Archive for October, 2012

Crockett Johnson in New York: A Walking Tour, in Honor of his 106th Birthday

David Johnson Leisk (Crockett Johnson) in an undated photo (c. 1916?)David Johnson Leisk was born 106 years ago in an apartment at 444 East 58th Street, New York City.  If you’re in New York today, you might give yourself a walking tour (aided by the subway) of where the creator of Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955) and Barnaby (1942-1952) grew up.  Dave Leisk — better known by his pen name (and childhood nickname) of Crockett Johnson — enjoyed the outdoors, and it’s a nice day in New York today. Sunny, predicted high of 70ºF (21º C).  So, why not?


  • 444 East 58th Street, Manhattan.  Start a block south of the 59th Street Bridge (under construction when Johnson was born), and a block west of the East River.  His earliest childhood experiences took place here.  At this point, you’ll want to get on the no. 7 train to Queens.
    • Note: I intended to provide a GoogleMap of this whole tour, complete with walking directions.  But the street address (on Google) didn’t match each building, and I couldn’t get my markers to match up.  So… this walking tour is imperfect.  But I have marked each residence on a GoogleMap, and you can use that to plan your journey.  I’m also providing photos of some of the houses (as I say, GoogleMaps’ addresses don’t always correspond with the image of the correct building).  View Crockett Johnson’s New York: A Walking Tour in a larger map.
  • 104-11 39th Avenue, Corona, Queens.  This was 2 Ferguson Street, when the Leisk family lived there.104-11 39th Avenue, Corona, Queens.  By the time Johnson was 6, he and his family had moved to the second floor of a two-story wood frame house at 2 Ferguson Street in what was then a new suburb — Queens. Today, 2 Ferguson Street is 104-11 39th Avenue, and right next to the Corona Branch of the Queens Public Library.  While you’re there, you might consider that, when the Leisk family moved in, the streets were unpaved, there were no sewers, and Queens had more chicken owners than any other borough.  The Corona Elevated Railway (which today carries the no. 7 train) wasn’t there yet either: construction began October 1915, and the station for the Corona El (a block south of the Leisks’ home) opened in April 1917.  This was a different world than what you see today.  But much is still there.
    • Public School 16, where young Dave went to school, is at 41-15 104th Street, in between 41st and 42nd Avenues, and right across the street from…
    • Linden Park (a.k.a. Park of the Americas), where, when he was a boy, there was skating in the winter and swimming in the summers.  That was in Linden Lake, which is no longer there.  But there is a baseball diamond, trees, and greenery.
    • Newtown High School (53-01 90th Street, Elmhurst, Queens) is where Johnson published his first cartoons.  They appeared in the Newtown High School Lantern as early as that publication’s second issue — March 1921, when Johnson (then publishing under his given name, David Johnson Leisk) was only a 14-year-old freshman.  Incidentally, that March 1921 magazine is the second issue of the Lantern.  I’ve been unable to locate a first issue: it’s possible that an earlier cartoon is in there.  For more on Newtown, you might enjoy the Newtown High School Handbook of 1921 (Johnson attended from 1920 to 1924) or the school’s current website.
  • 33-43 Prince Street, Flushing, Queens.  This building (which then had the address of 53 No. Prince Street) no longer exists.  By 1925, the Leisks had moved here — the beginning of a period of sadness and instability. The death of Dave’s father required him to leave college (to support his family) after less than a year, and prompted the move into this 10-foot-wide house.  Sharing this small space were Dave, his sister Else, their mother Mary, cousin Bert Leisk (from Scotland), and Bert’s friend Jim McKinney.  Bert and Jim had been living with the Leisks since 1923. Hyacinth Court, at 146-26 Hawthorne, Flushing. Of course, for part of each weekday, Else was at school, and the other four were at work — Dave in Macy’s advertising department, a job he thoroughly disliked.  After quitting that, he worked in an icehouse and played semi-professional football.  In 1927, he became first art editor of Aviation magazine, and this change in his professional fortunes enabled the family to move into…
  • Hyacinth Court, a brand-new building, at 146-26 Hawthorne, Flushing.  (Then, it was Hyacinth Place.)  The stock market crash of 1929 resulted in a reduced salary for Johnson, as Aviation (recently acquired by McGraw-Hill) struggled to weather the Depression.  But Dave remained employed, working as Art Editor for a half dozen McGraw-Hill publications.
  • Rose Court, 83-24 Dongan Ave., Elmhurst, QueensRose Court, 83-24 Dongan Ave., Elmhurst, Queens. The Leisks moved here in 1930.  Dave and his first wife Charlotte Rosswaag married during the first half of the 1930s, and likely lived here early in their marriage.
  • Bank Street, Greenwich Village, Manhattan. I couldn’t find an exact address for Dave and Charlotte, but I did learn (from a friend who knew them then) that they lived in a garden apartment on Bank Street, in Greenwich Village.  So, after spending most of his youth in Queens, Dave returns to Manhattan.  During this period, two items of significance: (1) Dave begins contributing cartoons to the Communist weekly, New Masses.  (2) His pseudonym, Crockett Johnson, makes its debut — also in New Masses.
  • 423 West 21st St, Manhattan.  By 1936-1937, Dave and Charlotte are living here.  Dave — as Crockett Johnson — becomes Art Editor for New Masses.  Marxist Internet Archive has a few of his New Masses cartoons.  You can also see some in “Before Barnaby: Crockett Johnson Grows Up and Turns Left,” an extract of my biography published in The Comics Journal last month.
  • 36 Grove St., Manhattan.  This is Crockett Johnson’s final New York residence.  He moved here by 1940, at which point he was drawing a popular cartoon for Collier’s. He had left New Masses and divorced Charlotte.  He’d also fallen in love with a Columbia Anthropology student 5 years his senior: Ruth Krauss, who moved in with him later that year. In 1942, they moved to Connecticut.

