Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Masha, a Mystery Illustrator of Childrens Books in the '40s

Masha (Maria Simchow Stern) illustrated the very first Little Golden Book, Three Little Kittens in 1942. That is some claim to fame, however, there is virtually no information available about Masha. Considering that she had a "pen name," she must have wanted to stay anonymous.
In my book dealing, I have come across two titles by Masha from the '40s, The Child's Book of Bible Stories and the Child's Book of Prayers, published by Random House.

The illustrations in both of these books are so beautiful. The design enhances the art with gold borders and gold touches. Very sweet, innocent children, dreamy pastel coloring. Heavenly . . .

Here are some images:


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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dog Illustrators Capture the Canine Spirit

Small children, horses, dogs -- can't resist vintage books with illustrations of these. Today, the subject is dogs. Many children’s books illustrators have their favorite dogs – Tasha Tudor is known for curious Corgis.

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Bessie Pease Gutman’s little collies are as adorable as her babies.

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Marguerite Kirmse (1885-1954) was one of America’s most noted canine artists. Her favorite breed was Scotties, but she was well known for her etchings of Pointers. I particularly like her collies when she teamed up with Albert Payson Terhune. In images, she captured the personality, intelligence and beauty of the breed that Terhune conveyed in his stories.

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Wesley Dennis is more known for the horses he illustrated for Marguerite Henry’s books. "This artist saw beyond hide and hair and bone. You could see that he understood and loved animals, that he was trying to capture their spirit, personality and expression,” Henry said of Dennis’s work. They also collaborated on the Book of Dogs, which includes really charming images of puppies and dogs of varying breeds.

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Ruth Wright Paulsen collaborates with her husband on many books including Puppies, Dogs and Blue Northers. I like the soft textures in her huskies as they sleep in pink and blue snow fields.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes – Among the Best

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Marguerite de Angeli, (1889-1987) if not a Renaissance women, she was certainly multi-talented. Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes is considered one of the finest Mother Goose illustrations.

This children’s book author and illustrator started her professional career as a concert contralto. She gave that up to start a family – she had 6 children – and learned illustration from Maurice Bower when she was in her 30s. It seems book illustration is a healthy path as she lived to the age of 98.

As an author, she was a bit of a maverick, tackling challenging subjects in the ‘40s, such as racial prejudice. She often wrote of poor people, minorities and others who were disenfranchised. She won many awards including a Newberry Award for The Door in the Wall, a Newberry Honor for Black Fox of Lorner and two Caldecott Honors for her illustrations of Yonie Wondernose and the Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes in 1957.

The Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes is an especially lovely find for the genre. The large pages allow the images, both color and black and white to dance through the pages. The delicate black and white drawings are every bit as delightful as the color illustrations. I love her Little Bo Peep – so much detail.

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Throughout the book, the images are soft and warm, portraying perfectly the soft, still unformed young child. In her biography, she tells how she used her family members as models. She captures the mood of the rhymes with humour and sensitivity. It will bring a smile to your face to look at Mary Had a Little Lamb. The children in the classroom are so delighted to have a lamb at school!

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Holling C. Holling -- Colourful Historic Fiction

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Holling Clancy Holling (1900 -1973), a prolific children’s book writer and illustrator, combined large, colorful, full-page illustrations with nature-themed books. His style combined fiction with history and he was therefore able to take children on a learning adventure.
Holling was born in Holling Corners, Michigan to an educated family which loved books. He loved to draw from early childhood as well as to spend time in the Michigan woodlands. Holling graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and went to work for the Field Museum of Natural History. (Walter Alois Weber also attended the Art Institute and worked at the Field Museum, probably following Holling by several years.)
Holling met his wife Lucille while at the Art Institute. Eventually they worked together to illustrate many children’s books. They say Lucille worked on much of the border art. Seems like a very nice partnership.
Holling’s rich and brightly colored illustrative style was developed when he spent some time studying in New Mexico.

Children of Many Lands,above 1929, was one of the first children’s books he illustrated. It is fun to browse the colorful interpretations of children from Japan, China, Holland . . .

The Book of Indians, 1935 -- Swaths of desert peach creates an awesome illustration.

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More horses from Book of Indians:

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He is best known for the series of books he wrote and illustrated – historical fiction. Paddle to the Sea, was his first in this series. It traces the journey of a woodcarving made by an Indian boy through the Great Lakes and out to the Atlantic Ocean. See the drama in this illustration. He knew how to make geography fun.

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And the pretty cover of Seabird, a story about four generations of travel by a carved ivory gull.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Many Illustrators of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty

I don't know how many different artists have illustrated a version of Black Beauty since it was first published in 1877. It may be the children's book with the most editions. I have read that the Bible is the only book that has sold more copies. It's popularity is a testament not only to the quality of the book, but also to the scores of animal lovers in the world. Anna Sewell told a story that needed to be told -- after all the centuries of servitude the horse has given mankind. It lives on today as a reminder to be kind to all living beings.
Every time I see a version of Black Beauty at a book sale, I buy it. Here are some interpretations:

Perhaps my favorite Black Beauty, by Wesley Dennis. Very soft, fluid. The perfect illustration for the narrative, "I remember a large pleasant meadow."

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The Walter Seaton Black Beauty, nice.

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Cute Black Beauty art for young readers -- Wonder Book's BB with a little girl by George Santos

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Samuel Lowe's BB with a boy by George Pollard

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Distinctive style of Fritz Eichenberg

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And a "modern times" black Beauty by Susan Jeffers. Love her dreamy style, lots of attention to surrounding details. Nice lines.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bessie Pease Gutmann -- Golden Age of Illustration

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Bessie Pease Gutmannn was one of the women illustrators from what is considered the Golden Age of Illustration late 1800s to early 1900s. Improved printing techniques and booming industrialized economy allowed for lavishly produced books filled with illustrations.

She learned her trade at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. Jessie Wilcox Smith also attended the school, at earlier date. Howard Pyle considered the father of American illustration taught at the Drexel School in Philadelphia. Philadelphia was a breeding ground for American illustrators at the time.

Pease Gutmann's first illustrated books were A Child's Garden of Verses in 1905 and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1907. Her early works were influenced by the Drexel School artists -- black outlines and flat colors. They are wonderful illustrations and she had the ability to capture the spontaneity and innocence of childhood.

When she had her own children, she started to use them as models and developed the style she is known for. Very sweet, innocent and healthy babies and toddlers painted in pastel tones. In many of her paintings adorable puppies -- often collies -- complete the picture.

Unlike many of her contemporaries, she was fortunate to be able to combine her career with motherhood. Her husband owned the publishing company she worked for.
These illustrations came from Sweet Dreams It combines the lovely art of Bessie Pease Gutmann with the poems of Pamela Prince.

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