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A Children's Classic 'Toots' Back to Bookshelves

In 1939, Hardie Gramatky saw a small tugboat on New York's East River that didn't work. The scene gave Gramatky ideas for watercolors and his classic children's book.
In 1939, Hardie Gramatky saw a small tugboat on New York's East River that didn't work. The scene gave Gramatky ideas for watercolors and his classic children's book.

In 1939, Hardie Gramatky saw a little tugboat in New York's East River that was struggling to move.

The tugboat proved an inspiration for Gramatky, an artist who was also an illustrator for Walt Disney Studios in the late 1920s. Gramatky painted several watercolors of the tugboat and gradually wrote Little Toot, now a children's classic.

In honor of what would have been Gramatky's 100th birthday, Penguin Putnam is reissuing a restored version of Little Toot, reviving the rich colors that were diminished in subsequent editions. The book also features full-color manuscript sketches, and reintroduces parts of the book's original bindings.

Like The Little Engine That Could, the story of Little Toot is a tale of overcoming fear. Known as Little Toot for the small "toot, toot" sound emitted from his whistle, the tiny tugboat learns quickly that he must give up childish ways in order to win the respect of other boats. Soon Little Toot is on the high seas, rescuing an ocean liner during a storm.

Scott Simon and Daniel Pinkwater preview the newly released version of the children's classic.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Daniel Pinkwater
Scott Simon
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.