May I Bring a Friend? was written by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers and illustrated by Beni Montresor. The book tells the story of a young boy who is invited to tea by the King and Queen. He asks “May I Bring a Friend?”. In rhyming text, the boy calls at the castle for a series of visits with an succession of wild friends (giraffes, lions, and elephants to name a few), all graciously welcomed by the King and Queen.
It’s interesting to see how books reflect their time – and how much styles of illustration go in and out of vogue. The pictures in this book scream 1960s to me. The look is bright, but in a limited color palette: pink, red, yellow and orange, representational, but not overly realistic.
The Caldecott Medal is awarded to the “artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year”. So while, de Regniers wrote the book (and over 50 others), the Medal was won by Beni Montresor. (No glory for the writers of pictures books who aren’t also illustrators!). Montresor was an Italian illustrator and set and costume designer. Although he illustrated a number of children’s books, his life’s work was the theater, and he moved to the United States in 1960 to design sets and costumes for various opera companies. He was nominated for a Tony Award 4 times for his designs.
As a side note, one of the “also rans” for the 1965 Caldecott was a totally trippy book called Rain Makes Applesauce, that made me believe as a child that everyone in the 60s really WAS on drugs.
May I Bring a Friend? would probably appeal most to preschool-aged kids. Frances let me read it to her once, but hasn’t ever asked for it since.
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is the second post about a Caldecott book. You can read about the 1949 winner here.