An open letter to Joan Walsh Anglund…

Some “living letters” give us the most lovely part of themselves – even when we don’t know them personally… 

 

To Ms. Anglund:

Front CoverI have  a little treasure on my bookshelf. It’s only about 4 ¼ x 6 ¾ inches in size.  And oh, it has been much loved… like the Velveteen Rabbit — with the well-worn touch of a child who turned its pages over and over again.  Studying your art.  Memorizing your words.   Discovering…Love IS a Special Way of Feeling

It looks to be a first edition…and, though its paper cover is missing, your sweet pen and ink drawing of a little boy and girl  on the hard dusty rose cover still makes me smile.  And there next to the title page, a lovely 7th birthday wish inscribed to me – a tender note from my mom’s  close friend whom we’ve always called Auntie:

pink-bloomPamie dear,                                                                                                                                             May you always feel in its many forms “the special way of feeling,” and, more important, may you always give it to others…

Holding that little book now, I run my fingers once more over that inscription…  Then, turning the pages, I wince – for there is that childish drawing indelibly scrawled in ink…just above the words on page two… The mark my toddler cousin scribbled there before mom could rescue it from her tiny hands.  What sorrow I felt — she had ruined my special birthday book!  But as I look at it now, I’m wondering… maybe she too felt that artistic longing that you always inspired in me – oh, to draw like you did!

I am seven, ten, and twelve again… and Joan Walsh Anglund is teaching me to draw!  Not only me…but my best friend.  We meet nearly every afternoon to painstakingly copy your artwork from this and so many of your books.  To discover with joy that a friend is not only someone who likes you, but someone who enjoys doing the same things you do – together.  To learn your sweetly detailed technique.  How I love those details!

Your delicate pen and ink marks that add character to the pinafore and overalls of each child… Your cross-hatch diamond designs on the quaint wallpaper… The sweet dots that bring warmth to the hooked rugs on the floor and the lovely Early American style furniture. I think of how you are the first to put a love for all things Colonial and New England in my heart…

I love your drawing of the little colt and try so hard to capture the shape of its body on my own paper… frustrated, because for the longest time mine looks more like a dog.

I love the simple line swirls that form the clouds in your drawings and lift my heart to the skies… making me feel the wind blowing through the little girl’s scarf as she stands looking out to the harbor… And wondering what it is she is dreaming as she watches boats sail away.

I love the graceful curve of your pine trees… and think of how long I worked to capture that loveliness in my own sketches…

I cherish the charming slices of life you caught and illustrated…facet by sweet facet….  The little sister bringing a tray to ease her poor little brother’s toothache.  The two little girls, sharing secrets in the great and comfy four poster bed.  The mom and child cuddling by the fire before bedtime.  The child who notices a sad lone boy outside her group of friends…and understands how he feels.

And as I copy your work…I find myself knowing these children like characters in a story, and getting a glimpse of you as an artist and a poet – someone who is sharing her artist eye with me, a stranger.  Yet, somehow, it feels like we are friends.  After a time, I begin to draw my own style.  My sketches evolve to children with noses and smiles…but it is you who have taught me to draw warmth…and character…and movement.  It is you who have given me eyes to recognize all those tender curves in a child’s face…who makes me delight each time I see that JWA look in a real life child’s eyes…

But even more…You are part of the many who strengthen heart and compassion and encouraging words in me… In the philosophy of caring and faith in your poetic words… in the tenderness you illustrate so lovingly.

Miss Joan Walsh Anglund is a geniusAnd I think… Thank you Joan, for showing me your heart.  For filling mine with your special way of feeling.  With inspiration to write and draw…and to encourage others with my own. For using your gifts and talents to shine a living letter of His light…  and making me want to as well.

