• Happy birthday Barry Moser (Appalachia, Jump! , Hogwood Steps Out) and Katherine Ayres (Macaroni Boy; Up, Down, and Around).
  • In 1764, historian Edward Gibbon observed a group of friars singing in the ruined Temple of Jupiter in Rome. This inspires him to begin work on the now-classic The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
  • “Dear Mr. President…” In 1860, eleven-year-old Grace Bedell writes to Lincoln suggesting he grow a beard. Read Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books by Kay Winters, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, and Lincoln Tells a Joke by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, illustrated by Stacy Innerst.
  • Comedian Lucille Ball’s famous TV show, I Love Lucy, made its debut on CBS in 1951. Read Lucy Goosey by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ann James.
  • In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Reread Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
  • Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch is the inspiration for National Grouch Day celebrated today.

Today we celebrate the birthday of an illustrator who can list among his many accomplishments creating art for The Bible. Barry Moser was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then came East to teach. While living in western Massachusetts, he met and worked with Leonard Baskin, premier illustrator and printmaker. Moser himself became renowned as a printer, printmaker, designer, “booksmith,” and founder of Pennyroyal Press. His first book, The Flowering Plants of Massachusetts, appeared in 1969. Most of his time as an artist has been spent interpreting some of the world’s greatest literature—Dante’s The Divine Comedy, Moby Dick, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—in exquisite editions.

Moser has never adhered to strict categorization of his work and has consequently taken on several projects published by children’s book departments. Our book of the day, a 1996 edition of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, first appeared as part of HarperCollins’ Books of Wonder series. Barry Moser begins this volume with a portrait of Kipling and then, in nine full-color pieces of art, goes on to infuse Kipling’s much-loved stories with energy and excitement. Born in India, and the first English-language writer to receive the Nobel Prize, Kipling wrote Just So Stories while living in Brattleboro, Vermont, with his American wife.

Kipling told these stories to his young children, and they have entertained young readers since they were first published in 1902. Filled with exotic language, wonderful characters, and exciting settings, such as the Bi-Colored-Python-Rock-Snake, “the great, gray-green, greasy Limpopo River,” the stories beg to be read aloud, just as their creator originally did for his own son. Moser’s focus in this book, as in all his work, is portraits of the characters. In his hand, The Cat Who Walked by Himself seems so fierce that any reader would instantly understand why the cat should be left alone. “I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me,” our hero snarls in Moser’s rendition. An attractive volume, with excellent paper and spacious type, Moser’s Just So Stories makes a superb gift, one of those volumes to be cherished and enjoyed at different times in a life journey.

When I last saw Barry, at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, he was signing books for a long line of adoring fans. He wore a T-shirt that read, “I am not Eric Carle” just as Norton Juster did that day. The three looked like triplets, merely separated at birth. Barry’s fabulous sense of design and his great sense of humor have not diminished over the years. And so to him from me and all those adoring fans, “Happy Birthday.”

Here’s a page from Just So Stories:




Originally posted October 15, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Animals
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Just So Stories
One year ago: The Lincolns


  1. His wonderful work gives authenticity to these wonderful stories! Happy birthday.

  2. Cathy Ogren says:

    THE ELEPHANT’S CHILD is my favorite story. It’s so much fun to read to students.

  3. You are so right that these need to be read out loud. And when it comes to recordings of these stories, I have listened to many. By far the best of the bunch is Boris Karloff. He was born to play Frankenstein and read these Just So Stories.

  4. Anita says:

    Peter: Thanks for the recommendation of Boris Karloff. I would not have picked that one up.

  5. This is so timely, because I was just asked by my children’s teacher to source a better edition of Just So Stories for their classroom–and for some reason I didn’t realize Barry Moser had done one! My kids are obsessed with Moser’s “The Cheshire Cheese Cat”–have you seen it, by Carmen Agra Deedy? So great.

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