May 15, 2012

Arielle Greenberg Bywater on Maira Kalman

I was working as a nanny in college in the early 90s, and my three-year-old charge Gracie had this book, which is how I discovered it; and how I discovered that surrealist and absurdist humor is alive and well and continues to thrive in children’s lit, as does Chagall- and Florine Stettheimer-inspired art; and how I discovered how much I eventually wanted to have children of my own, partly to have the excuse to read more children’s books; and how I discovered Maira Kalman, the contemporary author I most want to have over for dinner, because she is funny and Jewish and cares about food politics and democracy and vintage hats just like me; and how I discovered how much joy I get from things like the “tiny story” in Hey, Willy, which goes, in its entirety, “Four very tiny people / walked right by me / on the way to school. / No one knew / where they were going, / but they were / walking very fast / and carrying / little instruments”; and how much I myself wanted to write spare, funny, weird little things, which is not what I was writing then, but is sometimes what I try to write now.

Hear Arielle read this aloud here.
(Learn more about Arielle Greenberg Bywater herself here.)

1 comment:

Julia said...

Really love ur post on Maira and the reminder about her "tiny story" I actually have the privilege of interviewing her tomorrow for a new online series I'm working on called Epiphany. We're collecting questions online from her fans and would love to include one from you if you have something you'd like to ask her! You can leave us your question on Facebook here: or on Twitter here: or just email me at