Little Toot, the boat that was rescued by Captain Christopher Robin after being found abandoned and forgotten in a barn, right here in LaBelle, has returned home after traveling the country. “Remember, when we go, we always take you with us, and we always come back home,” the Captain told the students at LaBelle Elementary school on Monday, February 11. You may remember meeting Little Toot, the beloved little tugboat, back on November 16, 2018. That was the day Mayor Lyons made the official proclamation of Little Toot Day, and everyone watched as Little Toot traveled up and down the Caloosahatchee, happily doing figure eights in front of the Barron Library.
Little Toot and his Captain have since been traveling, sharing stories, and meeting new friends. They brought back some of those friends to visit with some of their favorite students. One of those friends, Linda Gramatky Smith, was there to show some of the artwork that was created by her father, Hardie Gramatky. Hardie was the author and illustrator of the wonderfully imaginative children’s book “Little Toot.” The character for the book was created after Hardie watched a small tugboat making figure eights in the water. He thought the boat seemed like it didn’t want to be a tugboat and was dreaming of being something different. This book is the inspiration behind the real-life tug boat. Linda told the students that she has donated her father’s artwork to the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum, a truly amazing place that promotes literacy through the celebration of art in picture books.
Benjamin Sapp, the Director of the Mazza museum, also came with Linda and Captain Robin, to visit the students. Sapp spoke of the museum, “It is the first and largest of it’s kind in the world, specializing in the art of picture books.” He showed photos of the museum, some of its artwork, and the stories on exhibit. He then told the students one of his favorite stories by Tedd Arnold, “Catalina Magdalena Hoopensteiner Wallendiner Hogan Logan Bogan Was Her Name.” The children giggled as they repeated the main character’s name over and over throughout the book. As Sapp delivered the line, “She had two holes on the bottom of her nose. One for her fingers, and one for her….. toes!” as he pointed almost to his nose, then down to his foot. The entire classroom was roaring with belly laughs.
Captain Christopher Robin and Little Toot want to remind everyone to remember our pasts and use our imaginations to never give up on building our dreams into realities. When celebrated, these things can help us feel connected and empower us to do great things, like when Hardie Gramatky watched a small tugboat doing figure eights in the harbor, it inspired him to create his book. Then Captain Christopher Robin found and brought Little Toot to life, and when Little Toot Day was declared, they were there in the Caloosahatchee performing figure eights. Lastly, the Captain wants us to remember to keep on tooting. Toot, toot!