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Cheap Thrill: Children’s Books 1957-69

You probably know this already, but we love to thrift. Lately I’ve been spending more time in the kids’ book section. Granted, pawing through endless filthy stacks of cheesy Disney tie-ins and bios of teeny bopper stars from ten years ago can get a little depressing, but the drudge is worth it when coming across that rare gem. Like the ones below, for example. In the future I’ll be scanning more of these and adding them to my flickr photo stream, but in the meantime enjoy these illustrated samples from kiddie books dating to my particular favorite era of the late ’50s through the early ’70s.

Jeffie’s Party, written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham, was published in 1957 and derives its considerable charm from Graham’s wonderful talent for portraying children at play. Her artwork reminds me a lot of William Steig‘s New Yorker stuff from that same time. Spreads from Jeffie’s Party can be viewed here.

Jeffie’s Party Illustration

Tommy Visits the Doctor, illustrated by Richard Scarry, is another classic Little Golden Book that just gives me the warm fuzzies. The tale of a boy and a baby bunny visiting their respective doctors first came out in 1962, although the copy I got was an inferior mid-’70s reprint which may or may not be missing pages (Little Golden Books tended to do that). Accompanying the image below was the following: “The publishers hope that this little book will help prepare a child for his visit with the doctor. It was written by two people who have worked extensively with children, and it was illustrated by Richard Scarry, who believes that rabbits go to the doctor, too.”

Tommy Visits the Doctor Illustration

Tell Me a Joke, from 1966, was illustrated by Bill Sokol in a semi-primitive style which looks remarkably similar to many contemporary artists’ work. I love the use of blue, yellow and orange spot color in the drawing below (and, yeah, the fact that the kid’s shirt pattern is very ’60s has a lot to do with it).

Tell Me A Joke Illustration

Though it’s not a particularly great example of children’s book illustration, the groovy 1969 back cover design for Whitman’s “Tell-A-Tale” books elicits this weird deja-vu feeling in me. I know I had several of these books as a kid, and based on the 35 cent cover price I’d guess that these were sold in supermarkets and drug stores. Note the presence of Little Lulu alongside Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and a horse which looks strangely like a forebear of My Little Pony:

Whitman Tell A Tale Back Cover

Finally, we have a book that’s eluded me for the last 25+ years. At the age of eleven or twelve, I can remember being enthralled by a jokey little library book illustrated with simple yet elegant black line drawings. The drawings were accented with watercolor paints in a quasi-psychedelic rainbow of colors. In the ensuing years I could never remember this book’s title, but now I know: Arm In Arm, written and illustrated by Remy Charlip. This one was originally published in 1969 and has a trippy, vaguely European feel. Although the copy I found while thrifting was an inferior reprint published in smaller and cheaper form, you can definitely get a feel for Charlip’s (possibly weed-influenced) whimsy from one of the endpapers below.

Arm In Arm Illustration

It goes without saying that anyone interested should check out the Retro Kid and Eye Candy flickr groups for more of this kinda stuff. Now it’s onward to the next thrifting trip!

2 Thoughts on “Cheap Thrill: Children’s Books 1957-69

  1. Hey Matt-

    I still have my Arm In Arm from when I was a kid (maybe it was originally my sister’s?) and credit it for my love of line and doodle type drawings. It is the coolest!!

    Wishing you and Christopher the best for the new year!

  2. Arm In Arm! I used to love that book when I was a kid! Happy to see someone else appreciated it. Great illustrations and passages: “shot’s shot shot knot” and “We were standing on the deck, the ship was sinking. The captain said to me, ‘tell me a story my son,’ and so I began. We were standing on the deck, the ship was sinking…” Wish I knew where my copy was — assuming I still even have it. Now if I could only find Drummer Hoff Fired It Off and Big Ball of Yarn.

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