Friday, September 27, 2013

Remembering Bernard Waber on his Birthday

Today would have been the birthday of Bernard Waber, a classic and local (to me) children's book author/illustrator. He would have been 92 today if he had not died this past May. He's probably most known for Lyle the Crocodile but is also very well known for Ira Sleeps Over. All of his books were favorites of mine as a child. Here is a list of his work.

Bernard Waber introduced Lyle to readers in 1962 in The House on East 88th Street. This book was about Mr. and Mrs. Joseph F. Primm and their son, Joshua. One day, they find a young crocodile in the bathroom of their new house.

"They take the animal in and, for the next four decades, Lyle would take readers on adventures filled with life lessons on acceptance, inclusion and the importance of enjoying the journey. The covers of the books sometimes suggested they were best suited for ages 4 to 8, but Mr. Waber’s understated wit appealed to plenty of parents" (New York Times).

 Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile also inspired two different musical adaptations: an animated musical that was shown on HBO and a theatrical musical staged by Theatreworks USA.

To me, Bernard Waber's legacy will live forever in the form of the HBO animated musical, most particularly, in the scene shown below. This isn't my video (and is the only one I could find online) but I watched this so many times as a kid that I'll have a spot in my heart for it forever. Enjoy:

"I tried to smile, but darn you Lyle, I would never leave you."

Bernard Waber was born 92 years ago today in Philadelphia. He briefly studied accounting at the University of Pennsylvania before enlisting in the Army during World War II. After the war, he enrolled in the Philadelphia College of Art, and in the 50's, he moved to New York. He worked as a designer and illustrator for several magazines, including Life, where he worked for 20 years. Casually, he created his Lyle character, but when he pitched it early on, the concept was rejected by publishers. In 1961 he published his first book, “Lorenzo,” about the adventures of a young fish. This was when Lyle was finally given a chance! The House on East 88th Street was published on August 13, 1975.

"'I don’t know where the idea came from,' Mr. Waber told The Times in 1995. 'But I always loved drawing animals. I especially like to draw crocodiles. I like the way they walk, and I like their eyes and their teeth and everything about them'" (New York Times).

Why not celebrate Lyle at home? This page has everything you need to have a Lyle party for children ages 3 and up.

Or check out one of his many, wonderful books.

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