In 1961, first-time writer Stuart Hample worked on a manuscript with legendary children’s book editor Ursula Nordstrom. Legend has it that at their initial meeting, Stuart Hample said to the editor, “You wouldn’t be silly enough to publish anything I’d write.” Ursula Nordstrom returned with the dare, “You couldn’t write anything silly enough that I’d publish.” Never one to balk at a challenge, Stuart “Stoo” Hample surpassed all expectations with The Silly Book, and the rest is history.
The Silly Book was an instant sensation, giving rise to The Silly Record, a Boodleheimer doll, and other silly merchandise, and attracting hordes of die-hard fans. Now, more than forty years later, The Silly Book is back by overwhelming popular demand, its silly message as fresh as ever, poised to win over a new generation of children. “Life,” the author-illustrator asserts, “is essentially silly, or why would there be war, disease, and dandruff?” The updated edition, featuring new art from Stoo Hample, maintains the original’s wonderful retro feel, with uproarious results.
“The Silly Book is —ha ha —so silly —ha ha —that I have trouble —ha ha —thinking about it while writing this —ha ha ha ha —blurb,” reports Jules Feiffer. “I mean, have you noticed that the first two —ha ha —letters in Hample are Ha? I mean —ha ha —isn’t that —? It’s so —ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Forgive me.”
Adds The Phantom Tollbooth author Norman Juster, with slightly more decorum: “Stoo Hample is the da Vinci of Daft, the Socrates of Screwy, and the Gershwin of Goofy. His book is mordant, scintillating, pungent, and deeply profound, but it’s a bit too silly for me.”
Stoo Hample’s flair for the hilarious is evident throughout his career. His book I Will Kiss You is an exuberant picture book filled with infectious charm and humor. His other wide-ranging talents have led him to perform on CBS’s “Captain Kangaroo” as Mr. Artist, collaborate with Woody Allen on the syndicated comic strip Inside Woody Allen, and write for the CBS comedy series Kate & Allie as well as The Comedy Zone. But Stoo Hample is perhaps best known for his book Children’s Letters to God, a best-selling phenomenon that garnered him an appearance on Oprah. This popular book took on new life as an off-Broadway musical that opened in June 2004. Stoo Hample lived in New York City until his death in 2010.