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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Books

“A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking”*…

 

A market doubles as a bookstore in Obidos, Portugal

What makes a book town?

It can’t be too big—not a city, but a genuine town, usually in a rural setting. It has to have bookshops—not one or two, but a real concentration, where a bibliophile might spend hours, even days, browsing. Usually a book town begins with a couple of secondhand bookstores and later grows to offer new books, too.

But mostly, they have a lot of books for sale…

Tour some of the world’s best at “Book Towns Are Made for Book Lovers.”

* Jerry Seinfeld

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As we browse in bliss, we might send a combo birthday and St Patrick’s Day greeting to Catherine “Kate” Greenaway; she was born on this date in 1846.  Creator of books for children such as Mother Goose (1881), Little Ann (1883), & The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1889), she was one of the most the most accomplished illustrators of her time– and the inspiration for The Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the U.K. to an illustrator of children’s books.

Greenaway’s illustration of the Pied Piper leading the children out of Hamelin; for Robert Browning’s version of the tale.

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Written by LW

March 17, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Childhood is a very, very tricky business”*…

 

Picture from Presto and Zesto in Limboland, ©2017 by the Maurice Sendak Foundation.

Lynn Caponera, president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, was going through the late artist’s files last year “to see what could be discarded,” she said. “I was asking myself, do we really need all these?” when she found a typewritten manuscript titled Presto and Zesto in Limboland, co-authored by Sendak and his frequent collaborator, Arthur Yorinks. Caponera, who managed Sendak’s household for decades, didn’t remember the two friends working on a text with that title, so she scanned the manuscript and e-mailed it to Michael di Capua, Sendak’s longtime editor and publisher.

“I read it in disbelief,” said di Capua. “What a miracle to find this buried treasure in the archives. To think something as good as this has been lying around there gathering dust.”

Not only is the manuscript complete, so, too, are the illustrations. Sendak created them in 1990 to accompany a London Symphony Orchestra performance of Leoš Janáček’s Rikadla, a 1927 composition that set a series of nonsense Czech nursery rhymes to music.

Voila! So it is that Sendak, considered by many to be the most influential picture book creator of the 20th century, will have another publication in the 21st, five years after his death…

Happy endings at: “New Maurice Sendak Picture Book Discovered.”

* Maurice Sendak

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As we go Where the Wild Things Are, we might send powerfully-drawn birthday greetings to Colleen Doran; she was born on this date in 1964.  A write, artist, illustrator, and cartoonist, she has illustrated hundreds of comics, graphic novels, books and magazines. She has illustrated the works of Neil Gaiman (her drawings and adaptation of his “Troll Bridge” was a New York Times bestseller), Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Joe R. Lansdale, Anne Rice, J. Michael Straczynski, Peter David, and Tori Amos; her credits include: The Sandman, Wonder WomanLegion of SuperheroesTeen TitansThe Vampire Diaries comics, Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and her space opera series, A Distant Soil… for which she has received Eisner, Harvey, and International Horror Guild Awards.

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“I left the fairy tales lying on the floor of the nursery, and I have not found any books so sensible since”*…

 

Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, published in 1744 and now in the collection of the British Library, is the oldest surviving published collection in the genre.  Some of its rhymes are still familiar; others, like  “Piss a Bed” (above), have faded away.

While the mid-18th-century Tommy Thumb’s represents the oldest collection of nursery rhymes on paper, the oral tradition is, of course, much older. In a preface to his 1843 collection of English nursery rhymes, scholar James Halliwell-Phillips could pinpoint the origins of some verses in his collection to the 16th century but believed that some could be “ancient.” Later studies have dated most of today’s familiar rhymes to the 16th through 18th centuries, with some earlier outliers coming from the medieval period.

Tommy Thumb’s is a milestone for another reason; as the British Library writes, it “represents one of the very first attempts to make books in which children would delight.” It’s small—3 by 1 ¾ inches—and has an engraved illustration on every page; the library suggests that the scheme of alternating ink colors (red, black, red, black) may have been intended to add even more interest for young readers…

* G.K. Chesterton

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As we count to three bags full, we might recall that this date each year is UNESCO’s “World Book and Copyright Day.”