Front cover by Chris Ware for: Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature (forthcoming from UP Mississippi, Sept. 2012)
Free public lecture on Crockett Johnson & Ruth Krauss, 27 Oct. 2012, 2 pm
One week from today — Saturday, October 27th — I will be speaking on Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss at the New York Public Library’s Stephen Schwarzman Building’s South Court Auditorium, 2 pm.  Free admission.  Book-signing afterwards.  If you’ll be in the area, stop on by!

Special thanks to the Queens Public Library’s John Hyslop, who took me on a walking tour of Johnson’s childhood homes in Queens.  Indeed, he did this twice!  During my first tour, I failed to load the film in my camera correctly and so all photos failed.  By the second time, I was (fortunately) using a digital camera, and that worked a-OK.  So.  Thank you, John!

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Moomins!

Left to right: Sniff, Snufkin, Moominpappa, Moominmamma, Moomintroll, Mymble, Groke, Snork Maiden, Hattifatteners

In America, children generally do not grow up with Tove Jansson’s Moomins as part of their childhood. Why is this? In other parts of the world, the Moomins are well-known and loved. There have been several animated television series made in countries as different as Japan, Sweden, and even the Soviet Union. There’s an amusement park in Finland. There are picture books, chapter books, and a comic strip. And there’s every imaginable product, as I learned a few weeks ago at Helsinki airport’s Moomin Store.

Moomin figurines at Moomin Store, Helsinki airport

Karin and I talked about this last night, and here are a few thoughts why people (of any nationality) should read the books, and perhaps why they have not caught on as well in the States as they have in other countries.  Following that, a few basic facts about the series and their creator.

1) Fun and philosophical.  Like A. A. Milne and E.H. Shepherd’s Winnie the Pooh books, Jansson’s Moomin books feature visually appealing characters with a gently philosophical turn of mind.  Generally speaking, the Moomins look like a cross between Winnie-the-Pooh and a hippo (but a cuddly one).  They grapple with such questions as whether mother still loves us, finding one’s home and family in the face of natural disaster, how we mourn the dead, and whether there will be enough jam for the pancakes.  And, as the last item on my list indicates, Jansson tackles big ideas with a light touch.  The books are warm, funny, and generous of heart.

