Robert Lawson

Kids don’t know authors.

They don’t pay attention to who wrote or illustrated their picture books, any more than who directed their favorite movies.  Two toddlers in the sandbox:

“Now, I’m a big Pete Docter fan, but Up was a little too much even for me,” said Toddler 1.

“You know, Reggie, I completely agree with you,” said Toddler 2.

Children are the ultimate unprejudiced audience.  They’ll watch or read whatever you put in front of them, without paying attention to where it came from.

This is how I was with Robert Lawson, author and illustrator of The Story of Ferdinand, Ben and Me, and Rabbit Hill, to name exactly three.  I didn’t realize that so many of the stories I had been raised on had the same author.

To be fair, Ferdinand (1936) was written by Munro Leaf.  But Lawson could have done it, if he wanted to.



The Story of Ferdinand, Illustration by Robert Lawson, (1936)


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The Story of Ferdinand, Illustration by Robert Lawson, (1936)


the-story-of-ferdinand-bull-butt-robert-lawson-munro-leaf-1936 copy

The Story of Ferdinand, Illustration by Robert Lawson, (1936)



The Story of Ferdinand, Illustration by Robert Lawson, (1936)


Boldly foraying into the territory of Historical Fiction, Ben And Me (1923) is the story of Benjamin Franklin’s pet mouse, Amos, and their adventures in pre-Revolution America.  I believe there are a couple more books in this anthropomorphic vein: Mr. Revere and I, I Discover Columbus, and Captain Kidd’s Cat.

Rabbit Hill (1944) I don’t remember much about, except that it choked me up.  I do know that it’s a beautiful story, with some of the best illustration work of Lawson’s career.  I think most people would point to this one as his Magnum Opus.  I think.


Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill, (1944)



Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill, (1944)



Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill, (1944)



Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill, (1944)


Strangely enough, looking at these pictures makes me want to read Watership Down (not written by Lawson, but he could have if he wanted to).

As a kid, I didn’t know who this guy was.  But in retrospect, his books were among my favorites, and not just because of the illustrations.  The stories are engaging and exhilirating, because Lawson was one of the rare artists who managed to master storytelling on both the visual and the verbal fronts.

Do you have an author, illustrator, or even a musician or director who deeply impacted you in your formative years?

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