March 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Children’s Book Week Celebrated with Literary Landmark for Lyle the Crocodile’s E. 88th Street

Photo courtesy of Rocco Staino.

Bernard Waber’s children, Paulis, Gary, and Louisa. Photo by Rocco Staino.

In an event honoring the late Bernard Waber, author of the “Lyle the Crocodile” books, the Yorkville Community School was designated as a Literary Landmark. The ceremony took place on May 14 at the Yorkville Community School on East 88th Street. The street was made famous by Waber in 1962 with the publication of The House on East 88th Street (Houghton Mifflin) that introduced the lovable crocodile, Lyle, to the world of children’s literature.

In April, SLJ ran a story about the opening of a Waber-themed exhibit “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile & Friends: The Art of Bernard Waber” at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. (The exhibit encompasses 85 of Waber’s original picture book art and runs until June 8.)

Waber’s three children, Paulis, Gary, and Louisa, together with three of his four grandchildren gathered at the elementary school, where they accepted a commemorative bronze plaque in their father’s honor. They were serenaded by the second-grade chorus rendition of “Eastside Westside” and “Look on the Bright Side.” The family reciprocated by reading the book to the children.

Watch the video of the serenade:

Lyle’s adventures have been translated into German, Dutch, Danish, Spanish, Afrikaans, Swedish, and Japanese, and sales of the books total more than $1.7 million. Mr. Waber developed the idea for The House on East 88th Street during his lunch hours and on his commute on the Long Island railroad when he was working in the art department at Life magazine. He selected East 88th Street because he liked the sound of the number 88.

Photo by Rocco Staino

Photo by Rocco Staino

The Literary Landmark program is sponsored by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association that recognizes sites around the country that have literary connections. Other sites that recognize children’s authors are the Boston Public Garden for Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings (Viking, 1941) and the Plaza Hotel for Kay Thompson’s Eloise (S. & S., 1955). It was co-sponsored by the Empire State Center for the Book and The Children’s Book Council as part of the 2014 Children’s Book Week celebration (hashtag #CBW14).

“[Waber] would be thrilled to know he was part of literary history with this plaque,” Waber’s daughter Paulis told School Library Journal. She and her family expressed gratitude to the organizers of the event that made it possible for Lyle to live on forever on East 88th Street. “My father loved children, his family, and everything New York. I am grateful that this plaque is at a school where he will be surrounded by children.”

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.