Monday, November 1, 2021


Hope everybody had a great Halloween. We got about 20 kids to the door this year, a major improvement on last year's plague-inhibited turnout, and our young neighbors threw a small block party in their driveway, which added a festive atmosphere our neighborhood usually lacks. My doctor's orders forbid me to eat more than a taste of candy, and I'm proud to say that I sat out by our door all night, reading a 1976 issue of The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves...

...with a big bowl of Reese's Cups and Kit Kats and managed to not eat a single one.

The Wife, wishing to avoid giving me any candy, gave me an unexpected and truly delightful Halloween treat this year: Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals...

...and, by the same author, How to Draw Monsters and More Scary Stuff.

Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals (1970) was among my favorite books as a kid, not because I was a gifted artist but because I wasn't. I loved to draw, but I stunk at it (I remember being bitterly jealous of a kid in my class named Jeff because he could draw so well). Emberley's book began with a chart of simple shapes and characters, and the assertion "If you can draw these shapes, letters, numbers and things, you will be able to draw all the animals in this book." He then charted the order in which the shapes are assembled, starting with an ant (a single black dot), moving on to a brown ant (a single brown dot) a green ant (a single green dot) and a "brown ant wearing green sweater" (also a single green dot).

From there, he shows us how to do worms, snakes, pollywogs, on through turtles, frogs, birds, bats, raccoons, wolves, elephants and giraffes, ending with an ambitious dragon...

This last creature proved him optimistic, in my case; I could make all the shapes, sure, but it required patience and space-budgeting skills I didn't (and don't) have to make it look good.

Even so, Emberly's tutorials allowed me to draw pictures that, while they certainly didn't have the charm of his, nonetheless weren't painful for the wretchedly untalented artist to look upon. It was a godsend. The pollywog, the bat, the owl and especially the frog are still among my go-to doodles. Here's Emberley's frog...

And here's one by me, drawn today...

I have long wanted to direct a production of The Frogs by Aristophanes, mostly so I could draw the poster myself.

I was rhapsodizing about all this to The Wife as we headed to lunch, and noted that I probably should, at some point, have written to Emberley to thank him. She looked him up on her phone, established that he is still with us, and suggested that I do so now. So when I got back from lunch I found Emberley's Facebook page and sent him the following PM:

"Mr. Ed Emberley. This year for Halloween my wife, wishing to give me a non-caloric present, gave me Ed Emberley's How to Draw Monsters and More Scary Stuff as well as your Drawing Book of Animals, having often heard about how much I loved your drawing books when I was a kid. I'll be sixty years old on my next birthday, so I'm about a half-century overdue in writing to thank you for your wonderful books: You made it possible for kids like me, who enjoy drawing but have no talent for it, to draw fun pictures. Your frog is still a standard for me if I need to draw something to amuse a child, or just amuse myself. Happy Halloween great man! best M.V. Moorhead"

To my astonishment, shortly thereafter I received this response!:

"Glad a youngster like you could learn from a 90 year old like me. Happy Halloween! And thanks!"

This pleased me enormously. Leafing through the Drawing Book of Animals, I read the dedication, which I either had forgotten or not noticed when I was a kid. A picture of Emberley as a kid, with the words: "For the boy I was, the book I could not find." Thanks to him, the rest of us found it.

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