Thursday, December 03, 2009

Books that remind me of childhood, Part 1

My original intention for this blog was to write about illustration - either pieces that I'm working on, or the work of artists that have influenced me.  Many of the artists that have influenced me are those that I was exposed to from my childhood.  One of those artists was Garth Williams.  Probably the first book of his that I ever saw was "The Tall Book of Make-Believe," with stories selected by Jane Werner and published by Harper & Row.

All of the illustrations in this book are wonderful.  As a child, even the front and back covers fascinated me with its grassy wrap-around image where a little gnome draws water from a well, a little bear scribbles a note, a pixie waters a flower, a bunny pops out of a hole, and on and on.  To this day, I love illustrations that require you to spend time looking at them, searching for the many small details and activities that are taking place within the picture.

There are many illustrations in this book that I will always associate with memories of my childhood.  One is from a story called "Georgie" about a little ghost looking for a new house to haunt.  This illustration of the scary Mr. Gloams opening his door and frightening the little ghost is one that has always stayed with me. Once again, there are all sorts of things taking place within the image - several mice scamper across the ceiling beam, a bat hovers near the rafters, a couple of spiders spin their webs, a fire roars in the fireplace, and there are all sorts of other interesting things laying about in this very haunted looking room.  But what is most memorable to me is the old, red-nosed man with his cauliflower ear, bald head, and one-toothed grin, holding up his lantern as a very scared Georgie dashes out the door.

Another memorable illustration is from the story "The Very Mischief," by Lesley Frost, a story where all sorts of unusual things happen, not the least of which is alligators in the bathtub, a zebra kicking holes through a wall, a polar bear "hunting for ice in the frigidaire" and a tea party where fairies are using a pitcher of lemonade as a swimming hole.  Once again, this is an illustration with lots of activity and fun details that keep the viewer looking at it for quite a while.

The copyright on this book is 1950, but it was reprinted in 1992.  Unfortunately that printing has gone out of print and the book appears to be only available in used copies.

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