Monday, April 12, 2010

The magic of N.M. Bodecker



N.M. (the "N.M." stands for Niels Mogens) Bodecker was born, raised and educated in Copenhagen, where he worked as an editorial assistant for an art magazine, wrote two volumes of poetry, and drew a political comic strip for a  Copenhagen newspaper.  He emigrated to the United States after World War II, where for many years his illustrations appeared in Harper's magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Esquire and Holiday.  The preceding image is one of his covers for The Saturday Evening Post that appeared in 1965.




 I know N.M. Bodecker primarily as the illustrator of  Edward Eager's wildly entertaining 'magic' novels (including Magic or Not, Half Magic, The Time Garden, Magic by the Lake, Knight's Castle and others); he was my most admired illustrator as a child, and had perhaps the greatest influence on me.  I slavishly imitated his distinctive profiles for a few years, at least. 

 
 His illustrations were whimsical and witty, and matched perfectly the tone of Eager's novels, in which the outlook and opinion of the children is eminently reasonable and the folly of the adults is revealed with gentle mockery and is easily overcome.   Detailed and yet highly stylized, his ink drawings reflect this outlook, in their depiction of the children as the most 'realistic' characters;  the adults are less proportionate caricatures, generally...



 
He would have been a perfect illustrator for Roald Dahl!  His work still appears within the Edward Eager books, which are still in print, happily.  However, the covers have been 'updated'- the editions now available bear Quentin Blake's drawings on the covers (reason #1 why I do not like Quentin Blake!) Here are a couple of the original N.M. Bodecker covers:






 

 Compare this to one of the Blake covers:

 .

(this is not one of the individual covers; rather it is a cover for a box set.) Enough to give you the idea.  I'll not belabour the point.  

N.M. Bodecker  won two Christopher Awards for poetry, in 1974 and 1976. Two of his volumes of 'nonsense' poetry were entitled ''Let's Marry Said the Cherry'' and ''A Person From Britain Whose Head Was the Shape of a Mitten.'' He died in 1988.  








14 comments:

  1. Please don't bother to click 'read more' as there is no more- I just couldn't get rid of the 'jump break' thing once I'd foolishly clicked it and so wound up moving it to the end

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  2. Love it! Are there many blogs on children's book illustrations? This is a great idea! :D

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  3. I new N.M. Bodecker he was may father. If you would have asked him what the N.M. stood for he would have told you "nothing much" and when pressed further he would have said "never mind" He would have appreciated your thoughtful description of his illustration and would have been flattered by your attempt to emulate his style. As you probably know his drawing style evolved over the course of his career to what appeared to be more simplified pen and ink line drawings but their simplicity hid the hours of re-working each drawing until he was satisfied with them. Thanks, Niels Bodecker

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    1. (Seems my earlier reply got lost...)
      It would be interesting to know who Niels Mogens parents were, so I know how to place them in the Bodecker family tree...?

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    2. You may contact me...I have Bodecker blood in my veins.

      My name is Jim Carling

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  4. Thanks for posting these. I too have always loved the Edgar Eager illustrations. It was cool to read the opinion of someone else. I have used the books as "read aloud" books to my middle school students and they are always entranced!

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  5. Amanda, I found your blog while googling N. M. Bodecker... thank you for this wonderful post. Like you, I am an artist who was very inspired by his work as a child. I used to spend hours upon hours studying and imitating both his drawings and the drawings of Beth and Joe Krush (who illustrated "The Borrowers" amongst many other books). In fact, it wasn't until I went to art school that I ventured much beyond pencil and pen and ink! To this day I still have a soft spot for beautifully rendered, (deceptively) simple line drawings... and I still periodically pull my Edward Eager books from the shelf to admire the illustrations.

    To Mr. Bodecker's son who commented above: thank you for sharing the "nothing much" and "never mind" story. Hysterical. I love it. As I'm sure you already know, your father's work has influenced many aspiring artists.

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  6. Ms. Crawford, thank you so much for posting this. (And Niels for your comment as well.) I also found this while looking for information on N. M. Bodecker. I've loved the Eager books, & their illustrations, for many years. I'm not artistic enough myself to have said the things that you did; your comments really illuminate the artistry involved.

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  7. His illustrations in "Night-Lite Storybook" are my favorites of any children's book!

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  8. I woke up today thinking of him he was a dear friend, and still missed.

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  9. I had the wonderful opportunity to take Niels' "Children's Book Illustration" class at the Sharon Arts Center in Sharon, NH back in the early '80s. He had the best sense of humor. I treasure my memories of him, and his encouragement with my work! Thank you so much for posting these wonderful drawings. I had never seen these before.

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  10. I loved the Edward Eager books as a child and I still do! The illustrations by Mr. Bodecker are wonderful and dryly humourous. They brought the stories alive! Now that I will be a grandmother I am so very sad that I no longer have my 1950's books! Will just have to buy reprints for the grandkids but hate the new covers.

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  11. If he is the same man I met him when I was a little girl, in a town called Wardsboro vermont. He would g for walks and stop at my grandmothers tag sale. Won day he brought me a book he wrote and he signed it for me. I still have it. He even drew a picture of himself inside so I would never forget him. What a wonderful part of my life.

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  12. If he is the same man I met him when I was a little girl, in a town called Wardsboro vermont. He would g for walks and stop at my grandmothers tag sale. Won day he brought me a book he wrote and he signed it for me. I still have it. He even drew a picture of himself inside so I would never forget him. What a wonderful part of my life.

    ReplyDelete