And the Pobble who has no toes, —
And the small Olympian bear, —
      And the Dong with a luminous nose.
And the Blue Baboon, who played the Flute, —
And the Orient Calf from the Land of Tute, —
And the Attery Squash, and the Bisky Bat, —
All came and built on the lovely Hat
            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee.
VI
And the Quangle Wangle said
      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, —
“When all these creatures move
      “What a wonderful noise there’ll be!”
And at night by the light of the Mulberry moon
They danced to the Flute of the Blue Baboon,
On the broad green leaves of the Crumpetty Tree,
And all were as happy as happy could be,
            With the Quangle Wangle Quee.
————————
Note added February 27, 2012: I amended the biographical info to say that I was unable to confirm that Lear taught drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. Also, I have seen his first book called both Nonsense Book and Book of Nonsense.
Note added February 26, 2012:
The Anthology of Children’s Literature, which, since my childhood, has been  one of my favorite books of stories and poems, was edited by Edna Johnson, Carrie E. Scott and Evelyn R. Sickels and illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. It was published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. The copyright for the first edition was 1935, and my edition was copyright 1948.
watercolor painting copyright Liz Macklin 2012

Wings, Woodlands and Watercolor

Korean Garden (detail) | watercolor | 3.5″ by 5.5″ | copyright Liz Macklin 2010

Sunday afternoon at the park. Enjoy the  animals — owls, hawks, tortoises, snakes. Drop by to watch and talk or bring your sketchbook and your paints.

Students from HB Woodlawn school will host activities for kids and demonstrate a variety of art techniques.

I’ll be painting, and I’ll be eager to discuss  gardens, nature drawing, book design, popups and inspiration from the far east, especially Korean kimonos and embroidery.

Stop by and say hello!

Potomac Overlook Regional Park, — Marcey Road off Military Road, Arlington, Virginia

Sunday, June 6 — 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm

Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory Dickory Dock | watercolor | copyright Liz Macklin 2005

At my house it’s been the coldest January since 1994. I wake up to the glow of streetlights on what remains of the December snow. Last week I saw a fox run run down the street in the moonlight. Even a sly hunter might find it hard to catch a midnight snack when ice coats the hedges and all the squirrels have hidden in hollow trees.

This month my illustration Hickory Dickory Dock is on display at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.  The exhibit includes work by artists who teach and volunteer with the Arts and Humanities Program at the hospital.

You probably remember the nursery rhyme:

Hicklory dickory dock
the mouse ran up the clock
the clock struck one
the mouse ran down
hickory dickory dock