Moominmamma, Moominpappa, Moomintroll, Snork Maiden

2) The books are about community.  They’re about more than just the Moomin family; they’re about others who live in (or just happen to be passing through) Moominvalley. There are the members of the gently bohemian Moomin family: Moominmamma, Moominpappa, Moomintroll.  There’s the Snork Maiden, Moomintroll’s on-again/off-again girlfriend; her brother, the Snork; Snufkin, traveler, troubadour, and Moomintroll’s best friend; Little My, a strong-willed, mischievous, independent Mymble; and Sniff, a capitalist version of Piglet, and friend of Moomintroll’s.  There are also Thingumy and Bob, small creatures who speak in Spoonerisms; the Niblings, hungry creatures who enjoy educational games; and many more. Moomin fans will fault me for neglecting the Hemulens, Fillyjonk, Too-Ticky, the Hattifattners, the Groke, and so on.  But the point here is that the Moomins are the glue that hold the community together.

3) The Moomins want to live life on their own terms — though not at the expense of others.  They’re individuals, but not selfish.  Community is important, but so is pursuing one’s own dreams.  On a related note, I also love the fact that they hibernate during the long, cold Scandinavian winters — a fact which motivates the plot for Moominland Midwinter (1958). One winter, Moomintroll wakes up, and decides that he wants to experience the season.

Moomintroll in Tove Jansson's Moominland Midwinter

4) Where to start? If you haven’t read the Moomin stories, you need to. But where do you begin?  In English translation, there are 9 chapter books, 3 picture books, and 6 volumes (and counting) of the Moomin comic strip.  I recommend starting with Finn Family Moomintroll (first published in the US as The Happy Moomins, 1952) or Moominsummer Madness (1955).  Though not the first two books in the series, they offer the strongest introduction.  Purists may want to start with Comet in Moominland (1951) or even The Moomins and the Great Flood, the very first book (though the last translated into English, probably because it omits most major characters).  As an alternate choice, Drawn & Quarterly’s beautiful collections of the Moomin comic strip offer a great introduction.  The strip can be a bit more topical and more surreal, but it also provides more of Jansson’s art, which is always a pleasure.

Tove Jansson, Finn Family Moomintroll (current edition)
Tove Jansson, Moominsummer Madness (current edition)

5) Wait. What are all the books, again?

The chapter books:

  1. The Moomins and the Great Flood (English translation, 2005).  Translation of Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (1945).
  2. Comet in Moominland (1951).  Translation of Kometjakten (1946).
  3. Finn Family Moomintroll (1952).  Translation of Trollkarlens hatt (1948).
  4. Moominsummer Madness (1955).  Translation of Farlig Midsommar (1954).
  5. Moominland Midwinter (1958).  Translation of Trollvinter (1957).
  6. Moominpappa’s Memoirs (1969).  Translation of Muminpappans memoarer (1968), itself a revision of Muminpappans Bravader Skrivna av Honom Själv (1950), which first appeared in English as The Exploits of Moominpappa (1966).  In order of initial publication, this ought to go earlier, I know.  I put it here because it offers a history of the parents’ generation, and that’s more meaningful if you already know the stories of the younger generation (Moomintroll et al).
  7. Tales from Moominvalley (1963).  Translation of Det osynliga barnet (1962).  Short stories.
  8. Moominpappa at Sea (1966).  Translation of Pappan och havet (1965).  A book about loneliness and displacement, in which the usually reliable Moominmamma begins to come unraveled.
  9. Moominvalley in November (1971). Translation of Sent i november (1971).  A Moomin book without Moomins: the other characters arrive at the Moomins’ house and figure out how to cope without them.

These last two Moomin chapter books are darker, more existential.  I would not recommend starting with these.

Tove Jansson, The Book About Moomin, Mymble, and Little My (translated by Sophie Hannah, 2009)The picture books:

There are actually five, but only three have been translated into English.

