cover of the 1943 Caldecott honor winner
A long time search has ended for me. I finally found the book that I remembered from when I was a child in the 1950's. I had a hardcover book with appealing illustrations about twin fawns, but I was shaky about the title (Dash and Dot?) and I didn't know the author. I could see the cover in my mind's eye, and I spent years thumbing through the children's section of used book stores, asking owners, but with no luck. Then by chance I was looking over a list of Caldecott award winners and nominees and there it was! Like unexpectedly seeing a childhood friend. I ordered the hard-to-find book through our interlibrary loan system, and read it yesterday.
At first I was surprised by both the illustrations, which are muted and simple drawings, and the text, which is clearly intended for the youngest readers. So many children's books today are large, bright, and feature animals that talk or are shown dressed in human clothing. The only color here is on the cover, and that is muted. The pencil drawings inside are of forest scenes, pine branches, squirrels, and of course deer, all printed in quiet sepia. The text is simple, a rhythmic sort of prose poetry describing a year in the life of twin fawns, Dash and Dart. The story centers on their birth, weaning, growth, passing seasons and the male's eventual first sprouting of horns.
Mother Doe is teaching her babies.
They learn about sounds.
In the great forest
There are many kinds.
There are near-by sounds.
There are new dangerous sounds.
There are old safe ones.
What was it that made this book so important in my mind? I'm not sure, except that I always gravitated to fiction and nonfiction books about nature, and I loved to draw even as a child. Perhaps this book is too simple for children today who spend much of their time in structured play dates, sports and electronic media. But for me, this was a book that grabbed my imagination and lived in my memory and did not let go for half a century.