Recently, Google Doodle became to me what VH1’s Pop-Up Video meant during my teenage years—clever nuggets of culture. In 1998 Google’s cofounders Larry Paige and Sergey Brin played around with the company’s logo to indicate their attendance at the Burning Man Festival (think witty out of the office message). The following year, the pair asked intern Dennis Hwang to create a Bastilla Day doodle. Soon, Dennis Hwang became chief Google doodler.
Google Doodles typically involve playful redesigns of the company’s logo. Tributes to artists like Roger Hargreaves serve as reminders of the merriment of children’s books and television shows. I consider myself lucky, because, as an adult, I still get to play with many of these icons throughout my work day at The Strong.
On April 2, 2010, Google Doodle celebrated Hans Christian Andersen’s 205th birthday. OKAY, so he’s not around anymore, but readers still delight in his fairy tales including Thumbelina and The Ugly Duckling. Andersen’s The Little Mermaid made an impression on me as a child and into my teenage years. I think most thirteen-year-olds feel awkward in their own skin and long for independence. Jackie Wullschlager explains in her biography of Andersen, “he used speaking toys and animals, and gave them voices, easy, colloquial, and funny, with which children could instantly identify.” It’s not uncommon for adults to relate to the stories too. A copy of Anderson’s The Wild Swan and Other Stories resides in The Strong’s Brain Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play (BSSLAP). In my favorite tale from the collection, “The Wild Swan,” a princess ends up rescuing her eleven brothers from the evil queen. Feminists take heed—girl power!
This past summer, in honor of the late Richard Scarry, Google Doodle featured his Busytown, a fictional world with friends like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm. As a little girl, I spent countless hours thumbing through the pages of Scarry’s Little Golden Book title Best Little Word Book Ever! Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm guided me through different places they encountered each day, including their house, a ship, and the post office. The pages contain a small amount of text, but my dad claims he never tired of reading it with me, because Scarry drew more than 1,400 items in the book. Like Anderson, Scarry depicted charming animal characters that behaved like humans. Mundane errands, like running to the supermarket, became language lessons filled with colorful, labeled displays of plums, beets, crunch cereal, and sacks of potatoes. The Strong’s collections contain nearly 2,400 Little Golden Book titles. A few of these books are currently on exhibit in Reading Adventureland and I’m currently working on a larger display.
Two years ago, Google Doodle celebrated Sesame Street's 40th anniversary with a series featuring Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Bert and Ernie. Television producer Joan Ganz Cooney and Carnegie Foundation vice president Lloyd Morrisett brainstormed Sesame Street during a conversation about the addictive nature of television and the need to educate children. When growing up, I learned to count numbers alongside The Count and Burt and Ernie taught me about friendship. I also related to Cookie Monsters love of well, cookies. Over the years, the cast, crew, and writing staffs’ personal lives affected the storylines. Sesame Street muppets shared stories about grief (inspired by the loss of Will Lee, who played Mr. Hopper), marriage, and health (sorry Cookie Monster), among others, with pre-school aged-children. The Strong dedicated an entire exhibit to Sesame Street.
One of my other favorite Google Doodles pays homage to Jim Henson. Henson’s recent Google Doodle featured six new Muppets that a viewer could control with her mouse. Many Google Doodles are highly interactive and explore play. This morning, I discovered a new favorite when I saw Mary Blair, illustrator of Little Golden Book I Can Fly and many notable Disney works, featured on Google Doodle. I wanted to "pop, pop, pop" like a "rabbit with a hop."