Jul 19, 2012

Spaceship Under the Apple Tree

Other than The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, my favorite early-childhood book was The Space Ship under the Apple Tree (1952), by Louis Slobodkin.  Like The Wonderful Flight, it involves a passionate same-sex friendship.

A boy scout named Eddie Blow meets Marty, an alien boy his own age, and exclaims "Let's be friends."  Marty doesn't know what "friend" means, so Eddie shows him.

 They become involved in the search for Secret Power Z, which will allow Marty to return to his home planet.

There were four sequels, but I never encountered them.

That's all I knew about Louis Slobodkin until I stumbled upon his  Sculpture: Principles & Practices (1973).  The attention to the male form was striking.

Born in 1903, Louis Slobodkin wrote over 50 books, mostly children's books, including One is Good, But Two Are Better (1956), Melvin the Moose Child (1957), and Luigi and the Long-Nosed Soldier (1963).  They sound like male friendship is emphasized, making them part of the repertoire of gay kids.

He was also an illustrator, and of course a sculptor who specialized in the male form.

His most famous piece was a plaster statue of "Young Lincoln," which was displayed at the 1939 World's Fair.  It was destroyed, but there's a replica in Lincoln, Nebraska, and a bronze copy at the Department of the Interior Building.

Could he have been gay?  Maybe, maybe not.  Same-sex friendships were commonplace in children's fiction before the 1980s heterosexualization of childhood, and he was married to children's book writer Florence Gesh. But that statue of Lincoln with a massive chest and phallic hoe. . . .

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