It Looks Like Snow

Remy Charlip, It Looks Like Snow (1957): coverAs winter continues its assault, let’s turn to a classic book about winter: It Looks Like Snow (Greenwillow, 1957), Remy Charlip‘s picture-book tribute to John Cage.  Like Cage’s 4’33” (1952), Charlip’s piece makes the audience’s experience the subject of its experiment.  The primary difference of course is the specific sense through which we apprehend the art — eyes for Charlip, ears for Cage.  So.  Are your eyes ready, then?  Good.  Let’s begin.

The story starts like this:

Remy Charlip, It Looks Like Snow (1957): first two-page spread

And then:

Remy Charlip, It Looks Like Snow (1957): second two-page spread

After which, of course, we meet the protagonist:

Remy Charlip, It Looks Like Snow (1957): third two-page spread

And the protagonist’s pet:

Remy Charlip, It Looks Like Snow (1957): fourth two-page spread

And on it goes … for a total of 24 pages.  Ah, the beauty of the avant-garde!

If you enjoy books that defy expectation, check out Curious Pages: Recommended Inappropriate Books for Kids, the lately dormant but still very cool blog maintained by Lane Smith and Bob Shea.

13 Comments »

  1. Jonathan Auxier Said,

    March 9, 2011 @ 11:54 pm

    So very cool that you posted this. I first heard of Remy Charlip after reading some Brian Selznick interviews (apparently he used Remy as a model for Melies), but I’d never seen any of his illustrations before … I guess I still haven’t *seen* any.

  2. Deborah Freedman Said,

    March 10, 2011 @ 8:42 am

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Maybe you’ve talked about this here before & I don’t remember (or maybe I should wait until your book comes out!), but Charlip, Cage & Cunningham, Johnson & Kraus, et. al. were all friends, or just breathing the same air? Because I have John Cage’s MUD BOOK, which reads almost just like a Ruth Kraus book.

    Jonathan, check out ARM IN ARM: A Collection of Connections, Endless Tales, Reiterations, and Other Echolalia, if you want to see his illustrations! It’s one of my favorite books.

  3. Shoshana Said,

    March 10, 2011 @ 10:05 am

    Funny, when my grandfather read to me, that was always the story taking place on the end pages.

  4. Philip Nel Said,

    March 10, 2011 @ 10:44 am

    Thanks, all, for the comments. Jonathan: Charlip’s Fortunately may be one of his best-known. Arm in Arm (Deborah’s recommendation) is loopier, though. And if you like experimental picture books in the vein of David Macaulay’s Black and White, then definitely check out Charlip and Jerry Joyner’s Thirteen. And, as Deborah hints at, he also illustrated two of Ruth Krauss’s books, A Moon or a Button and A Fine Day For….

    Deborah: I knew that Charlip and Krauss were friends, yes. About a decade ago, I interviewed Remy for the bio. Great stories about Ruth, Ursula, & himself. I knew that Ruth hung out with the avant-garde. Frank O’Hara was her poetry teacher. She and Dave went to parties hosted by Willard Maas and Marie Menken. She published her poetry in ‘zines & journals alongside Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, Gerard Malanga, and Allen Ginsberg. But I did not know that she was friends with Cage & Cunningham. Source for this information? It’s not too late to weave this info into the book.

    One final story about It Looks Like Snow. When Susan Hirschman gave me this copy (scans from which you see above), she told me a story about the book’s publication. She accepted the book and sent Remy Charlip a contract and advance for the text. He called her and asked about money for the pictures. “I couldn’t say there were no pictures,” says Susan. So, feeling slightly foolish, she paid him a second advance, and the book was published.
    10 Mar. 2011, 5:20 pm Central Time: UPDATED above paragraph (after email conversation with Susan Hirschman). 7:45 pm Central Time: UPDATED above paragraph again (after further email conversation with Susan Hirschman)

  5. Deborah Freedman Said,

    March 10, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

    Sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear – I have no idea if they were friends. I was just wondering if YOU knew if they were.

    That is a very funny story about the book’s contract! But did he get paid extra for the illustrations? ;)

  6. Philip Nel Said,

    March 10, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

    Deborah: Oh, I think I wasn’t reading your comment closely enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if Krauss met Cage or Cunningham (perhaps through Charlip?), but I have no information indicating that they were friends. Acquaintances seems more likely, but I’m also aware that I did not talk with every person who ever met Ruth or Dave. So… who knows?

