This day, April first, late in the second ice age, it is springtime and I’d never heard of T. S. Eliot: “April is the cruelest month” and all that jazz. All April meant to me is you play ball again and you could hear the peepers out in the swamp. You could feel the sun coming down on the top of your head. I’m sitting in class, Miss Harris is up there working away with the chalk and Helen Weathers, who is sitting right next to me off to my right, gets a note handed to her from the kid in front of her. It’s all folded up, and she looks at it, and I’m just sitting there. I never get notes unless they’re bad news once in a while from the office: “Take this home to your mother!” So this April first I’m sitting there, paying no attention to anything, chewing on an eraser.
The sun is coming down and Patty Remaley’s nimbus of blond hair is catching the glint of the April day several rows ahead of me. Completely untouchable. After a while, if you’re in the same class with somebody like Vanessa Redgrave, you don’t look at her anymore. She’s just there. If a guy’s got an apartment right next to the Statue of Liberty, after a while he‘s just used to it. Unattainable. You just live with it.
Helen Weathers turns to me and says, “Here’s this note.”
I look at it. It says “Shepherd.” It is a note to me. I take it and open it up, and it says:
Dear Jean, I am madly in love with you. I can hardly bear not seeing you all the time, every hour of the day and night. You are fantastic. The way you wear that red corduroy cap is incredible. What a fantastic red corduroy cap. Boy, do you play second base great. I am in love with you.
My eyeballs pop out. This is an incredible revelation. I had heard of things like this. I had heard of secret loves. We had read Ivanhoe, for example. I know, theoretically, that these fantastic loves exist, but Patty Remaley in love with me and I’ve got this note! And it is written in this girlish hand with the little circles dotting the eyes the way girls do. It says, “I am madly in love with you!” Wow! Patty Remaley! I stick the note in my pocket and I sit there. She doesn’t look around or anything. The sun is coming down, catching those blond curls. Boy, I think, she’s probably bashful about it. I wonder how come she didn’t say anything about this before.
MORE APRIL FOOL TO COME
Pop-up books are not kids’ stuff.
One may remember the cheap-type pop-up in which, upon opening a page, a couple of flat across-the-page silhouette images come boringly upright. Forget it. In recent decades, marvelous—magical—things have popped up out of books, and I have collected dozens, mostly large format, some rather small and seemingly not worthy of attention. But even some of these were made with a sneaky ingenuity that grabbed me and thus entered my collection.
Major ones captivate with their exuberant display of three-dimension, and many delight the mind with their expert display of what, in the field, is referred to as “paper engineering.” Some pop-up books have so much to show that, besides the large, main, central image, they have little doors on the sides that one opens to reveal smaller pop-ups. Some pop-ups demand to be referred to as art.
Subject matter is far-ranging. Of course there are the cartoon characters and the so-called kids’ books such as Alice in Wonderland. There are subjects like famous movies such as Star Wars, and celebrities, and well-known books of fiction. (There’s even a “Royal Family” pop-up.) There are books on complex subjects such as anatomy and various technologies. You name it, it’ll pop up.
One of the sneakiest and most delightful uses of pop-up techniques is when, even in a seemingly minor book, the act of opening the page creates a movement of the subject, such as in Keith Moseley’s Hiawatha, in which one sees in real movement: the Indian drawing his bow and arrow; actually paddling his canoe; etc. In a scene at water’s edge, opening the page, rising up in actual motion from behind foliage is an elegant heron.
A major creator (now apparently concentrating on flat children’s books) is Jan Pienkowski whose ROBOT is a witty concoction that also displays page-opening motions as pieces of the action, as when the page opens, a robot raises a dumbbell as his pants fall down. On a page showing a robot woman making-up, one pulls out a tab, one sees: the comb combing her hair; both the spray can and the hair dryer moving; we see her face in the foil mirror as we watch her apply lipstick; lower left, a baby robot pops out swiping lipstick all over its face. The Internet provides a view of the robot woman and two views from his HAUNTED HOUSE.]
MORE PAPER-ENGINEERED DELIGHTS TO COME