This was one of the books that I bought from my book hunting expedition in Las Vegas. I knew when I saw the book cover that it is perfect for our current bimonthly theme on Books about Books and the River of Words.
Of Beautiful Pens and the Struggles of Writing. Shakespeare Pintlewood, or Shakey for short, is no ordinary ant. He is a weaver of children’s tales, as he sees the world the way little boys and girls do. Problem was he did not know any children – so he thought that writing them down in books would be a good way to go about it. This book is obviously way before the advent of digital notebooks and tablets as Shakey thought of ordering “the best fountain pen he could find.”
However, it did remind me of my own passion for notebooks and my erstwhile interest with fountain pens as they slide through gorgeous handmade paper. Poetry seems to have a different kind of illumination if written laboriously and elegantly in painstaking detail with a fountain pen.
As to be expected, Shakey had trouble with the ‘great silver fountain pen’ as it is way bigger than him, and he would heave and grunt and strain even before he could get it up – and he has not even begun to write.
At first he could write only ten or twelve words a day, but after a while he was up to fifteen and then twenty. After many weeks he finished his story.
It was hard to read his writing because of the footprints and ink blots, but he was very proud of the story and sent it off to the people who make children’s books.
The Book isn’t The End. Needless to say, Shakey’s stories were instant hits – and children loved them! However, he felt that it wasn’t enough. He wanted to tell his stories to children who would listen to him in wide-eyed, rapt attention. And so, with his huge fountain pen lifted onto his shoulder, he set out on his life’s journey to meet children and share the beauty of stories with them.
He gathered them around and told them stories. Their eyes grew big and they fell silent, listening closely. At the sad parts they looked very serious and sober. At the exciting parts they leaned forward or sat up suddenly. They laughed. They cheered. They sighed.
In time, Shakespeare Pintlewood became world-famous, and was even in the cover of Time Magazine and major newspapers. After awhile though, he was too old to travel and he couldn’t muster enough energy to use his beloved fountain pen or even tell his stories. There is a tinge of sadness and nostalgia in this story as the ending has brought tears to my eyes – this one, I shall leave for you to discover dear friends – such a beautiful, lyrical ending that would tug at one’s heartstrings.
I can not help but admire this little ant’s tenacity. If I had more copies of this book, I would gladly give them to my PhD supervisees (there are four of them in all as of my last count, not to mention my three Masters supervisees) – as I hope that it would inspire them to keep on writing, keep on writing. One word at a time.
About the Author and Illustrator (taken from the jacketflap of the book – may be slightly outdated).
James H. Lehman, author of The Old Brethren, writes essays, articles, and books on matters of faith and doubt. He has written two serial novels. This is his first published children’s story. He lives in Elgin, Illinois, with his wife, who is a professional folk singer, and his daughter.
Christopher Raschka writes and illustrates books for children. His first book R and R, a story about two alphabets, has been recently released. He has also produced illustrations for newspapers and journals. This is his second children’s book. He lives in New York City with his wife, who is an artist and teacher, and their cat.
The Saga of Shakespeare Pintlewood and the Great Silver Fountain Pen by James H. Lehman and illustrated by Christopher Raschka. Brotherstone Publishers, 1990. Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.