Saturday, January 24

Out of Print, No Doubt, But Still Great

There are some books that go out of print and stay that way because of changing sensibilities and changing ideas (usually for the better, but we need to think hard before condemning something) about what's good for readers, especially young ones. I have one such at home, and I try not to share it with the children, but I look at it a lot -- in fact, daily, because it's my lap desk, being just the right size. The illustrations are by the wonderful Fyodor Rojankovsky, one of the European immigrant illustrators who came to the U.S. around the time of WWII and found work with the Disney studios and the Golden Book company. His colors are gorgeous, his animals very lively, and his people a bit strange but very engaging. He illustrated lots of Little Golden books and some of the big ones, like this collection, which I remember from my childhood and found a year or so ago in a second-hand store. You can find copies easily on abebooks and other sites, an they're not expensive. There are stories composed mainly of pictures, poems, and regular stories. But the reason it's not currently sold is that some of its images wouldn't be considered appropriate for children nowadays.

While hunting is popular in the part of the country where I live, many modern parents just would not offer to their children a picture like this, with the rifle hanging on the wall behind the contented couple. (Not to mention the crucifix.) There are other pictures, too, which wouldn't be acceptable, like those of the tank and warplane. It's too bad, because it's such a fine book otherwise. Great stories and great illustrations. But it just won't fly.

So, if you're an adult, and you appreciate fine picture book illustration, find a copy of this gem. But you probably shouldn't share it with your youngest friends.

Coming soon: the Babar Question

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