Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Good Day for Children ~ Happy Birthday, Anno, Mister Rogers & Big Bird! (Plus, it's Spring!)

By Wendy Murray

Where's Anno?

March 20 heralds the coming of great things. The earth finally tilts toward Spring! It also altogether appropriate that this day heralds the births of three champions of hopefulness and imagination.

Awarding-winning children's book illustrator Mitsumasa Anno was born on this day in 1926; the beloved Fred 'Mister' Rogers was born on this day in 1928; and it is the birthday of Big Bird (according to some sites)!

Mitsumasa Anno is the awarding-winner illustrator whose wordless books have captured the imaginations of children (and adults) since he began publishing. The precursor to the "Where's Waldo" phenomenon, Anno's adventure books unfold page-by-page unfold in a magical progression toward a single goal. In Anno's Italy, the book I have owned since my youth, the solitary figure Anno mounts a horse in the Italian countryside and threads his way through the unfolding pictorial narrative, often lost in the ever-swelling crowd, for the sole purpose of reaching the coast. Page by page he makes his way through the beautiful and complex landscape of Italy amid a sometimes festive, other times bucolic world of color and magic. On any given page in the book, you might find in one corner, obscured by forest, such Jesus' turning the water into wine, while across the fence and over a step bridge the Billygoats Gruff will be poised, horn-to-horn, for battle. The challenge is to find them all, especially Anno on his horse, who may be turning a corner amid a parade in Florence, or rounding a bend near a farmhouse in Umbria.

I read the book with children, ages 1, 5, 8 and each is equally transported in his own way by the magic of Anno's wordless world.

A few of Mitsumasa's wordless adventures:
Anno's Flea Market

Anno's Animals

My favorite, Anno's Italy

It is also the birthday of the de fact Patron Saint of Children and Lost Adults, Fred "Mister" Rogers, How appropriate that your life began in this world on the day of the year that heralds spring!
1928. I have written much about him already (here and here), since I visited him and interviewed him for a cover story I wrote years ago. We remember you, dear Mister Rogers!

And who wouldn't cherish the company of an 8-foot loping happy bird who wishes you only good will,  Big Bird! Thanks to Big-Bird puppeteer, Caroll Spinney and creator Jim Henson who introduced this enduring friend in 1969. (In 2000, the Library of Congress declared Spinney, as Big Bird, a "Living Legend.")

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