One of the best things about childhood is curling up with a trusted adult and being read to. The warmth of their body. The sense of security. Feeling their heart beat as they lull you into a fantasy world made real by words and images. Most of my favorite childhood memories involve books and my absolute favorite book of all was The Tall Book Of Make-Believe, a book of select fairy tales from the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's by Jane Werner Watson, illustrations by Garth Williams.
This masterpiece of magic was a member of our household long before I was. Being the ninth of 11 children, I was born into a household of books and toys that were someone else's gifts and someone else's castaways and the Tall Book of Make-Believe was part of this vast collection of treasures.
By the time I was old enough to read the book on my own the cover page had the random scribbles of a toddler on it but the binding was intact and all of the amazing illustrations had been left unaltered. I remember my sister and I passing the book back and forth, each of us caught in the mystery and magic of our favorite poems and stories.
Years went by and while I put down all things childish, The Tall Book of Make-Believe stayed firmly in my heart and psyche. I made a point of taking it with me at some point in my early adulthood, by now it’s cover barely hanging on by a few threads. I’d lovingly visit it now and then and when I had my son I relished reading it to him.
Many years later, when I started to visualize how I wanted to present my line of organic cotton sleepwear to the world, I immediately thought of a poem from the Tall Book titled Wynken, Blynken and Nod, a classic bedtime poem written by Eugene Field published in 1889. The poem tells the story of three children adrift in the night sky, fishing for stars inside a wooden shoe. As the name of the poem suggests, the children represent the blinking eyes and the nodding head of sleep and the wooden shoe represents a trundle bed.
I thought the wooden shoe sailboat that Wynken, Blynken and Nod traveled in would be a fitting image for a baby sleepwear line, so I had it incorporated into my CastleWare Baby logo. I told my sister about my idea of paying homage to one of our favorite Tall Book poems by adding the image to my logo. This got her thinking that she would really like to have her own copy of the Tall Book to enjoy and share with her two girls, so she ordered one right away. She was lucky enough to snag a copy from the 1992 publication, which turned out to be the last printing. Since then the Tall Book has gone on to be one of the most sought-after out-of-print children’s books, with even torn reprints going for hundreds of dollars. People want this book, not because they want to wrap it in plastic and store it away on a shelf, but because they want to remember the magic and share that magic with their children and grandchildren.
My childhood and life has been so much richer thanks to this book and all of the amazing places it took me. With infinite gratitude to Eugene Field, Jane Werner Watson and Garth Williams, I give you….
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
Eugene Field - 1850-1895
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,"
The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish,—
Never afraid are we!"
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam,—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
'Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one's trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:—