  1. The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My. I recommend the new translation by Sophie Hannah (2009).  First published as Hur gick det sen? (1952), which actually means What happens next?  The most visually & technically innovative of Jansson’s picture books.
  2. Who Will Comfort Toffle? Sophie Hannah’s translation (2003) is again great.  First published as Vem ska trösta knyttet (1960).
  3. The Dangerous Journey.  Another fine translation by Sophie Hannah (2010).  First published as Den farliga resan (1977).

The comics: Drawn & Quarterly have been republishing these, which were started by Tove and later taken over by her brother Lars.  (By volume 6, it’s all Lars.)

6) What language were they published in, originally?

Though Tove Jansson (1914-2001) was Finnish, she was part of that nation’s Swedish-speaking minority.  She wrote the books in Swedish. The books have been published in all major languages.

7) What are “Moomins” called in Finnish?

Muumi.

8) And in Swedish?

Mumintroll.

Tove Jansson, in 19569) How do you pronounce Tove Jansson?

“Toe-vuh Yon-sun,” with the accent on the first syllable in each word.  For many years, I pronounced her first name as if it rhymed with “stove,” and her surname as if the “J” were hard.  Then, I heard her niece, Sophia Jansson — who, as readers of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book know, was very close to her aunt — talk about the Moomins and Tove.  And I realized how wrong I was.  So, to say it correctly, think Swedish and say “Toe-vuh Yon-sun.”

10) Where can I learn more?

Commercial:

Reference:

Publishers:

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Avant-Garde Children’s Books; or, What I Learned in Sweden Last Week

There are a lot of modernist children’s books, and a fair few directly influenced by the historical avant-garde — and, yes, I am sharing images, below.  I learned about these books (and a great deal more) last week at Children’s Literature and the European Avant-Garde, a conference at Linköpings University, in Norrköping, Sweden.  You would think that the author of a book with two chapters on the intersection between the avant-garde and children’s literature might be better acquainted with this body of work.  But I wasn’t.  As I listened to the international group of scholars speak, I often found myself thinking: Wow! Why didn’t I know this artist’s work?

  1. One answer was well, Phil, because you’re an American, and so unfamiliar with the Icelandic avant-garde or Hungarian modernism.
  2. But another, and equally important answer, was that this is the nature of specialized research: people uncover material that others do not, hidden in archives, long forgotten, … or from another field and never yet considered in this context.  This is one reason we go to conferences.
  3. Finally, there is very little written on children’s literature and the avant-garde.  It’s safe to say that this conference gathered together the largest group of people investigating this subject.

For your enjoyment, here is some of the art.  Following that, brief reflections on the conference itself.


Salvador Bartolozzi
Salvador Bartolozzi's Pinocho Boxeador (1929)
The conference program took its cover image from Pinocho Boxeador (1929), one of 48 booklets featuring Pinocho (based on Collodi’s character, Pinocchio).  As Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer told us, the artist was Salvador Bartolozzi (1882-1950), an anti-Fascist poster designer who fled Spain in 1939.  For more images, see 50 Watts‘ post on Bartolozzi’s Pinocho.

Lou Loeber
Gouden Vlinders by S. Franke, with art by Lou Loeber
Saskia de Bodt introduced us to Dutch modernist picture books, including Lou Loeber’s de Stijl experiment, Gouden Vlinders [Golden Butterflies] (1927).  Loeber’s style (stijl!) put me strongly in mind of the Tangrams I played with in the 1970s.
Gouden Vlinders by S. Franke, with art by Lou Loeber
Gouden Vlinders by S. Franke, with art by Lou Loeber

Wouter van Reek

Wouter Van Reek, Keepvogel en Kijkvogel: In Het Spoor Van Mondrian (2011)

Wouter van Reek’s Keepvogel en Kijkvogel: In Het Spoor Van Mondriaan (2011) — also introduced to us by Saskia de Bodt — has also been published in English as Coppernickel Goes Mondrian (2012).  This is one of many books I’ve added to my “to buy” list.

