Wednesday, July 13, 2016


   Maybe at some other time I’ll tell the story about how I (with the help of BarbieTM) helped Leonid Rabinovich (‘Lenny’) and his family emigrate to America from the old Soviet Union:USSR. In any event soon after he got here, around 2000, I was writing my BIG PARADE books, and I knew Lenny was the perfect choice to illustrate them, but first his son would have to translate all of my rhyming and somewhat ridiculous words into Ukrainian. Lenny spoke English well enough but he just felt more comfortable in his native tongue, and while words are words, sometimes concepts and idioms are more difficult to translate and even harder to draw. Lenny did a masterful job as you can see.

Detail from 'The Big Parade: San Francisco

"And the Navy sent the Pacific Fleet,
Followed by the largest single piece of Shredded Wheat."

To understand the following story you have to remember that Lenny spent his whole life living under communism…and there was absolutely no commercial advertising under communism.

 Anyway, for one of my little panoramas I had written the rhyme:

“And Lincoln delivered 
The Gettysburg Address
Brought to you by
American Express”

I always checked with Lenny by reading the words to him and asking if he understood how to illustrate what I was saying. He usually said he did (whether he did or not) knowing that his son would be translating for him later. This time, when he said he understood I noticed some concern on his face and I asked again. “Lenny do you really understand?” 

“No” he answered.

I was surprised. This was one of my simpler rhymes. What was there not to understand? 
I said, “Lenny, what don’t you understand? Lincoln?”

Lenny looked at me as if I had insulted his intelligence and said “Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, born on February 12…”

He went on and on and it was clear that Lincoln wasn’t it.

“The Gettysburg Address?” I asked.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation..."

Nope, not the Gettysburg Address.”

I was running out of words. “American Express”? I questioned.

“Stenley”, he replied, “Everybody know American Express!”

What else was there? “Lenny, what could you possibly not know how to illustrate?” I asked.

His answer: “Brought to you by."

Just in case you are interested, three editions of 
The Big Parade (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco)
are available on Apple's iBookstore.

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