HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Little Toot
Author and Illustrator: Hardie Gramatky
Publisher: Penguin Group USA, republished in 2007
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Gramatky, Hardie. Little Toot (published in 1939 by G. Putnam’s Sons). I remember the story of Little Toot from my childhood. Little Toot is an anthropomorphic tugboat child, who thinks that work is a joke, and prefers to play around making figure 8s and doing other games that irritate the rest of the tugboats, who call him a “Sissy.” After being rejected by the tugboat community, he dejectedly drifts out to sea, where he accidentally discovers a shipwrecked liner and gains a chance to prove his worth. Author and illustrator Bernhard (Hardie) August Gramatky (1907-1979) was an animator for Walt Disney Studios in Anaheim, CA, from 1930 to 1936, when he moved to the East Coast. His art studio in New York City, NY, overlooked the East River, where he spent many hours watching different kinds of boats go by.
These scenes became the inspiration for Little Toot, which was first published in 1939. Disney knew a good thing when he saw it and incorporated the story into an animated movie feature entitled Melody Time, released in 1948. When our boys were little, we had a copy of the book, I think in a Little Golden Books edition, and we also have a DVD of Melody Time with the story of Little Toot. In 2007, to honor what would have been Gramatky’s 100th birthday, Penguin Putnam rescanned the original artwork, added nine original full-color sketches by the illustrator, and brought back detailed endpapers so the book has been restored to its first-edition coloring.
Gwyn Williams wrote in the Sept./Oct., 2001 (Vol. 10, No. 5) issue of Homeschooling Today Magazine (p. 22), “As homeschoolers, we know that truly excellent books can be numbered among those treasures long after our children have outgrown the twaddle’ so readily available in our bookstores. One of those memory-building books is Little Toot, by Hardie Gramatky.” Gramatky did some sequels, such as Little Toot on the Mississippi and Little Toot on the Thames. His last book, Little Toot and the Loch Ness Monster, was unfinished at the time of his death but was later completed by Dorothea Cooke Gramatky and published in 1989, and his daughter Linda Gramatky-Smith did Little Toot and the Lighthouse.