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Long ago favorites

Inspired by this Buzzfeed post from earlier in the week, I thought back on my favorite illustrated books as a kid. They were mostly fairy tales (or close to), as are the illustrations in that post. I know the trends in children’s book illustrations change drastically from generation to generation—even year to year—so when I went hunting, it was no real surprise to me, that it took some more serious digging to find examples of the types of books—both in story and design—that I loved the most.

It wasn’t hard, however, to remember the titles of my top favorites, since they still hold a place on my bookshelf (albeit in my childhood home, but they did withstand all the teenage and college year purges).

I remember reading Melisande by E. Nesbit and illustrated by P.J. Lynch (Harcourt 1989) over and over and over as a girl, fascinated as I was by the artwork (and envious of her lustrous hair) and drawn in by the recognizable elements of both Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty in a story that was an original unto itself.

 

Another favorite about another plucky, independent girl was Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully (Puffin 1992). Mirette has a very French Toulouse-Lautrec poster advertisement look about it and I remember thinking that I would have given anything for her outfits, hair and bravery. Similarly, I loved the Madeleine books as well, but I don’t think I need to post a reference picture for those!

 

In addition to these and the usual Berenstein Bears and Mr. Men picture books that crowded our shelves, I realized I had an odd penchant for inherently sad stories as well. Some of my favorites (when I was in the mood—otherwise I would make my parents skip them when reading to me) were stories like The Velveteen Rabbit, Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant and original versions of Grimm’s fairy tales—most notably The Little Mermaid wherein the Mermaid must kill herself with a dagger in the end. I don’t know what attracted me to these books, but I loved them.

One Response to Long ago favorites

  1. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    Hmmm… Lots of memories here, but for some reason I recall “The Spooky Thing” by William O. Steele; it wouldn’t be allowed within 50 yards of an elementary school these days, but when back when Gilligan was still getting fan mail, it was the all the rage of the 4th Grade drawing room lit scene. it basically featured 2 hillbilly kids who beat the holy living daylights out of each other with whatever rocks, farm implements and antisocial accesaries they could find while being chased through the dark Tennesee night by a back hills monster who wanted to eat them. (Why, I have no idea; I can’t imagine a less appetizing entree) Weirdly illustrated, in horrible taste, but not as dangerous as you’d think; in those days, most parents were WWII vets, and we knew that if we tried to imitate the yobbos in the book that dire consequences would be in the offing. Ah, the innocence of childhood……….

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