Looking through my old books for my Fairy Tales post last month was an enjoyable, but somewhat eerie experience. I feel as though those books imprinted themselves on my brain on some deeply primordial level. The thoughts and ponderings I had in my head as a child are still there, just waiting for the right images to make them pop back up again.
Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne, “decorations” by Ernest H. Shepard, causes this phenomenon to happen. I found this copy at my parent’s house recently.
When I read this book now I hear voices. Well, not actually voices, just one voice – my mother’s – with the same intonation and cadence she used as she read the poems to me before I could read them myself. This is especially true with those that are my favorites, the ones that I must have made her read to me over and over again. For example, this one.
The answer to the question was deliciously obvious and thrilling to me. It echoed what I often heard.
Here is an image that I remember staring at and wondering about. It’s from “The Little Black Hen”.
…But I’ll lay you a beautiful
If you’ll show me the nettle-place
On your leg.”
So for years I thought nettles left pinfeather-like spines sticking out of your skin. Re-examining the picture now I think those lines are supposed to represent Christopher Robin’s fingers, but I still see them as an anomaly.
Tales From Grimm, illustrated by Wanda Gág, was part of my fairy tale collection. I was able to read by the time Mom brought this book home from a library discard sale.
Gág’s drawings are comfortingly lumpy and solid with the pleasing line textures common in illustrations from the 30s and 40s. They make me happy.
Years later I saw Gág’s Millions of Cats for the first time and it was like visiting with an old friend. Familiar face but different outfit.
As you can see, these books have been well loved over the years. The Golden Treasury of Children’s Literature, edited and selected by Bryna and Louis Untermeyer, was new when it came to me in 1967, a gift from my brother and his wife.
They wanted me to be a good girl too.
I’m afraid it has fared the worst of the three. It has been literally loved to pieces.
This book is a candy-shop sampler of so many masterful storytellers and illustrators. Over thirty authors including Rudyard Kipling, C. S. Forester , J. R. R. Tolkien , Lafcadio Hearn, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, Louis Slobodkin and of course Milne, Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Aesop.
The illustrators include Gordon Laite (I studied these hairdos very, very closely. How did Cinderella manage them?).
Adrienne Ségur made Thumbelina’s environment exquisite but terrifying.
W. W. Denslow, the original illustrator for Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of OZ.
Charles Harper’s Bambi. Geometric and precise.
The Provensens’s illustrations for Aesop’s fables. They make it look easy.
As well as Robert J. Lee, Lilian Obligado, Tanako Tanabe, Eloise Wilken, Jean Winslow and others.
All of these books have influenced the images I create today, even if I don’t consciously think about them doing so. The graphic quality, the stylization. It’s all in there.
These words and pictures speak to me like no others can, still and always. Perhaps my girls will feel the same way some day about Imogene’s Antlers and Ooh-la-la, Max in Love.
PattyJune 13, 2015
Is it possible to purchase the Simple Abundance tree that is featured in the SBB books?
adminJune 16, 2015
I am currently living in the UK and my prints are being stored in Seattle. I do visit a few times a year so if you would like one let me know via my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
peggy adamsDecember 30, 2019
I was led to your blog by the simple abundance question of purchasing a print of the tree. It has been many years since the above answer, but I am still hoping to locate a small print of the tree.
As a previous children’s librarian, I am enthralled to know you are a part of the children’s book
world! I haven’t kept up on all the new things coming out in recent years, but I still maintain a deep love for children’s lit, and I intend to seek out your work. It is a joy to share books with my 6 nieces and nephews!
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you, Peggy Adams
adminApril 7, 2020
Hi Peggy. I just found this comment today. I’m sorry I somehow missed it before. I still have the Simple Abundance Tree prints. They are $35 plus $7.50 for shipping/handling. If you are still interested, you can contact me directly at Margaret@heatherl27.sg-host.com. Thanks, and hope you and your family are well.