Tag Archives: children’s literature

Black and white illustration taken from The Gashlycrumb Tinies of a two little girls at a table, one skeletal and dead, presumably related to the large bottle atop the table. It is captioned “Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin."

Scary Books for Children?: Edward Gorey in the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection

This is a guest-post by students Josalin Hughes and Julia Kleser, Editing, Writing, and Media majors, whose project for their Advanced Writing and Editing course this semester is to help create content highlighting portions of Special Collections holdings. 
Black and white illustration of a group of children in the shadow of a tall, skeletal man titled The Gashlycrumb Tinies.
Child-rearing, Gorey style .

As we progress from the otherworldly and spooky atmosphere of October and deeper into the holiday spirit of November, it can be hard to let go of Halloween. After all, the exciting and haunting energy has been building since the first of the month. We hope everyone had a happy Halloween and want to introduce the work of an author near and dear to our hearts. Edward Gorey was a curious character who created spectacular—or spooktacular, rather, to stay in-season—books for children. Although not gory, as his name may suggest, some readers describe his art as “unnerving” or “creepy.” Marsha Gontarski, the researcher who compiled and donated the entire Marsha GontarskiChildren’s Literature Collection, refers to his style as “subtle and unsettling.”

Girl on Fire

Black and white illustration taken from “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” of a little girl surrounded by a large flame in an otherwise dark room. It is captioned “R is for Rhoda consumed by a fire."
Rhoda on fire!

One of the most well-known works, and perhaps most suitable for this recently passed holiday, is The Gashlycrumb Tinies which you can find in the Marsha Gontarski Collection. As pictured below, the poem takes on the form of a traditional alphabet-style book. Where Gorey’s version differs though, is the somewhat disturbing subject matter of each letter; from Amy to Zillah, each letter names a child who dies in a tragic, absurdor nonsensical way.

The darker tone of the poem bleeds in through the images that accompany the single-line deaths. Each illustration is inked in heavy, purposeful strokes in all black. Without the variation of color, his style relies on different textures and contrast to tell each morbid tale.

Creepy Baby and Bug Book

Illustration taken from An Edward Gorey Bestiary (1984) of a colorful naked baby on a white polar bear skin rug against a black hatched background. It is captioned “The baby, lying meek and quiet upon the customary rug, has dreams about rampage and riot, and will grow up to be a thug."
Baby from Bestiary

Even outside of The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Gorey’s other work carries this same eerie quality, one which inspired well-liked artists such as Tim Burton. Taken from his 1984 engagement calendar, An Edward Gorey Bestiary, are a few illustrations that mirror the unsettling style seen in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, with some splashes of color. Although his style may vary to include a more clean and colorful appearance, the stories he tells remain a little ghastly.

 

Bug Book

 

In The Bug Book, Gorey follows the lives of a family of delightfully cute and colorful bugs, and their murderous plot against the black bug who didn’t quite fit in with their lifestyle.

 

 

What makes a children’s book?

Black and white illustration taken from The Gashlycrumb Tinies of a two little girls at a table, one skeletal and dead, presumably related to the large bottle atop the table. It is captioned “Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin."
More dead children.

Despite the more mature themes of his illustrated poems and short stories, such as death/murder, violence, and alcoholism, his works are often regarded as being made for children. This poses a question of what makes “a children’s book,” an element explored throughout the works included in the Marsha Gontarski Collection. Do illustration-heavy works fall into the category of being “for kids,” simply due to our societal understanding that picture books are childlike in nature? Do children pay attention to the same themes and motifs that catch the eyes of adults? These questions are prevalent in the discussion around Gorey’s work, and can be asked again and again as we make our way through literature assigned to the genre of children’s books.

Two books Dr. Gontarski recommended for those examining this subject include The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettleheim and Don’t tell the Grown-ups: Subversive Children’s Literature by Alison Laurie..

Balefully Although the season of ghosts, vampires, and bogeymen has ended, the spirit of the dark and disturbed doesn’t have to. Edward Gorey has a lot of works that we were unable to include in this post—be sure to come visit them in the Special Collections Reading Room, open Monday to Thursday, 10am – 6pm, or Friday 10am – 5:30pm. The reading room is on the first floor of Strozier Library. Gorey’s books, as well as so many other works using visual elements designed for children, are available in the Marsha Gontarski Collection.

