Yesterday I received a book– Imagination & Innovation: The Story of Weston Woods by John Cech. I took it home, and as the snow fell, I delved into what turned out to be a trip down memory lane. The book begins with a foreword by Maurice Sendak, a rather famous fan of Weston Woods. Cech then proceeds to give the background and early life of Mort Schindel, the founder of the premier children’s film company. Then on to the history of the company itself. Mr. Schindel had high goals– to introduce millions of children to quality children’s books through film. Well, Mr. Schindel, your experiment worked! This book revealed to me that the wonderful readings of books such as Caps for Sale and Make Way for Ducklings that were the highlight of my favorite childhood TV show, Captain Kangaroo, were not, as I had always thought, the Captain himself reading to me, but the earliest Weston Woods films. To this day, when I read Caps for Sale to a group of children, I hear in my head that careful narration and the line, “Ca-ap-s, caps for sale, 50 cents a cap” that made such an impression on me as a youngster. The book, and yes, this post, are a paean to the brilliant Mr. Schindel, and the work that came from a small studio nestled in the woods of Connecticut. For over 40 years Weston Woods has brought the best in children’s books to life– books that perhaps a child growing up in a small rural town (as I did) may not have been exposed to otherwise, books that stand the test of time, and films that fare just as well. I had the honor of being introduced to many of the Weston Woods staff when I was on the Carnegie Committee that chose their film, The Dot, as the medal recipient, and have, in the past, worked with them on their librarian advisory committee (a move that Schindel made early in the career of WW, as he so correctly surmised that children’s librarians knew about children’s books). Stop by and visit with them at their booth at midwinter or annual, and see what new and exciting picture books they are bringing to the next generation of children’s librarians. For I have always thought that Captain Kangaroo made me love books. Come to find out, it was Weston Woods all along. Thanks, Mort Schindel!!!
– Angela Reynolds