.

pink-bloom

Do you remember a writer or an artist who touched or inspired you in your life?  I’d love to hear your story…


Author and illustrator Joan Walsh Anglund is perhaps best known for her inspirational poems and stories of love, faith and friendship and for her illustrations of round-faced children without noses or mouths. Inspired mostly by her own children, Joy and Todd, Ms. Anglund had her first publishing success with the book, A Friend is Someone Who Likes You in 1958. She has stated in interviews that while she did not consciously decide to  create faces with eyes only,  “I think I am trying to get down to the essence of a child–not drawing just a particular, realistic child, but instead I think I’m trying to capture the ‘feeling’ of all children–of Childhood itself, perhaps.”

During her lifetime she has written and illustrated over 75 children’s books, selling over 40 million copies world wide, making her one of the most successful writers in the world…but even more, she has touched the hearts of children across generations. “Praise, like sunlight,” she writes, “helps all things grow.”

.

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About Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

I love to hear your thoughts, even chat back and forth amongst comments.Won't you join the conversation? :) ..................................................................................................................... May my stories refresh you, like a whisper from our Father's Heart !
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29 Responses to An open letter to Joan Walsh Anglund…

  1. MaryLou says:

    Hi Pam, thank you for this lovely letter. As I think about artists I have enjoyed, Hollie Hobbie comes to mind and Mary Engelbreit. I still have a Hollie Hobbie drawing that was in her 1984 calendar. This one is of a little girl in a rocking chair looking out of the window at a rainbow. She had been reading a book but now looked out the window and appeared to be thinking about something. I like the words that were included… “I don’t forget from day to day nice things that people do or say!” She had such a cozy style to her drawings. I would have liked to enter into her world in these drawings. Mary Engelbreit has a different style and I love her creativity and all of the details that she does put in her drawings. What gifts these ladies both had and I am so very glad that I was able to be a partaker. 🙂

  2. Yes… those are two I’ve loved too. Mary E’s work reminds me of drawings you used to do…do you ever draw anymore? I love how she uses sayings in her work. I still have an old Hollie Hobbie figurine that I love. I agree… all of these artists have warm and cozy styles… I would love to have a conservatory someday… all glassed in, beautiful flowers around…and set up an easel to start painting again. Dream on… Ha. 🙂 Veronica Heley’s books are making me want a conservatory…sounds so inviting.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts as always!

  3. Wow, I can’t even utter a word for a few magic moments. Such a beautiful open letter to someone you admire. It makes me wish I had the book in question. I am a Filipino. Therefore most of the scenes and events are not common to us, which makes me more attuned to the sentiment of the writer. But one thing sure I saw and felt what you adore in the author and artist with your script. I am a book lover too but unfortunately not so gifted to be an interesting writer. When I was in my primary years, I used to go to our Library to borrow those beautifully illustrated American Books (of course, they were all donated by the US then). That jump-started me to love reading. And those beautiful (full of warmth) words by writers like you has helped me become sensitive and mature. Thank you God for giving literary and artistic talents to Pam and her colleagues.

  4. One thing more, I can’t help but comment. That lovely inscription by your Auntie who gave you the little book, was surely breathed into the heavens because you became such an inspiration to us your readers…… sharing your gift of words ….. like apples of gold.

  5. Lolita, I think you write beautifully… you certainly have an encouraging way with words in your comments and I can see you have a heart to lift others up with your words too! 🙂 Thank you for sharing so expressively your impressions of these stories… again, it is like a smile from God to my day to know that He is using these humble stories to touch someone else… I needed that encouragement today! (I contacted Ms. Anglund’s publisher to get this letter to her, so I hope she has read it and been uplifted too…)

  6. Diane says:

    I’m at a loss for words…Lolita, you comments are so incredible. “Breathed into the heavens…” SIGH…I do not fit in the cateogory of writers that you and Pam are…both of you write from such deep, spiritual wisdom, insight, and love. I’m blessed to read what you both write – always.

  7. Mary Diane says:

    Wow! I was doing some research and just came upon your lovely letter to Joan. I wish I had seen it last year because we hosted a Joan Walsh Anglund Weekend last September and you would have fit right in with 70+ admiring fans with similar stories and words of adoration!

