Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Gay Dr. Seuss

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Gay Dr. Seuss

Article excerpt

At 70, nutty Renaissance man Remy Charlip is still on of America's most popular children's book authors

The windows are wide open in his sunny San Francisco apartment, and Remy Charlip is gazing at several kids frolicking in the playground across the street. "I really do think like a child," muses the venerated 70-year-old author and illustrator of 29 children's books. "You see that house up the hill?" he asks, eager to prove his point. "Well, when I look at it I don't see a house. I see a face."

Charlip's ability to see faces in houses has made him one of the most successful authors in his genre. A Charlip book has been chosen three different times as one of The New York Times's Ten Best Illustrated Books of the Year. Honored by the Library of Congress in 1997, he produced his first picture book in 1956 and still manages a flourishing career. The energetic author has had two books published this year alone--Peanut Butter Party (Tricycle Press), which came out last spring, and August's Sleepytime Rhyme (Greenwillow). And from October 13 to December 13, his lifework will be feted with a show at the San Francisco Main Library.

Even more impressive, he has maintained that vitality while defying conservative alarmists, who have been known to equate homosexuals with pedophiles. "I'm sure there are people out there who don't think a gay man has any business writing children's books," says Charlip, who adds that he's always been out and has rarely experienced homophobia in the business. As prone to smiles and rainbow-colored sweaters as he is, the fit, elfin author is no Pollyanna. "If people knew who was gay in the children's book business, they would be surprised," he says. "And if anyone thinks I'm trying to convert children to homosexuality, they're crazy. What I'm trying to do is convert children to creativity."

Nicole Geiger, publisher at Berkeley, Calif.-based Tricycle Press, the company that published Peanut Butter Party, scoffs at any paranoia. "Remy and children are on the same wavelength," says Geiger, adding that Tricycle has plans to produce at least one more of Charlip's fanciful works in the near future. "He can tap into a child's imagination, fears, and excitement in a way that's really special."

Charlip's unique perspective can be found in that wide-eyed house up the hill. "Many children will look at an object that we say is one thing and see something else entirely. But unfortunately, that imagination is often scared out of children," he says.

The son of Russian-born parents (his father was a housepainter, and his mother managed the family grocery store), Charlip has certainly not inhibited himself. …

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