Wouter Van Reek, Coppernickel Goes Mondrian (2012)

Wouter van Reek's Keepvogel en Kijkvogel: In Het Spoor Van Mondrian (2011): interior 2-page spread


Bauhaus toys!

Michael Siebenbrodt, of the Bauhaus Museum Weimar, showed us (photos of) lots of Bauhaus toys and children’s furniture, such as Peter Keler’s Wiege (1922), a cradle — which, he told us, is weighted at the bottom so that it won’t roll all the way over.

Peter Keler, Wiege (1922)

Lyonel Feninger — modernist painter and creator of the Kin-der-Kids comic (1906) — created many toys, mostly (as I recall) for his kids or friends.

Lyonel Feininger: toys

Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack’s top (designed in the 1920s) is still in production.  It’s available from the Naef Store.  That’s a link to the US version of the store, in the previous sentence: for other locations, try Naef’s main website.

Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, top


Einar Nerman

Would someone please reissue Einar Nerman’s children’s books?  As Elina Druker told us, Nerman (1888-1983) was a Swedish caricaturist strongly influenced by Art Nouveau.  His picture books are largely unknown today, but they look fantastic.  There’s the beautiful Crow’s Dream (1911), in which animals take over and rule a city — a satirical commentary on our treatment of animals and of each other.  I can’t find images of that on-line, but the great illustration blog 50 Watts has images from Fairy Tales from the North (1946), a few of which I’ll include below.

Einar Nerman, Fairy Tales (1946)

Einar Nerman, Fairy Tales (1946)

Einar Nerman, Fairy Tales (1946)


Samuil Marshak and Vladimir Lebedev

Marshak and Lebedev, Yesterday and Today (1931)

Because I was moderating this session, I failed to take many notes on Sara Pankenier Weld‘s insights into poet Marshak and artist Lebedev.  I can tell you that the above title, in English, is Yesterday and Today.  Also worth noting: MoMA has just published an English-language edition of Marshak and Lebedev’s Baggage (1926).

Marshak and Lebedev, Baggage (1926, English translation 2012)

During this same session, Evgeny Steiner juxtaposed US and Soviet books that seemed to mirror each other.

Slide from Evgeny Steiner's presentation

As I said above, my moderating prevented me from getting many notes taken.  But, here (above) is one slide, at least!


Sandor Bortnyik

Sandor Bortnyik only created one children’s book, the title of which Samuel Albert translated as Spot and Dot’s Adventurous Journey (shown below, published 1929).

Sandor Bortnyik, Die Wunderfahrt

There are apparently several versions of this, one of which has nonsensically playful verse — if I remember correctly, this version has neither been published nor translated.  A Hungarian modernist, Bortnyik created posters, advertisements, and paintings.  He was a major artist, but I’d never heard of him until hearing Albert’s talk.


Kurt Schwitters

While we’re in the 1920s, I must here mention — as Hadassah Stichnothe and others did — the typographical delight that is Kurt Schwitters’ Die Scheuche (The Scarecrow, 1925).

Kurt Schwitters, Die Scheuche (1925)

Kurt Schwitters, Die Scheuche (1925)

A collection of Schwitters’ fairy tales, plus a full English version of the above appears in Schwitters’ Lucky Hans and Other Merz Fairy Tales (translated by Jack Zipes, 2009).


Otto and Marie Neurath’s ISOTYPE children’s books

Today, we’re familiar with silhouetted figures on signs, or graphs that use as a unit of measurement the image of the item measured.  Until hearing Hanna Melse’s paper, I didn’t know about the children’s books inspired by this pictorial language — which was named ISOTYPE (for International System Of TYpographic Picture Education).  Looking at the pictures, I thought that Chris Ware and Mark Newgarden would be especially interested — each image speaks with great economy and clarity, which is a stylistic trait they both admire.

