Tag Archives: Marsha Gontarski Collection

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.

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.