Memorizing Math with Marmaduke Multiply

Poetry has, traditionally, served as an excellent way to remember things. The human brain just seems to better retain information that rhymes, and a rhythmic quality can bring the words to mind in an instant.

Lines that are intended to aid in memorization are called mnemonic verses, and we use them on a daily basis. Think of when you try to determine how many days are in a month: “Thirty days hath September…” Or when you consider how “neither” should be spelled: “I before E except after C…” Is that snake in your yard friend or foe? “Red on black, friend of Jack…”

There are even longer mnemonic verses for memorizing heftier material. For example, this witty little song for the history of the monarchy in England (sung to the tune of Good King Wenceslas):

Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three;
One, two, three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four, five, six... then who?
Edwards four, five, Dick the bad,
Harrys twain and Ned the Lad;
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again...
William and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges, William and Victoria;
Edward seven next, and then
George the fifth in 1910;
Ned the eighth soon abdicated
Then George the sixth was coronated;
After which Elizabeth
And that's the end until her death.
–Wikipedia, “Mnemonic verses of monarchs in England”

The little book from Special Collections that I’m sharing today is Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians of 1841. We have a facsimile of the work, which was a favorite among nineteenth-century schoolchildren for memorizing their numbers.

Originally published in 1816 and 1817, the book was largely popular in the UK, but it spread to the US toward the later half of the nineteenth century. The book has funny little woodcuts depicting various scenes and then a rhyming verse that helps the reader remember their times tables. Here are a few examples:

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4 times 8 are 32, I once could dance as well as you.

 

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6 times 8 are 48. Dear Aunt, your dress is out of date.

 

47.2
6 times 9 are 54. My little boat has come ashore.

Some of the most beautiful woodcut work appears on the borders. Here is close up of the corner piece on that last one:

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Detail image of a corner woodcut.

Finally, my favorite page shows a child holding a book just like the one the image appears in! It also mentions the bookshop that sold Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians, which happened to be financially linked to the publishing house that produced the book (talk about savvy marketing!):

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A little metatextual advertising!

What rhymes do you remember from childhood?


 

Marmaduke Multiply’s Merry Method of Making Minor Mathematicians. New York: Dover Publications, 1972. Print.

Responding to Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Children’s Book Calls for Peace

War & Peace for Children

The Special Collections book we’re highlighting today has a very specific mission: to teach children (and perhaps, the adults reading to or with them) about the post-nuclear world, and about the need for peace. On the Wings of Peace: In Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a 1995 collection of prose, poetry, and accompanying illustrations that promotes a message of world peace by incorporating voices from communities that have been affected by the atrocities of war.

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On the Wings of Peace: Writers and Illustrators Speak Out for Peace, in Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The introduction by compiler and editor Sheila Hamanaka lays out the historical events of August 6, 1945, aligning the victims to the reader: “In this city of 350,000 were people like you and me, and they were already suffering from the effects of war — the death of loved ones, starvation, separation” (11). Her words appear across from this harrowing illustration:

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Illustration by George Littlechild

Little Boy and Fat Man

Throughout the large hardback volume, essays, personal accounts, and poetry are accompanied by both illustrations that evoke difficult emotions and photographs that portray the reality of the circumstances. Across from “Thoughts from a Nuclear Physicist,” a short essay by Michio Kaku, is Little Boy and Fat Man, a photograph by Robert Del Tredici. A young man leans casually against what must be a mock-up of the bomb, appropriately reflecting Dr. Kaku’s wise observation:

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Little Boy and Fat Man photograph by Robert Del Tredici

 

“Regrettably, our scientific skills have far outstripped the wisdom and compassion necessary to control this deadly, cosmic power. We are like spoiled infants playing with matches while floating on a swimming pool of gasoline” (25).

Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection & Visual Literacy

The volume is a compelling addition to the growing Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, a broad collection of works mostly written and designed with children in mind. What is most fascinating about the collection is the way that Dr. Gontarski conceives of it; in her years of studying visual literacy, Dr. Gontarski has made connections between the books within her collection via the myriad ways meanings are visually communicated to children in these works. This book, which handles heavy subject matter, incorporates a mix of illustrations by different artists.

