home     authors     titles     dates     links     about

the story of appleby capple

27 april 2023

I'm not sure I much like Anne Parrish's Story of Appleby Capple (Newbery runner-up, 1951), but it's an ingenious concept that deserves credit for trying.

Appleby Capple is an alphabet-obsessed young lad who goes off on a quest to find a Zebra butterfly for his Cousin Clement. And of course he will find it, on page 184, after a tour from A to Z with many elaborate illustrations.

The text of Appleby Capple is fairly fey, and despite the quest structure, it is loose and digressive. The little stories that Parrish tells along the way hold little interest for a reader; their purpose seems to be to cram as many words with the given chapter's initial into lists.

Parrish's illustrations are more intriguing. They can be fussy and unappealing, but at their best they show a resourceful blending of line drawing and typography. One for the chapter "T," for example (125), shows Twins in Tartan holding a Toy Tiger and accompanied by a Terrier named Toby and maybe two dozen other T items, each drawn around an upper- or lower-case "t." Parrish even admits to the reader at times that it's hard to find all the things she has hidden in these drawings. They have a proto-I Spy effect, limited by the constraints of the book's black-and-white design, but sometimes pretty engaging – even after the passage of 70 years has made color illustrations with perfect definition cheap and commonplace.

Parrish, Anne. The Story of Appleby Capple. Illustrated by the author. New York: Harper, 1950.