I came across this book, Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear in 1998, in the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT.
The Northshire is an awesome bookstore that has been a fixture in Manchester for decades. The creaky floorboards and cavernous interior make it a really fun place to explore. That day as I stood looking at the display of children’s picture books, one of the bookstore’s staff suddenly appeared at my elbow with Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear in his clutches.
He wordlessly handed it to me, gave me one of those eyes-closed slow-nods and walked away.
I was intrigued, and flipped through the book… and instantly loved it. And bought it! Before leaving I looked for this mysterious, silent salesperson to thank him, but he was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he was a ghost of the Northshire! (Or of the greatest book salesman of all time.)
The book is written by N.M. Bodecker and illustrated by Erik Blegvad, who grew up together in Denmark and eventually settled in the U.S. The foreword by Mr. Blegvad speaks of their life-long friendship and the work they did in the studio they shared in Connecticut. Bodecker was an artist as well as an author. He enjoyed penning “nonsense poems” of which Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear is one, and Let’s Marry said the Cherry is another. Both men are now deceased, Bodecker in 1988 and Blegvad in February of 2014.
The illustrations of Hurry, Hurry, Mary Dear got me first. The watercolors in the book contrast swaths of subdued colors – the grey of the late October/early November sky, interiors dimmed by drawn curtains and the setting sun – with bright accents, such as the blue in Mary’s dress, specks of white, swirling snow, a red pillow on the couch, and bright green, shelled peas.
The book perfectly captures the change from autumn into winter in the Northeast, as greys, browns, and whites start to steal the color from the landscape here.
The other element of this book that I love is the collection of old-fashioned, New England chores that come with the approach of winter, such as
picking apples, churning butter, smoking meat, stacking wood, putting up storm windows.
Even though we do not technically need to do many of these things (here in the ‘burbs) I still feel the pull every fall to do a few of them. We pick apples even though we can get local apples at the store. I stand over the stove to ladle sauces into canning jars, even though it’s hot and time-consuming (and I get just as weary as Mary does.) We all look forward to the first fire in the fireplace even though it only heats the one room. Is it an instinctual pull in us native New Englanders, lying dormant inside until that first, cool crisp night in September?
I enjoyed reading this book to both of my kids when they were younger, and they especially liked to look for the black cat, playfully present on almost every page.
The end of this book is very funny, when poor Mary finally reaches her boiling point from being hurried through all these chores!
It’s a fun, seasonal read best done I think before the first snow, while there is still charm and enjoyment in the cooling weather. (Once the bite of January settles in, all I want to think about it is spring.) Check it out: here is a link to purchase the book or ask for it at your library.
Are you longing to join Mary in some of the seasonal rituals and tasks? If you have picked your apples, give these Pumpkin Spice Cheerios & Apple Bars a try. Whether you really did cook your own molasses or just have the jarred variety, make a lovely batch of Spicy Molasses & Chocolate Cookies. Use your freshly-churned butter to make a flaky pie crust with Buttery Pastry Dough. Once you’ve smoked your ham and strung the beans, try this vintage recipe for Ham Rolls with Bean Sauce. And finally these Cranberry Eggnog Muffins would be lovely toasted over the fire. Happy Autumn and Winter everyone!