Marc Brown makes an appearance in the series finale of the PBS show “Arthur.” (For those of you who haven’t been around young children in the past 45 years, Arthur is an 8-year-old anthropomorphic aardvark.) Arthur and his friends are going to the library to return a book on drawing of animals which the librarian gave him by mistake. “Hey, this shows you how to draw an aardvark!” notes Buster, Arthur’s best friend. Marc Brown (or the character drawn to look like him, who he voices in this show) is in the library reading the Alwood City Times, and before Arthur returns the book, Brown’s character asks him, ” Are you sure you don’t want this? There are some very nice designs here. It’s a beautiful meta-moment. Arthur picks up the book and we soon find out (spoiler alert) that when he grows up he’ll be writing and illustrating a book about – well, you can guess.
The “Arthur” television series, based on the series of books written and illustrated by Brown, ran on PBS for 25 years, making it America’s longest-running animated children’s show. (The first book in the Arthur series, “Arthur’s Nose,” was published in 1976.) To celebrate this extraordinary achievement, Brown recently published a new book, “Believe in Yourself: What We Learned From Arthur ” (Little Brown Books for Young Readers). The book is a collection of “wit and wisdom” from Arthur’s many years as an 8-year-old aardvark.
Brown, who is a part-time Vineyard resident, said in a recent phone interview, “It’s probably the closest thing I’m ever going to get to writing a memoir.”
At the end of the book, in a section titled “How Arthur Became”, Brown writes about the evolution of the books and television series. He begins by writing: “I was literally saved by Arthur. The college where he taught had closed, but another opportunity was opening up. Brown told his son a bedtime story, which began, “This is Arthur. He worries about his nose.
“Most people come out of their childhood; I became mine again when I started making books. My memories became the beginning of Arthur’s fantasy world. I vividly remembered the joys, the heartbreaks, the mess and the dignity of being a third-grader,” Brown writes.
The stories Brown has written over the years have engaged and taught multiple generations of children about a multitude of issues, including friendship, loss, empathy, and perhaps most importantly, mistakes. He created characters who discover an imperfect world and approach challenges not as adults, but as children, which is one of the reasons the books and series have such enduring appeal.
“Believe in Yourself” is a collection of highlights and life lessons from both the books and the TV series. Reading it is like flipping through a photo album and recalling the events of each frame. Brown summarizes a situation that readers and faithful observers will probably remember, and then, with largely new work, shows the scene.
“When Buster confesses he’s not sure he wants to spend time at home after his parents’ recent divorce, Arthur tries to help his friend out by getting creative. Maybe a little too creative…” Brown writes. On the opposite page is an illustration of Buster sitting under a tree looking surprised as Arthur suggests, “We’ll dig a pit under my house and you’ll live in it! They’ll never find you!”
“My editor kind of expected me to pull out existing illustrations when I quoted a certain passage in a book or TV show,” said Brown, who created more than 60 new illustrations for the book. “But I kind of wanted to pull it all together with a sense of cohesion.”
He admits he felt frustrated when the TV show started. “One of the hardest things for me was sharing my part with other artists. They were doing things in animation that were never going to be perfect in my eyes. At some point in the beginning, I said, “OK, Marc, you’re part of the team now, and if you want to like this process, you have to let go a little.” In this book, I could put everything together and I could make moments in the TV show that I wanted to represent like the books, and I could go back and redraw things in the books.
The characters Brown created have not only entertained and taught generations of children; they became friends and allies for life. Arthur, his sassy sister DW, his friends, Buster, Francine and Binky, to name a few, and his teacher, Mr. Ratburn, have found a safe place alongside other enduring characters in literature for children (Madeline, Harriet the Spy, Skippyjon Jones, Harry Potter, and Charlotte and Wilbur, to name a few) who help young readers navigate through the unknowns and inconsistencies of childhood and beyond. of the.
“Believe in Yourself: What We Learned from Arthur” and many other books by Marc Brown are available at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Edgartown Books and elsewhere nationwide, but we encourage you to support your booksellers Vineyard. Marc Brown will be speaking on a panel on writing for kids at Islanders Write this summer. islanderswrite.com.