Marie Neurath, Wonders of the Modern World (1948)

above: Marie Neurath, Wonders of the Modern World (1948)

Neurath, Tips for tots: An ISOTYPE Book on the Seasons (1944)

above: Otto and Marie Neurath, Tips for Tots (1944)

To learn more, see the ISOTYPE Revisited exhibit.


The Avant-Garde’s Legacy in French Children’s Literature

Nathalie Parain, ronds et carrés (1932)

above: Nathalie Parain, ronds et carrés (round and square, 1932)

Sandra Beckett‘s discussion of the avant-garde and its legacy in French children’s literature was my favorite presentation.  It gave me a greater understanding of French children’s literature’s willingness to take risks and push boundaries (in contrast to, say, American children’s literature).  Beyond the paper’s thesis, I was intrigued by the books — some which I will seek for my own library, and others for my niece Emily’s Library.

Edy-Legrand, Macao et Cosmage ou l'experience du bonheur (1919)

above and below: Edy-Legrand, Macao et Cosmage ou l’experience du bonheur (1919).  Sandra Beckett calls it “the most visually daring work of an artist who would go on to become one of the premier illustrators of the 20th Century.”  Edy-Legrand was only 18 at the time he created the book.

Edy-Legrand, Macao et Cosmage ou l'experience du bonheur (1919)

Evgeny Steiner would likely (and correctly) point out that Edy-Legrand’s images are more Art Nouveau than strictly surreal, but I presume that readers of this blog post won’t mind.

Lise Deharme, Le Coeur de Pic. Illustré de vingt photographies par Claude Cahun (1937)

Above: Lise Deharme, Le Coeur de Pic, illustrated with photographs by Claude Cahun (1937).  Andre Breton, Man Ray, and other surrealists admired this book.  In his foreword to Le Coeur de Pic, Paul Eulard wrote, “The book has the age that you want to have.”

Parain, Mon Chat (1930)

Above: Nathalie Parain, Mon chat (1930).  You can also read the book in its entirety here.

El Lissitzky, About Two Squares (1922)

Sandra suggested that El Lissitzky’s About Two Squares (1922, above) influenced Anne Bertier’s Mercredi (2010, below).

Anne Bertier, mercredi (2010)

This book (above) looks great & will definitely be joining Emily’s Library.

Moving into the 1960s and 1970s, publisher Harlan Quist’s pop art children’s books — also a focus of Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer’s talk — are all (or nearly all) out of print.  Many Quist books bring to mind Heinz Edelmann’s work (he was art director on Yellow Submarine), though not all do.

Albert Cullum, The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died But Teacher You Went Right On (1971)

above: Albert Cullum, The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died But Teacher You Went Right On (Quist, 1971).  The book has 30 illustrations, each one by a different artist.  Here’s the one by Nicole Claveloux:

Nicole Claveloux's illustration for Albert Cullum's The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died but Teacher You Went Right On

And one by Cathy Deter:

Cathy Deter's illustration for Albert Cullum's The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died but Teacher You Went Right On

One by Gerald Failly:

Gerald Failly's illustration for Albert Cullum's The Geranium on the Windowsill Just Died but Teacher You Went Right On

You can find many more pictures from The Geranium on the Windowsill… at Codex 99‘s post on the book (my source for the above images).

Eugène Ionesco & Etienne Delessert, Contes 1 2 3 4

above: Eugène Ionesco and Etienne Delessert, Contes 1 2 3 4 (originally published 1969-1973), and recently republished in English as Stories 1 2 3 4 (McSweeney’s, 2012).

Eugène Ionesco and Etienne Delessert, Contes 1 2 3 4

above: another illustration from Eugène Ionesco and Etienne Delessert, Contes 1 2 3 4.

Jules Walker Danielson has an extensive post on and interview with Etienne Delessert, which I recommend to you for further reading.

Peignot & Constantin, Au pied de la lettre

above: Jérôme Peignot and Robert Constantin, Au pied de la lettre (2003). Photo of slide created by Sandra Beckett.


Pop Art Children’s Books

I do realize that some of the above cross over into “Pop Art,” but since these next few images are from Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer’s talk (“Just what is it that makes pop art picturebooks so different, so appealing?”), I thought I’d give us a new section title.

