Friday, May 23, 2014

Once Upon a Time

Lisbeth Zwerger. From Hansel and Gretel.
(Ms. Zwerger's work, across the board, is incredible.)

I'm celebrating some pictures I love from a different, but fairly recent time in
the history of literature.

Alice and Martin Provensen. From The Provensen's Book of Fairytales.
(A true classic. Which of their books isn't?)

I'm also complaining.
Now, I'm normally not one to cry and moan over the lost "good old days". Most of them were good only in time-mellowed and mangled memory--not in reality.

But still, pull up your chair and let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time there were children's book publishers in the U.S. that truly focused on children and literature. That's no fairy tale. Those houses hired and respected editors like Ursula Nordstrom, Charlotte Zolotow, and Margery Cuyler. Publishers allowed those editors the freedom and the time to nurture authors and artists like the young Maurice Sendak, Trina Schart Hyman, Chuck Mikolaycak, and Syd Hoff.

Charles Mikolaycak. From The Highwayman.
(An amazing book with stunning pictures, as are all of Mikolaycak's books.)

It was a time before tabloid-kings had bought up the great publishing houses and turned many children's book departments into money-losing ventures that made books into toys and venerated
celebrity rather than art. 

It was a time when many authors and illustrators could make a living out of the craft they
loved and spent years to develop.

Trina Schart Hyman. From Little Red Riding Hood.
(Ms. Hyman was seriously one of the best. Do yourself a favor and check out all of her works.)

It was a time when children's books actually generated more income than the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It was a time when making literature for children could be a
vocational, life-long career, not just a hobby.

It was a time when children's book publishers actually promoted the books that writers and illustrators made. (Yes Virginia, once upon a time authors and illustrators didn't have to do it all at their own expense.) It was a time when visionary-but-poor writers and illustrators actually had a chance to cultivate and establish their craft.

Tomie dePaola. From The Clown of God.
(DePaola's books are bursting with "heart")

It was a time when devoted and loving book illustrators and writers, not
hate-radio personalities, won awards.

Don't get me wrong, there are many wonderful new books out there for
children I'm sure, but things have changed big-time. I don't see that it's for the better.
Not for writers and illustrators, and especially not for kids and literature.

On that note, I'll leave you with a link to a wonderful interview with the late,
modern genius; Maurice Sendak: 

And thanks for reading.


  1. Replies
    1. I am glad to hear that, artisjokken. Thank you!

  2. Love, love, love Trina Schart Hyman! There are many wonderful children's book writers and illustrators, and think easier access to publishing will, at some point, make for more timeless art. Right now, it seems, a lot of the industry wants writers who don't have a story more than 500 words long, and digital illustrators. I don't think writers in any genre are being cultivated. It's sad. Thanks for continuing to remind us of great illustrators.

    1. I agree with you, Joy, and I remain optimistic for the future. For these times though, Sendak said it best: "[Rupert Murdoch] represents how bad things have become." Still, Murdoch's kind clutch their money and attempt to wield power, but children and artists like Sendak gift us with vision and true freedom. It's in that generous giving that there is hope.


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