A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
DECEMBER 5:

  • It’s the birth date of Christina Rossetti (1830–1894), Goblin Market, the Prince’s Progress and Other Poems; Harve Zemach (1933–1974), pseudonym for Harvey Fichstrom, husband of illustrator Margot Zemach, Duffy and the Devil; Ann Nolan Clark (1896–1995), The Secret of the Andes; and Rose Wilder Lane (1886–1968) daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder and likely collaborator on the Little House books.
  • It’s International Ninja Day. Read Blue Fingers: A Ninja’s Tale by Cheryl Aylward Whitesel, Moonshadow: Rise of the Ninja by Simon Higgins, and Blood Ninja by Nick Lake.

Today marks Bathtub Party Day, a time to remember, in a society that takes showers for quickness and convenience, the luxury of days gone by and a good bath. Suggestions for the day include getting candles and oils—even inviting a few friends. Well, my friends and I don’t take baths together, but I must admit that I kept a beloved rubber ducky well into my twenties, because it brought back such wonderful memories. Unfortunately, I never owned a set of the protagonists of today’s book, The Tub People. If I had, they would still be on my mantel. This 1989 book, a collaboration between Pam Conrad, one of the most talented writers of her era, and illustrator Richard Egielski has retained all of its quirkiness and charm over the years.

A family of Tub People stands in a straight line at the edge of the bathtub, seven of them, all in order. First the father, then mother, grandmother, the doctor, the policeman, child, and dog. Very plain, made of wood, they can still smile or frown or laugh or cry. Readers follow the adventures of this group, playing games on cakes of floating soap and engaging in water races. Then when the bath is over, they always line up along the edge of the tub in order.

But into this ideal world, tragedy strikes. One day the little boy gets pulled down into the drain without a sound. The rest of them look through the grating and cannot see him; and so they line up, leaving a space for the boy, quite dejected. Although they still float in the tub, they call continually for the boy; all joy leaves their world. Fortunately, a plumber is called in and the Tub Child saved. Then all get placed on a soft bed, reunited again, and at night they line up against the windowsill, in proper order.

Pam Conrad once wrote a fabulous book, Call Me Ahnighito, told from the point of view of an ancient rock, and she is just as deft with wooden toys as protagonists. Humans obviously interact with the Tub People, but we see events from the toys’ point of view. The story has drama, pathos, and action; it has been perfectly paced for a picture book. And Egielski has created a family that you want to visit again and again.

When I checked this book out of the library, Lizzie, the new children’s librarian, couldn’t wait to show me a page—of all the family looking for the Tub Child. “I remember this scene so well from my childhood,” she said. The Tub People is that kind of book—whenever you encounter it you are unlikely to forget it.

So happy Bathtub Party Day—bring candles, your rubber ducky, or The Tub People! I myself can’t wait for my own party.

Here’s a page from The Tub People:

Finally, when they felt they could wait no longer, they were lifted up and carefully carried into a new room and gently placed on a large, soft bed! It seemed just like the water to them, except that is was dry and very firm.

And there were seven of them once again! The Tub Dog knocked his little wooden head against the Tub Child’s head, and very quietly they all laughed.

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Originally posted December 5, 2010. Updated for .

Tags: Dolls, Family, Toys
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Tub People
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COMMENTS

  1. Laurie Rosen says:

    I agree, this is a great story. I read this to my daughter who was born in 1989 and 3 years later my son. They both loved this story. I work in a children’s bookstore and I must ask the owner to order a copy. Thanks for the memories!!

  2. Susan says:

    So great to see a book of Pam Conrad’s being heralded. I discovered her novels years ago and try to promote them at my library whenever I can – my two favorites being Stonewords and My Daniel. She was a magnificent writer.

  3. Anita says:

    Susan: I agree about Conrad’s writing — even with a career cut short by an early death, she managed to craft magnificent books.

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