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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15 comments:

  1. I have another title for your list of the work of Masha. Recently I found a copy of The Child's Book of Christmas Carols Illustrated by Masha, Random House, 1942.

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    1. Interesting. I have the same book, 1942. Horrible condition. Found in attic under a stack of papers. Illustrations are beautiful. Thinking of framing them for my grand niece.

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    2. I have that book also in excellent condition and also A Child's Book of Hymns

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  2. I just bought a title illustrated by Masha called "The Golden Almanac" (1944) at a local thrift shop for $2. It is a very sweet book. Some scans of the illustrations are here: http://highdesertheartstrings.blogspot.com/2011/01/couple-weeks-ago-i-was-at-one-of-my.html

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  3. I have an original 1943 Child's Book of Christmas, highlighted in gold leaf (?). It was always in my family; I am assuming it was a gift to my eldest brother for his first Christmas, as he was born in 1943. It is just gorgeous! Not in perfect condition, though--my eldest sister scratched her name in the cover about 60 years ago, complete with backward "g." ;+)

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  4. I have a book beautifully illustrated by her, 1943 A Child's Story of the Nativity. Truely a gifted artist. It's also not in perfect condition - my brother was 5 and wrote his name in it. So cute.

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  5. The White Bunny and his Magic Nose, pictures by Masha.

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  6. I have the 1942 Three little kittens book with illustrations by Masha

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  7. I have the 1942 Three little kittens book with illustrations by Masha

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  8. Would live to upload here her cover for "A Farm Story."

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  9. Masha was my mother's cousin, and they kept touch up until Masha's death. I believe she was in her 90s when she died quite a number of years ago, but her only son, Daniel, is still alive, and my mother remains in touch with him. I remember going to Masha's house in the 1960s when she lived in Milford, CT, and she had her studio in the front of the house, basically where the living room would be. I have a couple of her Little Golden Books (including The Three Little Kittens), and a very large framed pastel of The Owl and The Pussycat (which was also a Little Golden Book) that she drew for me in the 1960s and hangs over our fireplace. I also have some jewelry she made. Masha was a very colorful person and I know she illustrated books under several different names. I think I remember my mother telling me that in the 1940s there was a published list of the 10 best children's illustrators (put out by Life Magazine?), and Masha, and 2 of her other names, made 3 of the 10. (I apologize if I don't have these "facts" completely correct.)

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    1. WestScott she was a wonderful illustrator, they are beautiful illustrations what great talent. Thank you for sharing

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    2. Westscott, is there a way to contact her son?

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    3. She was a marvelous illustrator! I have A Child's Book of Christmas Carols which she illustrated. It was given to me by my aunt in the mid-1940s's (I was born in 1943) and I treasure it. My own children used to sing carols from it and now two of my grandsons do the same. It is such a special book and those gilded illustrations are just incomparable. I had no idea Masha was also involved with the Little Golden Books, also from my childhood.

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  10. I have a book: A Book Of Cradle Songs from my childhood ~ Beautiful....

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