23 April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla, and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. In this regard, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day.

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Written by LW

April 23, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?”*…

 

It’s well known that before Andy Warhol became the most famous artist in New York—if not the world—he worked for several years as a commercial illustrator. For instance, he did a bunch of album covers in the mid- to late 1950s, a couple of which are quite familiar to anyone who follows jazz—even if they’re not familiar “as Warhol covers.”

Another of his gigs lasted about four years, that being occasional illustrations for children’s stories in the “Best In Children’s Books” series published by Nelson Doubleday. He illustrated six stories between 1957 and 1960—since there were 33 volumes in the series at a minimum, we can be sure that the series was pretty popular. Every volume had roughly ten stories in it, and each story featured art by a different illustrator. So Warhol’s output in this series was a tiny fraction of the art contained therein. One of the other artists who did illustrations in the same series was Richard Scarry…

More of of this bedtime tale– and more nifty examples of Warhol’s early work– at “Andy Warhol, Children’s Book Illustrator.”

* Andy Warhol

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As we turn the page, we might send birthday greetings to Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier; he was born on this date in 1811 (though some sources date it on yesterday’s date).  A poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and art and literary critic, Gautier was a champion of Romaniticism, a point of reference for many subsequent literary traditions (e.g., Symbolism and Modernism), and widely esteemed by writers as diverse as Balzac, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Pound, Eliot, Henry James, Proust, and Wilde.  As editor of the influential review L’Artiste, he editorialized in support of “Art for Art’s Sake.”

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Written by LW

August 31, 2015 at 1:01 am

“It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass”*…

 

In the first decade of the 20th century, Edward Stratemeyer formed the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  As the head of the group, he commissioned writers to create quickly-written, formulaic juvenile novels; authors received short outlines, and returned book manuscripts within a month. As Meghan O’Rourke writes in The New Yorker,“ Stratemeyer checked the manuscript for discrepancies, made sure that each book had exactly fifty jokes, and cut or expanded as needed,”  The syndicate’s popular protagonists included the Hardy Boys,Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Bobbsey Twins, along with many that are now unfamiliar, like the Outdoor Girls, the Motion Picture Chums, and the Kneetime Animal Stories.

The first of the two-page outline for The House on the Cliff, the second Hardy Boys novel

 

In this two-page outline for the 1927 Hardy Boys mystery The House on the Cliff, Stratemeyer directed writer Leslie McFarlane in the construction of the plot of the second book in the franchise’s original series. The book was officially published as the work of Franklin W. Dixon, a fictional author whose name appears on all of the Hardy Boys books.

Stratemeyer, who grew up reading the Horatio Alger and Oliver Optic book series, was himself a writer of boys’ fiction. As Meghan O’Rourke wrote in the New Yorker in 2004, Stratemeyer was publishing his own series fiction—the Rover Boys, the Motor Boys—when he figured out a way to bridge two oppositional strains of children’s literature: “the nineteenth century’s moralistic tradition and the dime novel’s frontier adventures.” Stratemeyer’s books would be sold in hardback, thereby appearing “respectable” to parents, while containing adventure stories that were just as appealing to kids as cheap stories of the dime novel type…

James Keeline, who researchs the history of the Syndicate and granted me permission to run these scans of the Hardy Boys document, has put several other Stratemeyer outlines up on his site.

Rebecca Onion, in The Vault

* Eudora Welty

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As we turn the page, we might send a combo birthday and St Patrick’s Day greeting to Catherine “Kate” Greenaway; she was born on this date in 1846.  Creator of books for children such as Mother Goose (1881), Little Ann (1883), & The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1889), she was one o fte most the most accomplished illustrators of her time– and the inspiration for The Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the U.K. to an illustrator of children’s books.

Greenaway’s illustration of the Pied Piper leading the children out of Hamelin; for Robert Browning’s version of the tale.

