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Crockett Johnson's Books: Others from the 1960s

We Wonder What Will Walter Be? When He Grows Up | The Emperor's Gifts | Gordy and the Pirate
We Wonder What Will Walter Be? (1964): title page
Holt, 1964
We Wonder What Will Walter Be? When He Grows Up (1964)
       "Walter wished somebody could decide for him. He was trying to think what to be when he grew up." He asks a Lion, who summons the members of his council -- the "best thinkers in the kingdom," the Lion says. Antelope, Mole, Flamingo, Giraffe, Elephant, and Turtle convene to ponder Walter's question. How will they answer?
The Emperor's Gifts (1965): cover
Holt, 1965
The Emperor's Gifts (1965)
       Like We Wonder What Will Walter Be?, this story has the feel of a fable. The young emperor is to receive gifts from the rulers of his six kingdoms and "ponder[s] what to give them in return." King Drowse the Lazy bears a bottle of Contentment; King Wot the Learned, a "tall crystal phial" of Wisdom; King Rash the Foolhardy, a beaker of Bravery; King Daunt the Scary, a "slim bottle" of Prudence; King Squander the Lavish, a "large jug" of Generosity; and King Grab the Greedy, a "glass flagon" of Ambition. An astute judge of each visitor's personal strengths and weaknesses, the emperor works to match each gift with the king who needs it most.
       Harper's children's books' editor Ursula Nordstrom rejected this book: "I was slightly baffled as to what age child it would really interest -- as the type of format would appeal to a younger child than could possibly enjoy the ideas," she wrote Johnson in March 1964. But the editors at Holt, Rinehart and Winston liked it, publishing The Emperor's Gifts in 1965.
Gordy and the Pirate (1965): cover
Putnam, 1965
Gordy and the Pirate and the Circus Ringmaster and the Knight and the Major League Manager and the Western Marshal and the Astronaut; and a Remarkable Achievement (1965)
       The story begins, "The path from school ran close to a juniper hedge at the side of a duck pond. Behind the hedge, a step away from the bank, a small patch of bare earth stuck up out of the water the way a desert island rises in the ocean." With more text and fewer illustrations than any of Johnson's books, this one tells of Gordy's struggle to fulfill his promise to "come straight home from school today." But, at each step of the way, he's invited to join in a potential adventure.

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Last updated Tuesday, August 2, 2005.