Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Man Who Lost His Head

The Man Who Lost His Head
by Claire Hutchet Bishop
illustrated by Robert McCloskey

Just when you think you know someone, really cozy up and get comfortable in a barefoot in their house sort of way, you discover a new facet that knocks your socks off . . . of your um . . . your bare feet.  Well, that didn't work out so well.

But, you know what I mean, right?  Married to your spouse for five years, and discover one day that he has to, has to put his left sock on before the right.  Or that your best friend since nursery school, hillbilly girl that she is, secretly loves to sing along with Karen Carpenter.

This was the sort of experience I had when opening this book and reading it to the kids for the first time. 

Robert McCloskey.  You know the guy, right?  Blueberries For Sal.  That sweet duck family, for Pete's sake.  Burt Dow.  All nursery familiars.  All safe.  Beautiful stories.

Then there's this guy.

The Man, as he is known throughout the story, wakes up one morning to find that he has somehow lost his head.  Literally.

And no matter how much thought he gives the matter - thought from a headless character - he can not come up with a reasonable explanation that would account for his missing noggin. 
Now, his hands remembered something soft and silky.
That was his pig.
And his feet remembered a long tiring walk.
That was the way to the fair.
So the Man resolves to retrace his steps.  But first he must freshen up a bit.

Man, this just gets stranger and stranger.  Then he decides he can't possibly go out in public as a headless fellow, so to the garden patch he goes to fashion a head from a pumpkin.  Which is a total failure.  So a parsnip would be a better fit, he believes.

Nah, that's not working so well either.  So he carves a stump into a wooden head, and sets off on his peculiar quest.

And just when you think things can't get any stranger, the Man meets the Boy,

who offers to help the Man find his head. 

And from there the story swerves off the road, straight into Bizarre.

But for all it's wonkiness, the book is truly great.  The story is as fresh and unpredictable as no doubt it was at it's birth in 1942.  And the wordplay and rich vocabulary alone are worth the price of the book. 

So, I'll leave you with this little diddy.



  1. Oh my. Keep me in suspense will you? I will have to get that one through the library system. I do love Robert McCloskey's drawings. They remind me a bit of Norman Rockwell's. Yay to good old fashion fun!

  2. How have I never heard of this? Or seen it with the other McCloskey at the library? I'm going to make it my mission to find it now, that's for sure. Thanks for sharing it...

  3. Oops -- I just went back to clarify and see that the answer to my question is that McCloskey is the illustrator, not the author.

    Looking forward to seeing if our library has this.

  4. Oh my. Robert McCloskey, we thought we knew you. ;-) This looks . . . interesting, and winning, in its own peculiar way.

    Thanks so much for linking up!