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Written by LW

March 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest”*…

 

In the mid 17th-century John Comenius published what many consider to be the first picture book dedicated to the education of young children, Orbis Sensualium Pictus – or The World of Things Obvious to the Senses drawn in Pictures, as it was rendered in English…

Originally published in 1658 in Latin and German, the Orbis — with its 150 pictures showing everyday activities like brewing beer, tending gardens, and slaughtering animals — is immediately familiar as an ancestor of today’s children’s literature. This approach centered on the visual was a breakthrough in education for the young, as was the decision to teach the vernacular in addition to Latin. Unlike treatises on education and grammatical handbooks, it is aimed directly at the young and attempts to engage on their level.

The Orbis was hugely popular. At one point it was the most used textbook in Europe for elementary education, and according to one account it was translated into “most European and some of the Oriental languages.” Its author John Comenius, a Czech by birth, was also well-known throughout Europe and worked in several countries as a school reformer. His portrait was painted by Rembrandt, and according to an 1887 edition of the Orbis, Comenius was even “once solicited to become President of Harvard College.” (Although he never came to Harvard, one can still find his name engraved on the western frieze of Teachers College at Columbia University.) Even if he is less celebrated today by name, his innovative ideas about education are still influential. In his Didactica Magna, for example, he advocates for equal educational opportunities for all: boys and girls, rich and poor, urban and rural…

Read more in Charles McNamara’s “In the Image of God: John Comenius and the First Children’s Picture Book.”

* C.S. Lewis

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As we see Spot run, we might recall that this the date commonly given for the day that the Pied Piper (Rattenfänger) led the children of Hamelin, Germany, into a mountain cave.

A German version of the tale has survived in a 1602/1603 inscription found in Hamelin in the Rattenfängerhaus (Pied Piper’s, or Ratcatcher’s house):

Anno 1284 am dage Johannis et Pauli
war der 26. junii
Dorch einen piper mit allerlei farve bekledet
gewesen CXXX kinder verledet binnen Hamelen gebo[re]n
to calvarie bi den koppen verloren  

which has been translated into English as:

In the year of 1284, on John’s and Paul’s day
was the 26th of June
By a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours,
130 children born in Hamelin were seduced
and lost at the place of execution near the Koppen.

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“Where’s Papa going with that ax?”*…

 

From the Grimms and Mother Goose to Edward Gorey, children’s literature can be… well, pretty chilling.  But for pure shock value, it’s possible that Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy—about Satanic ritual abuse—is the scariest children’s book ever written.   The book’s description explains…

The words of the text and the objects and situations illustrated are based on months of intensive research into the nature and practice of satanic ritual abuse. Any child who has been ritually abused will recognize the validity of this story.

The book was apparently marketed to school counselors, mental health professionals and support groups, as well as to concerned parent, to help identify signs of Satanic Ritual Abuse (or “SRA”).

Amazon reviewers weighed in with reactions including these:

– One HELL of a good read. Devilishly funny. My son, Damian, thought it was the funniest book he’s ever read. An all around great book to read around the sulfur pit with the family. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but honestly, LOOK AT IT.

– 4 year old saw this book and she is begging parents to send her to this school, where on earth are we going find a satanist school for the brat.

– You have to be a detective to follow the “story.” The book forces you to deduce the storyline from the progression of settings, because the book never tells you what is happening or why, or even who is talking. The child in the “story” just materializes in new contexts without explanation. The reader’s reactions are constantly along the lines of, “Where is she now? What is happening? Who is this person? Who is talking?” Each page introduces a new disjointed scenario and a new unattributed quotation, and it’s up to the reader to try to figure out what’s going on.

Via the ever-illuminating Dangerous Minds.

* Fern, to her mother, as they were setting the table for breakfast. –E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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As we make the sign of the cross, we might wish a grateful Happy Birthday to the greatest poet and playwright in the English canon, William Shakespeare; he was born (tradition holds, and reason suggests) on this date in 1564.  In fact, there is no way to know with certainty the Bard’s birth date.  But his baptism was recorded at Stratford-on-Avon on April 26, 1564; and three days was the then-customary wait before baptism.

In any case, we do know with some certainty that Shakespeare died on this date in 1616.

The Chandos Portrait

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