Peter Blake's version of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1972)

above: Peter Blake’s version of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1972).

Inspired by Heinz Edelmann, Peter Max created The Land of Yellow (1970), The Land of Red (1970), and The Land of Blue (1970).

Peter Max, The Land of Yellow (1970)

above: Peter Max, The Land of Yellow (1970).

Peter Max, The Land of Blue (1970) and The Land of Red (1970)

above: Peter Max, The Land of Blue and The Land of Red (both 1970).  Photo of Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer’s slide.

Etienne Delessert, How the Mouse Was Hit on the Head by a Stone and so Discovered the World (1971)

above: two-page spread from Etienne Delessert’s How the Mouse Was Hit on the Head by a Stone and so Discovered the World (1971).  Original image on 50 Watts.


A Very British Avant-Garde

In her “A Very British Avant-Garde,” Kim Reynolds presented the results of the kind of archival research required to figure out just where these avant-garde books for children are being produced.  To a one, I had never heard of any of the books she talked about.

Jean de Bosschere's The City Curious (1920)

Kim reports that The Little Review called Jean de Bosschère’s The City Curious (1920) “a sinister little story.”

Jean de Bosschere's The City Curious (1920): The City Curious

Jean de Bosschere's The City Curious (1920): The Eggs running along

above: images from  Jean de Bosschère’s The City Curious (1920).  You can see more images from the book here.

Enid Bagnol, Alice and Thomas and Jane (1930)

above: my rather blurry photo of Kim’s slide featuring Enid Bagnol’s Alice and Thomas and Jane (1930).

Edith Saunders, Fanny Penquite (1932)

above: Edith Saunders, Fanny Penquite (1932).  This more obscure title was published Oxford University Press and, as I recall, Kim was unable to find more information about the book’s author.

Lewitt-Him, The Football's Revolt (1939)

above: Lewitt-Him, The Football’s Revolt (1939) — a book about a football that decides it no longer wants to be kicked about!

Bertrand Russell, The Good Citizen's Alphabet, with drawings by Franciszka Themerson (1953)

above: Bertrand Russell, The Good Citizen’s Alphabet, with drawings by Franciszka Themerson (1953).


I’ve left out a lot here, including Sirke Happonen‘s fascinating discussion of the production of Tove Jansson’s innovative Hur gick det sen? (1952) — the title means What Happened Next?, but the English translation bears the title The Book About Moomin, Mimble, and Little My.  And Olga Holownia’s award-winning presentation on the Icelandic avant-garde (which doesn’t really get going until the 1950s…!).  But the preceding, at least, offers a glimpse at some of the children’s books we learned about.

What’s harder to capture is the camaraderie of the event.  There were no competing sessions.  So, people from 25 countries all spent the better part of three days together.  Wisely, the organizers scheduled coffee breaks every couple of hours, and arranged for us all to have lunch together at the Museum of Work— a short walk from the conference venue.  Alas, there was little time to explore Norrköping, but we had evenings free.  I very much enjoyed hanging out with Kim Reynolds, Sandra Beckett, Olga Holownia, Nina Christensen, Sara Pankenier Weld, Anna Czernow, Evgeny Steiner, Samuel Albert, and many others whose names I should be mentioning here (apologies for omissions!).

Children's Literature and the European Avant-Garde, Norrköping, Sweden. Sept. 2012. Photo by Allegra Roccato.

Thanks to Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, Elina Druker, Maria Nikolajeva for organizing it.  Thanks to Allegra Roccato (who also took the above photograph) and the European Science Foundation for providing administrative and financial support.

And, coming up in my next post…: a few words on Tove Jansson’s Moomins, who are (inexplicably!) largely unknown in America.


Correction, 17 Oct. 2012, 5:25 pm.  Samuel Albert informs me that Bortnyik did not write the (unpublished) nonsensically playful verse for the book.  So, I’ve struck the words “by Bortnyik himself.”

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