The Merry Chase

Clement Hurd | Chronicle Books 2005

Initially published 1941

Once again, I am reminded how simple and playful children’s books should be. The Merry Chase was written and illustrated by Clement Hurd in 1941, best known as the illustrator of classics like Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny. With the thread of a dog pursuing a cat, we are taken on a high-speed chase that wrecks more property and probably injures more people than the running of the bulls. Vibrant full-page illustrations show runaway baby carriages, spilled pots, table cloths catching fire, head-on car crashes, spilled paint and toppled wedding cakes—all havoc wreaked by the hound and feline. But the best part is the people—not one of them has their feet on the ground! They are all caught midstream before breaking a tailbone, getting scalded, hitting a head, drowning or getting knocked out by a toppling statue. Each page reveals a catastrophe unfolding and about to get worse. It’s stop-motion animation in book form. The illustrations are painted in a Matisse-like palette with simple flat colors and minimal tonal shading—an amazing feat to create such energy with such a primitive style of rendering. If proposed today, I doubt the lawyers would let it see print. I’m thrilled to see it reissued—disaster never looked so fun!

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