“Sky”

One of the stand-out poems includes illustrations by the poet.

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A page from Junko Morimoto’s “Sky”

“Sky,” by Junko Morimoto, tells the story of the atomic bombs from the perspective of a child in a village very near the drop-site. The illustrations are small and appear alongside the stanzas, as though they are part of the poetry.

Communities

This month’s Year of Poetry theme is community, and the book On the Wings of Peace considers the mission of achieving world peace through the eyes of people from different communities with different relationships to war and peace. In the case of “Sky” it is of a person who has experienced atomic fallout.

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The Peacemaker, snake, and frog

In the case of “Rabbit Foot: A Story of the Peacemaker,” the poem is from the perspective of the Iroquois people. It recounts one of the legends that accompanies the foundation of the Great League of Peace, which joined five nations at war into a larger league comprised of the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, and Seneca people (eventually, in 1722, the Tuscarora people joined as well). In the story, the Peacemaker warns of the dangers of war, illustrating his point with a story of a frog and a snake who eventually consume one another:

The snake swallowed more of the frog
the frog swallowed more of the snake
and the circle got smaller and smaller
until both of them swallowed one last time
and just like that, they both were gone.

They had eaten each other,
the Peacemaker said.
And in much the same way,
unless you give up war
and learn to live together in peace,
that also will happen to you.
— “Rabbit Foot: A Story of the Peacemaker” by Joseph Bruchac

If you’re interested in seeing how more artists respond to questions of war and peace, visit FSU’s Museum of Fine Arts to see the new exhibit, Waging Peace! There are beautiful pieces by a number of different artists, and local schools were involved in the design and installation of the exhibit.

The exhibit Waging Peace! will be up until July 6th, 2018. Don’t miss it!

 


Hamanaka, Sheila. On the Wings of Peace. Clarion Books, 1995.

The History of Paper Engineering

The following blog post was written by Special Collections & Archives staff member April Martin.

Literature with functional qualities such as pull tabs or pop-ups are often considered children’s entertainment. However, paper products with mechanical elements were originally created as tools used by adults. Religious calendars, calculation tools, and navigational aids were found in the form of a volvelle. This was a circular chart housing a rotating disc that exposed information as it was turned. Volvelles were invented during the 13th century by Matthew Paris, an English historian, artist, and Benedictine monk. De Corporis Humani Fabrica Lirbri Septem (1543), a human anatomy book, pioneered the next form of paper engineering. Andreas Vesalius designed the textbook incorporating flaps and sleeves to produce a sense of depth necessary to display accurate anatomical placement of bones, muscles, and organs.

In the late 18th century illustrated books began being printed merely for pleasure reading. The History of Little Fanny (1810) provided a new form of entertainment as the first paper-doll book with movable paper clothes. The end of the 19th century is considered to be The Golden Age of Movable Books. During this time Lothar Meggendorfer of Munich, Germany led the industry in innovative paper engineering techniques. His work introduced a single pull tab that created multiple life-like movements. Unfortunately, during World War I many German production facilities were destroyed and the demand for novelty books decreased.

International Circus, an adaption of an 1887 antique pop-up book by Lothar Meggendorfer

After a fifty year hiatus, movable books made a return. The Bookano Series, published by Giraud in the mid 1900s, produced three-dimensional structures that stood up as the page opened. Previously known as “spring ups,” the Blue Ribbon Press soon coined this kind of book “pop-up.”

The Dwindling Party by Edward Gorey with three-dimensional structures from varying perspectives.

Caldecott Medal winner Paul O. Zelinsky created one of today’s most complex movable books, Knick-Knack Paddywhack (2003). The Illustrator and his engineering partner, Andrew Baron, included over 200 moving parts. Another Zelinsky classic, Wheels on the Bus, featured turning wheels, pivoting tabs, pull tabs, and flaps. Watch the clip below to see it in action.

Pop-up and movable books are still the products of inspired artists with an ability to teach. There is no age limit to the enjoyment of a well engineered moveable book. Adults can appreciate the meticulously constructed pages while children feed their imaginations. Paper engineering will likely remain a source of creativity and entertainment in years to come due to its endless possibilities.

