Centerburg TalesMcCloskey, Robert. New York: Viking, 1951. 191 pp.
Centerburg Tales and its predecessor, Homer Price take us back to a kinder, gentler time in America. Boys and girls play jacks and spin tops around the town monument—the toys courtesy of the Whoopsy-Doodle Breakfast Food Company when you mailed in a cereal box top. They go and watch serial movies on Saturday mornings and on other days they’re willing to listen to a town elder spin his tall tales of days gone by (while enjoying a donut at the local diner).
Homer and his family live in the town of Centerburg, Ohio. I don’t know if it’s because his parents are so busy running the campground where they live, or because they’re too grounded but McCloskey chooses to focus on the more colorful members of the family like Grandpa Hercules and Uncle Ulysses (notice a theme here…Homer, Hercules, Ulysses?). There’s also the town sheriff (hangs out at the donut shop of course) and his spoonerisms—that’s where you juxtapose your consonants like “Smoley Hoax” instead of “Holy Smokes.”
The chapters of both books make their own stand alone stories: a rich matron loses her diamond bracelet in the donut making machine, Homer thwarts a gang of robbers with his pet skunk. The Centerburg Tales are a little more far fetched…the top secret Experiment 13 seeds turn out to be Godzilla sized ragweed plants…the whole town is paralyzed because they can’t get the lyrics of a really obnoxious song out of their heads. Here they are below searching the library for a cure…
As whimsical and charming as the stories are the pictures. If the style seems familiar, you’re probably recognize the work of Robert McCloskey. He wrote and illustrated the childhood classics Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal. If you buy your own copy of the book, do yourself a favor and get the hardback so the illustrations will be bigger (my Schnickelfritz loved to study them while I read). If your child is too young to read to themselves, you might also consider the audiobooks – the narrator does wonderful voices.
My copy of Centerburg Tales was discarded by Parkwood Elementary school. I hate to think what modern rubbish they needed to clear the shelf space for when they got rid of this treasure.
You can find a list of all my Rescued Books here.
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