  7. Robin Mack Said,

    March 10, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

    Even better… comes with a set of white crayons!

    http://www.sutkutusu.com/post/2595971173/thepolarbears

  8. Coralie Said,

    March 22, 2013 @ 6:27 am

    Hi,
    I’m a French student and I’m writing an essay about Remy Charlip’s picture books. I’ve already acquired several of his books but I still miss “It looks like snow”, “Dress up and let’s have a party” and “What is the world”. I’ve seen that you post some photographs of these books on your blog. So, I wanted to know if it would be possible for you and if you would agree to scan the totality of these three books (if you have it, of course).

    Looking forward to your reply. Many thanks.
    Best regards,

    Coralie Douard

  9. Machiko MITSOUJI Said,

    February 3, 2018 @ 10:58 pm

    Dear Mr. Philip Nel,

    Hi. I’m Machiko, a translator and an archivist of picture books, writing you from Tokyo. I’d like further information about “It Looks Like Snow” by Remy Charlip mentioned as follows on your Blog (http://www.philnel.com/2011/03/09/charlip/).

    ——-
    It Looks Like Snow (Greenwillow, 1957), Remy Charlip‘s picture-book tribute to John Cage. Like Cage’s 4’33” (1952), Charlip’s piece makes the audience’s experience the subject of its experiment.
    ——–

    I know the book was firstly dedicated to John Cage as a Chiristmas greeting from Young Scott Books, and I’d like to know whether Charlip himself publicly mentioned the relationship between It looks like snow and 4′ 33”.

    It would be grateful if you could tell me something more about it.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Best regards,

    Machiko

  10. Philip Nel Said,

    February 4, 2018 @ 12:00 am

    Dear Machiko,

    You may know more about the book than I do. I didn’t know about it being a Christmas greeting. Did Charlip publicly mention the connection to Cage? I don’t know that he did. When I interviewed him in 2003, we didn’t discuss the book.

    As I say above, my copy was a gift from Susan Hirschman (Charlip’s editor). When I was visiting her in New York, she pulled the book out of a drawer and gave it to me. It’s a small white paperback book, and is enclosed in a red envelope lined with reflective mylar. The inside front cover of the book also has that mylar — it looks like a mirror.

    It’s become a treasured possession, and is something I have shown to my classes more than once.

    Sorry that I’m unable to be of more help.

    Sincerely yours,

    Philip Nel

  11. Machiko MITSOUJI Said,

    February 4, 2018 @ 1:34 pm

    Dear Philip,

    Thank you for a reply. What a treasure your copy of the book was a gift from Susan Hischman and how wonderful the description of the book is! You also interviewed Chalip!

    Once there was an exhibition of the original illustrations of Hischman’s picture books in Japan. Unfortunately, I don’t remember it included Charlip’s work, it was a long time ago…

    I have some information about the book from editor’s note of its Japanese edition published in 2011 and I also referred the following Website.
    http://stoppingoffplace.blogspot.jp/2010/02/remy-charlip-it-looks-like-snow.html

    I’m very interested in the golden age of American picture books, especially Young Scott Book.

    Thank you again for the information.

    Best regards,

    Machiko

  12. Philip Nel Said,

    February 6, 2018 @ 5:40 pm

    Dear Machiko,

    Apologies for the slight delay in my reply. Thanks for sharing the link to the page on the Charlip book! Mine is a different and unsigned edition — it was published by Greenwillow Books, and bears a copyright date of 1957. Since Susan Hirschman founded Greenwillow Books in 1974, my copy can have been printed no earlier than 1974 — but I don’t know when.

    Remy Charlip was a generous interviewee, and one of the only ones who asked for a transcript: he then sent back an edited copy of my transcript, which was very helpful. I remember at the time he asked for a transcript because he was planning to write an autobiography. I’m not sure how far he got on that project. After he passed away, I posted an excerpt of our conversation:
    http://www.philnel.com/2012/08/18/charlip-2/

    I share your interest in the Young Scott Books. I have a few of them, in fact. Predictably, perhaps, all involve Crockett Johnson: Is This You? (1955), co-written with Ruth Krauss; Willie’s Adventures (1954), written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Johnson; The Little Fish That Got Away (1956), written by Bernadine Cook and illustrated by Johnson.

    Should our paths ever cross, let’s meet for tea or coffee and chat about picture books!

    Best regards,

    Phil

  13. Machiko MITSOUJI Said,

    February 11, 2018 @ 12:51 pm

    Dear Philip,

    Thank you for an additional comment. If Charlip could have made out his autobiography, it should be wonderful…

    Yes, hopefully let’s meet for tea or coffee and chat about picture books someday, although I’m living in Tokyo!

    Best regards,

    Machiko

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