Friday, November 23, 2012

Book review: All Around the Town by Phyllis McGinley

But, a few years ago, I picked up an alphabet book of hers at a library book sale, a 1948 first edition of All Around the Town that had been discarded from the shelves of Montgomery County Schools in Clarksville, Tenn. I certainly hope Alex Poythress got to read it when he was a little boy. 

Q is for the Quietness
Of Sunday avenues
When silence walks the city
In her pretty velvet shoes;
When trucks forget to rumble,
And from steeples everywhere
The bells of Sunday morning
Ring their questions on the air.

Man, that is some writing right there. The whole book's great, delivering a vivid imagining of what about city life might grab the attention of a child in adult (but not lofty) language. It's like Aunt Phyllis flies in to New York to babysit her preschool niece for a weekend; the child acts as the visiting adult's tour guide along a walk all around the town (hence, the name), and then, on the flight home, Aunt Phyllis dashes off the most awesome and totally authentic thank-you letter to her niece--along with a $20 bill to go out and buy herself a good dictionary.

Also, the artwork, by Helen Stone, is just beautiful.

"E is the Escalator ..."

"G's the gay Good-Humor man ..."

"U is for Umbrellas ..."

And so forth.

The culture apparently lost interest in Phyllis McGinley, but I don't care. Just from this one book it's clear that this woman is an absolute pro, and I'll be on the lookout to find more of her stuff.

Highly recommended for preschoolers who are not growing up in cities, adults who would like to learn how to have better conversations with preschoolers and fans of Mad Men who were rooting for Don and Betty to stay together but who now at least hope that Don remains faithful to his new wife.

1 comment:

  1. This was very interesting. Too many talented mid-century artists have been disregarded in recent years, and she appears to be one of them. On the other hand, Wikipedia has a very respectful entry about her, so she must still have at least one devoted fan.