    • Oh, I would have loved to know more about that last Sept! Nice to find a fellow admirer! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your nice words, Mary Diane. I tried to get this letter to Ms. Anglund, but not much luck. Glad this touched you!

  8. Being Woven says:

    Oh, I had one of these books and loved to look at those sweet drawings and reread the words again and again. Thanks for reminding me of it and Ms. Anglund. I had forgotten such a treasure.

  9. I can’t believe I’ve never encountered this author before! What exquisite illustrations!

    • Exquisite is a good adjective for her, Michele! 🙂 She was extremely popular from the 60’s thru the 90’s (at least), I’d say… mostly with children’s books like these (though they speak to adults too), but also with some poetry and other inspirational writings for adults. Much of her art became even more commercial later on, appearing on ceramics, etc. She’s known for those sweet round-cheeked faces with just eyes. Don’t know if you ever had a cookie place called “Janie’s” near you, but they used to feature her drawings at their store. 🙂 You can still find her work in children’s bookstores, but also online… If you explore her work online, enjoy! 🙂

  10. Wow…such a beautiful letter Pam! Is sounds like this book definitely has left an impression on you. What a blessing your “Auntie” was to you too. i am thankful for the people like her that God brings into our lives to make an impact. May you continue to inspire and encourage others as your share your faith in God. Have a wonderful holiday weekend and may God richly bless you and yours!

    • Thank you, Horace. So many people touch us in life, so true! I am thankful for them too. Just finished writing an article about a teacher for a submission on this same topic! 🙂 The same blessings to you and yours this weekend!

  11. Stacey says:

    This is so sweet and special. Thank you for sharing it at Thoughts of Home on Thursday.

  12. Lori @ Frog's Lilypad says:

    I love this letter, Pam. My sister and I had several of Joan’s books when we were growing up. My mom loved them so much she wouldn’t let us have them when we got married. They are on the shelf for when the grand kids visit. Thanks for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

    • Oh, I can just picture your mom doing that, Lori! These special books we want to preserve! I am just discovering online that there were so many more than I knew about – though I do have several! Thanks for sharing your JWA story! 🙂

  13. Jann Olson says:

    Your little book was a wonderful gift. I love the inscription! I have always loved Joans art work as well. Fun to know that her inspiration helped to make you the talented lady that you are. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

  14. I remember having some of her books as a child. So sweet and inspiring! I love how she influenced your love of illustrating and your style. Illustrators such as Joan Walsh’s inspire me too but, unlike you, I don’t have the gift to do that inspiration justice! Happy Independence day!

    • I love how authors and artists inspire us too. In so many ways – most importantly, touching the heart and spirit, if not other ways! 🙂 I think they help to form who we are in many ways… instilling warmth of heart! Thanks! Same to you!

  15. I loved the old Winnie the Pooh and Frog and Toad books because of their drawings, and I was drawn to them for my children also. Love how such things can have such a profound effect on our lives for many years.

    • Those are two of my favorites too! Frog and Toad, so charming! I really do think they carry through with us through life in many profound ways, as you said. I’ve been reading about a wonderful newer author I may profile here sometime – Maria Dismondy — who is writing books to teach children compassion and empathy at a young age. She talks about how much books influence us that way. What she says reminds me of how much I was shaped by good books, the illustrations, and values portrayed in warm, quality movies and shows I knew as a kid. I think all those influences made me all the more empathetic … And the illustrators have certainly influenced my art… Thanks for sharing that, Crystal!

  16. I love her work too! Thanks for sharing this at the Booknificent Thursday link-up on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

  17. Gayl says:

    Pam, this is so beautiful! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and love how you kept on drawing inspiration from Joan Anglund. What a beautiful tribute. I also love your style, so whimsical. Thanks for sharing at #LMMLinkup! Blessings to you!

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