We signed our one and two-year-olds up for swimming lessons on Sunday nights. They hop out of the pool when they should be hopping in bed; and when we arrive home, they’re hyper.
Tonight, there was only one way to get bedtime back on track. Teeth brushed, jams on, we cozied up on the couch for a book that is as much “Sunday Evening” as the smell of my mom’s pot roast, the steam of the teakettle, and the theme music to Downton Abbey. Hurry Down to Derry Fair, by Dori Chaconas with illustrations by Gillian Tyler (Candlewick, 2011), feels like home.
Which is funny because apparently the suburb of Chicago where I grew up was urban enough that we didn’t do…fairs.
My husband, on the other hand, was a regular attendee at the Minnesota State Fair as a child; and since we’ve been together I’ve been to several of these events across the Midwest. I enjoy them.
And my daughter and I really enjoy this book. I discovered Dori Chaconas through SCBWI-WI. She autographed one of her wonderful Cork and Fuzz easy readers for me at a conference last Fall. Anxious to read more of her work, I ordered Hurry Down to Derry Fair about four months ago.
This book, written in verse, tells the story of Dinny Brown, a little boy anxious to get to the fair and frustrated by his mother, father, and sister’s tardiness. “Dinny Brown, don’t’ hurry so!/ I’m making lemon pies./ I’m going to take them to the fair. I hope they win a prize!” his mother says.
Dinny replies: “I’ll whisk the eggs so we can go!/ Please hurry, Mama! Don’t be slow!” Whap! Crack! Plop-plop-plop! Whisk a little! Whisk a lot!…”
Dinny has a similar interaction with his father, who is chopping wood and his sister, who is primping her animals. Finally (spoiler alert) Grandma Patty agrees that they are running late and announces: “I’m taking Dinny to the fair!” Off they go, with mother, father and sister scrambling to catch up.
My daughter and I can feel Dinny’s excitement as we read each page, and we want to get to the fair, too! She said to me tonight, “I want to go on the giant swing that flies high in the air, too! I want to go there!”
And the best part? At the end, we get to! We get to go to the fair when the last two pages of the book flap open and there is a four page spread of the entire fair that we have had previews of–quite literally in that four segments of this illustration are used earlier in the book as Dinny describes the parts of the fair he is most anxious for (the swing ride, the hot air balloon, etc.).
We could look at this page, and all of the others, until it is not just past bedtime–it’s way past bedtime.
The illustrations are beautiful. Detailed. They are comforting to me in the same way that the pictures in Ox-Cart Man* and the kitchen canning scene in Blueberries for Sal* are comforting. (Although there are no wind turbines in Ox-Cart Man). My daughter points (at a little dog looking at itself in a mirror) and asks questions (Q: what is that? A: a garden statue) and worries, really worries, for the characters: (“Oh no! Will the pie spill?”) while we read this book.
Hurry Down to Derry Fair is another book that engages readers in so many ways. One last example: we know that on the final, four-page spread we should be able to find our main characters. They are there, but so well integrated into the details of this delightful fair that it truly takes time to find them. My daughter just loved the hunt, and I’ll eat the goose’s little hat if you find them all in fewer than three readings.
Just as I pull down Ox-Cart Man every November, we’ll be home reading Hurry Down to Derry Fair on many Sunday nights to come.
Picture Book House Rating: Read it Again, Mommy!
Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall Barbara Cooney (Puffin, 1983)
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (Viking, 1948)