JUNE 13:

  • Happy birthday Niki Daly (Pretty Salma: a Little Red Riding Hood Story From Africa) and Alexandra Sheedy (She Was Nice to Mice).
  • In 1927, a ticker-tape parade in honor of aviator Charles Lindbergh is held on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Read Charles Lindbergh: A Human Hero by James Cross Giblin and Parade by Donald Crews.
  • On this day in 1967, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson nominates Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. Marshal becomes the first black U.S. Justice. Read A Picture Book of Thurgood Marshall by David A. Adler, illustrated by Robert Casilla.

This week, on June 10, in Australia, Belieze, Cayman Islands, and Fiji they celebrated the “Queen’s Official Birthday.” Queen Elizabeth II actually was born on April 21. Celebrating the Queen’s Official Birthday on a day when she wasn’t born would be just the kind of corkscrew logic that our English author of the day, Edward Lear, would enjoy. Teaching himself to be an artist, Lear even gave drawing lessons to Queen Victoria and no doubt celebrated many of her birthdays, official or real.

Edward Lear’s writing, not art, would become his claim to fame. In 1845 he published The Book of Nonsense under the pseudonym Derry Down Derry. The youngest of twenty children in his family, Lear had faced young years of hardship and sadness, and he wanted to bring joy and amusement to children in his writing. For almost 160 years his work has done exactly that. But in the last decade of so, much of it was unavailable in the United States. Hence, I cheered the minute I saw a copy of Daniel Pinkwater’s and Calef Brown’s His Shoes Were Far Too Tight by Edward Lear.

On the title page, Pinkwater is credited with being the mastermind, Brown the illustrator. Pinkwater has written a short introduction. Then in large double-page spreads Calef Brown brings his quirky vision to the poetry of Edward Lear. Along with other Lear gems, “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “The Jumblies,” “The Quangle Wrangle’s Hat,” and “The Nonsense Alphabet” are given space and room, sometimes several pages, so that Brown can provide a plethora of inventive creatures that give readers even more reasons to laugh. Even nuts and oysters are rendered with distinct personalities.

Best of all, of course, Lear’s language, alliteration, and humor sing out on these pages. When I first saw His Shoes Were Far Too Tight, I immediately went to my favorite lines from childhood:

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

Beautifully produced, with exuberant endpapers and heavy paper pages that display the full range of Brown’s intense palette, the book can be read with a child on the lap, in story hour, or all alone to provide hours of fun.

Thank you Daniel Pinkwater and Calef Brown for making these Lear poems available for a new generation of readers.

Here’s a page from His Shoes Were Far Too Tight by Edward Lear:


Originally posted June 13, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Humor, Imagination
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for His Shoes Were Far Too Tight by Edward Lear


  1. Melissa says:

    What a great book! I had not seen this one before but think my daughter would really enjoy it!

  2. Beth says:

    Sounds wonderful. Daniel Pinkwater’s Big Orange Splot is a favourite in our home. I recently read it to Mr 4 on a peak-hour train into the city and it kept plenty of commuters entertained, as well as ourselves.

  3. I have always loved Edward Lear, and this bright an d bouncy reincarnation is jut right!

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