Welcome to my new blog! I plan for this to be a blog about the loose, general subject of pictures in (and on) books; pictures about which I am particularly enthusiastic. Although I'm starting in the past, I won't stay there; although I'm starting with children's books, I probably won't stay there either.
Because I'm trying to keep this first entry reasonably concise, this is just a quick introduction to myself and a few of the things that stand out in my memory when I think back to the books that I liked as a child. Like most people, I was once a child. And like most children, I looked at picture books long before I learned to read. I spent as much time drawing (or attempting to!) as I spent looking at books, which was quite a lot. I do not claim to have had refined taste from the very beginning. The book that was my first favorite was "Jim Jump", by Betty Ren Wright:
Not coincidentally, horses were the first subjects that I drew obsessively. By the time I was finished with "Jim Jump", I was not only a competent reader, but could draw a decent long-legged pony, too.
The importance of pictures did not diminish once I was able to read; in fact, quite the opposite. I was willing to read almost anything in the library, but borrowed first (and borrowed again and again) according to the quality of the illustrations.
William Pene Du Bois was, and remains, a favorite among favorites at the picture book stage (and beyond!)(I will elaborate on him later; a blog post on him is in the works!):
Even as I was proud to advance to reading what I referred to as 'thick books', I was disappointed that the number of illustrations diminished in inverse proportion to the impressive-to-me number of pages in the book.
My passion for drawing continued, and often reflected the tendencies of my favorite illustrators. I loved Garth Williams' soft, black charcoal-y drawings for the "Little House" books:
and his ink drawings for "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little":
Another of my most beloved illustrators was Louis Darling, who illustrated many books by Beverly Cleary. His ink drawings were hilarious and expressive:
I loved everything about these drawings: the haircuts, the slouching socks, interestingly textured clothing and slightly slovenly, ill-tempered kids. More than I liked the stories, it turns out- when Alan Tiegreen replaced Louis Darling in "Ramona and her Father", I was horrified. I grudgingly read the book (but only once!). When the next 'Ramona' book appeared with drawings once again by Alan Tiegreen, I looked once at the pictures and did not take it out of the library. And so ended my relationship with Ms. Beverly Cleary. It was the first such disappointing betrayal I had experienced.
I liked a particular edition of Pippi Longstocking only for her pictures (alas, I can't find an image from this particular illustrator!), but never finished one of her books. The forced over-the-top hyperactive nature of the stories (or at least it seemed so to me at the time, I have to admit to having not given her a shot since!) irked me somewhat.
I generally found the drawings in the older editions of Nancy Drew preferable to the more recent ones, liked (but did not love) Joseph Schindelman's illustrations for 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and 'Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator' (his people were strangely over-shaded and stunted, I thought, and I was very very picky indeed about how people above all were depicted), and found the drawings in the Betsy-Tacy books (ill. Vera Neville) thoroughly weird yet somehow compelling:
But I am saving the best, the reigning king of the black-and-white illustrators of this junior-novel phase of my childhood, for my next post.
Please stay tuned! Upcoming posts include:
The Magic of N.M. Bodecker
William Pene du Bois is like unto a god
Why I do not like Quentin Blake
and more! Actual titles of upcoming blog posts may vary.