Keepsake Carousel is a dimensional reproduction of antique art by Ernest Nister. The dual photo is created with interwoven discs maneuvered by a ribbon pull tab.

All of the books featured in today’s post come from the Marsha Gontarski Children’s Literature Collection, which can be accessed at the FSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center.

Bad luck for bees, and other stories.

A selection of hand-colored children’s books from the nineteenth century are available for viewing on DigiNole as part of the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection. This project began as a partnership between the Rare Books Librarian and the Digital Archivist as a way to share some of the collection’s unique pieces. Because the illustrations are hand colored using watercolors, no two editions of a book will be exactly alike.

FSU_PR4613D37P4
Two versions of the bird orchestra from The Peacock “at Home.” Left image from PR4613.D37P4 1841; right image from PR4613.D37P4 1834.

Some of the newly digitized books include:

The Wonderful History of the Busy Bees  (QL565.2.W87 1833)

Describing the life of a beehive, this 1833 chapbook is a mixture of science lesson, allegory, and children’s story. The industrious bees serving their queen must defend the colony against the vicious wasp attacks — but there’s a surprise twist at the end.

A Was an Archer Who Shot at a Frog  (GR486.A24 1860 *)

This primer, like many others in this project, would have been used to introduce children to the alphabet using common words and pictures. Unlike our modern examples — A is for apple, B is for bear, and Z is for zebra — A Was an Archer uses such gems as, “K was a king, and governed a mouse,” and “V was a vintner, a very great sot.” A particularly interesting feature of the book is its interactivity; a moveable piece accompanies each illustration, connected to a paper tab on the back of the page. Readers could manipulate the pictures with these tabs to make a character wave or doff his hat. Sadly, most of the moveable pieces have been glued down by a previous owner.

Cinderella, of the little glass slipper  (PN3437.C56 1800z)

A classic fairy tale about the benefits of a virtuous life, this book avoids the grisly endings faced by other heroes (like Little Red Riding Hood, Tom Thumb, the Children in the Wood, or — spoiler alert — the bees from the top of this list). Though the coloring is simple, the poetic rhyme and magical elements would have encouraged children to act with kindness, obedience, and modesty. This chapbook is one of eight hand colored Albany edition stories in the Shaw Collection.

The Smiling Book  (PL864.H42S6 1950)

This book was published in 1950 but made its way into this digitization project due to its exquisitely detailed hand coloring. The Smiling Book is printed on crepe paper, giving it a unique texture and flexibility not seen in many other books. While the book does not follow a particular narrative storyline, the illustrations explore nature, weather, and humanity.

 

A total of 68 books have been added to the digital collection.

The comic adventures of Old Mother Hubbard, and her dog.

FSU_PR4984M28O41819_021The Digital Library Center is currently digitizing a number of hand-colored chapbooks from the John MacKay Shaw Collection. Chapbooks derive their name from the chapmen who sold them. Peddlers and tradesmen would offer small, cheap books among their wares, often accounts of fairy tales or current political events, lessons in language and song, or engaging stories. Many of the chapbooks in the Shaw Collection cater to a younger crowd; these examples of 19th century juvenile literature would have been popular among the middle and lower classes. The hand-colored illustrations would have increased the price of the simple text by offering a richer, more attractive set of pictures to accompany the story.

FSU_PR4984M28O41819_020The comic adventures of Old Mother Hubbard, and her dog by Sarah Catherine Martin provides an excellent example of hand coloring in a chapbook. Most of us know the rhyme about the woman who went to the cupboard to find her poor dog a bone, but that’s not quite the whole story. First published in 1805, the nursery rhyme follows the increasingly outlandish behavior of the dog, who teaches himself to read, play the flute, dance a jig, and ride a goat. This 1819 version is one of many chapbooks that anthropomorphized animals to tell an amusing story. Unlike other fairy tales, this story doesn’t offer an obvious moral lesson, relying upon the antics of the dog to simply entertain, rather than instruct. Sadly, the tale of Old Mother Hubbard and her comical dog ends on a somber note – the final illustration depicts Hubbard weeping over the grave of her now-deceased pup. Though not exactly a happy ending, this chapbook represents an interesting time in publishing, storytelling, and the consumption habits of the masses. The full text will soon be available on DigiNole.

