LAMBERT’S BARGAIN (1941)

LAMBERT’S BARGAIN (1941), about the disparaging hyena, was drawn in a new style altogether. Not satisfied to be categorized in just one—or two—styles, Clare wrote LAMBERT’S BARGAIN, which she illustrated in pen and ink line drawings and published in 1941.

“The hilarious story of Lambert and his pet hyena…long popular with librarians who conduct story hours,” commented The Horn Book, ‘but because the book was published originally during the war years, it was allowed to go out of print until reissued by its wise publishers…”

A review of the 1952 reissue of LAMBERT, by the Junior Reviewers:

 

“First published in 1941, this black and white picture book shows how Clare Newberry has changed in 11 years. Her extraordinary sense of humor was very much in evidence then as was her capacity to express it in quick, sure-line drawings. But the humor in this book is the wacky sort…It is fun to have this book—and we recommend it for its absurd fooling, which is deftly carried out.”

 

Our family had a personal perspective on LAMBERT, because we knew that Henry, the disparaging hyena, was based on Clare’s brother, Joe. There had always existed a fierce competition between the two, especially for their father’s approval. Joe, who was also a highly talented artist as a child, had become a leading engineer for General Motors. He had started as a draftsman for Buick in 1929, but his career had advanced as quickly as his sister’s. My Uncle Joe designed valve mechanisms, camshafts, the experimental XP-300 engine and the Buick aluminum engine, the first V8 in 1953 and the famous slant V6 engine of the early 1960’s. Joe set a record for the number of patents granted to him while a Buick engineer. For more about Uncle Joe’s patents and designs, read THE BUICK, A COMPLETE HISTORY.

However, Joe was also known for his sharp wit and his hyena-like laughter—which often had as its target his sister Clare. I think my mother showed admirable restraint in not writing more explicitly about Joe, who at times was a very comedic figure.

Due to his fascination with combustion, for instance, Uncle Joe often experimented in his own basement—setting off small explosions before dinner. On one occasion, Joe was particularly intrigued with a miniature cannon and seeing if he could make it fire properly. His lovely wife, Rhea, was the epitome of calm as the house shook and Joe exited the basement covered in soot. Aunt Rhea simply drew the line by requiring that he wash up before he came to the dinner table. As Clare was working on her next book, fourteen year-old Stephen stayed for several months with Joe and Rhea, who gave birth to their first daughter, Patricia Jean in 1942.

 

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