I love bringing this book to people's attention. It was one of my favorites as a kid and maybe to blame for my sometimes shameless desire to crack people up and my willingness to try different things to get a laugh or a wink.
Written by Remy Charlip (Best kid writer name ever, right?) Arm in Arm is a book of poetry, plays, illustrations, tiny stories, random thoughts, jokes and so on. The full name of the book, published in 1969 and again in 2010 is actually: Arm in Arm: A Collection of Connections, Endless Tales, Reiterations, and Other Echolalia, which just about says it all. What's so cool is that while Charlip wrote 29 books for kids, he was mostly a theatrical director and dance choreographer. You can see that lightness, that experimentation, the silliness on the pages. Don't we all know a theater person who will do anything to crack you up? That's Remy Charlip in this book. Done with so much love and thoughtfulness.
Here, the cover of my original version (I was born two years after the pub date, in 1971)- Mea Culpa...I drew on it. Those are my marks. I was expressing love.
The opening spread gives you a hint at what you're in for in the pages ahead:
There are ideas:
And whatever this is:
So why was Arm in Arm so important for me as a kid and later as a picture book writer? A few reasons. One being that art comes in tons of forms and a dance choreographer who can draw can also write, if he chooses to. There is something so honest and earnest about his voice in these musings- it's a giant WHAT IF? And it inspired me as a kid to believe that I could ramble and muse on paper and in ink and it didn't have to be a huge project- just a snippet of an idea. The other is that it's a reminder of the joy of taking risks- that you win some and you lose some in writing. There are a few pieces in Arm in Arm that I don't love...so I skip over them. But most, and the aggregate is a clinic in lates 60s/early 1970s thinking about openness and possibility. Arm in Arm shows a diehard willingness to crack kids up, make them laugh, arm them with weirdness and smarts and silliness as part of their life-toolkit. So that's why Remy Charlip's Arm in Arm is the first of a few picture books I'll take a look at and maybe my fave. My kids love it too.