For those readers who aren’t quite dog people, try Old Dame Trot and her comical cat instead.

The History of the House that Jack Built

housethatjackbuilt

FSU Special Collections & Archives is pleased to add a new chapbook to the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. The History of the House That Jack Built is a popular nursery rhyme told as a cumulative narrative. Starting with “This is the House that Jack built,” each verse adds on to the previous one, creating a delightfully nonsensical, rhyming story. This edition was printed in 1841 by Gustav S. Peters, a notable printer of broadsides who often catered to the German-speaking population of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and its environs. While many cheaply printed books of the time were colored by hand, if at all, Peters was one of the first printers in America to make color printing commercially viable (even if, as seen above, his colored printing blocks didn’t always register perfectly). This edition printed by Peters is one of several versions of The House That Jack Built that can be found in the Shaw Collection.

The Waking of a Shaw Memory

One of our long-time volunteers, Cathmar Shaw Prange, was unable to come visit this winter and we’re missing her but she did send us a blog post! Cathmar has helped us curate her father’s collection for many years. 

After the Carnival by Richard Maitland
After the Carnival by Richard Maitland (Image: Cathmar Shaw Prange)

Years ago, on one of my visits to the art world of Santa Fe, Richard Maitland greeted me in his studio as an old friend. His painting, “After the Carnival,” hung on the wall. I gasped! It struck me like a bolt of lightning, reawakening an experience I’d had as an eight-year-old and evoking the last lines of John MacKay Shaw’s “Circus Roundels.”

The poet was my father. Mother was moving us into our new home in New Jersey. So he took us across the Hudson to the circus at New York’s Madison Square Garden to keep us out of her hair.

The painting, like the poem, reflects the longing we feel when a joyous event has ended. I would like this poem even better these days had he written it in shorter lines, but I can accept his admiration for Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.

"Circus Roundels"
“Circus Roundels” from Zumpin’

“Circus Roundels” appears on page 19 of John MacKay Shaw’s second book of poems, Zumpin’. It was published by The Friends of The Florida State University Library in 1969. “Read us zumpin’, Daddy!” we cried every night as he came in the door after work. And soon we were sitting on his lap listening, reciting and singing again.

The Friends published his first book of poems for children in 1967 titled The Things I Want.

Happy Birthday, Beatrix Potter!

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The light-pink, paper-board cover of the first edition of The Tailor of Gloucester published by Potter and printed in London in 1902

July 28, 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Helen Beatrix Potter in Kensington, London. Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) is best known as the author and illustrator of children’s classics like The Tale of Peter Rabbit and The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. These delightful stories, set in the English countryside, were originally drawn and written as greeting cards and letters to the children of Potter’s friends. Beginning in 1900, Potter started sending her stories to publishers, but after six rejected submissions, she published the books on her own. As part of the John MacKay Shaw Childhood in Poetry Collection, FSU Special Collections has one of the original Beatrix Potter books: The Tailor of Gloucester printed in London by Strangeways and Sons in 1902.

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Letters to friend’s children were often the inspiration for Potter’s stories

After the success of her self-published children’s books, Beatrix Potter was picked up by the publishing house Frederick Warne & Co, who had originally turned down her manuscripts. In addition to the first edition of The Tailor of Gloucester, FSU Special Collections has over 100 works by Beatrix Potter in our rare book collections. The Gwen P. and Allan C. Reichert Beatrix Potter Collection contains biographies of Beatrix Potter and several editions of The Peter Rabbit stories, as well as adaptation pop-up books, cookbooks, coloring books, and more. A corresponding archival collection with Beatrix Potter related toys and ephemera will also soon be available to researchers.

The Miscellanies of Mr. John Shaw

Happy 119th birthday to John MacKay Shaw, founder of our Childhood in Poetry book collection and bibliophile extraordinaire.  To celebrate Mr. Shaw, and in our ongoing commemoration of 400 Years of Shakespeare, we present a Scope and Content Note for John Shaw’s papers in the style of title pages from the early hand-press era.  Mr. Shaw would surely appreciate our gesture, as the Shaw rare book collection feature works by Shakespeare along with many, many other authors.

shaw scope note

Further Reading on Mr. Shaw and his collection: