Shortly after being gifted with a nice, hefty Amazon gift card last month (thank you, Mom and Dad), the beautiful hardback collection A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books was the first thing I ended up choosing. While the immensely talented Mary Blair (1911-1978) is perhaps best known for her involvement with Walt Disney’s films and theme park attractions, she actually had a successful non-Disney career as an illustrator in the ’50s and ’60s. Treasury draws from this aspect of Blair’s art, reprinting the colorful, charming work she did for the Little Golden Book company. Along with a brief intro from animation historian John Canemaker, the book includes the full contents of four of her beloved Golden books – Baby’s House (1950), I Can Fly (1950), The Golden Book of Little Verses (1953), and The Up and Down Book (1964). Well-chosen selections from a fifth book, The New Golden Song Book (1955), are also included.
The first thing about A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books that struck me was how physically big it is – pages that were originally published in the classic, kid-sized Little Golden Books format are enlarged here by roughly a third. Another pleasant surprise is that much of the artwork is sourced from Blair’s original paintings, rendered in brilliant gouache. It really allows artsy nerds to get in there and study her technique. A few of the I Can Fly pages are lesser-quality scans from book pages, but at least they look as nice as they can (no noticeable moiré patterns or off-set colors). The artwork is pretty nifty, overall. I particularly enjoyed the pages from The Up and Down Book, since it shows her experimenting with a more graphic, simplified (yet still quintessentially Mary Blair-ish) style. Her work from the Golden Song Book is also notable for its wonderful intricacies and the skillful way some of it employs just two colors.
Paging through A Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books makes it obvious why she continues to inspire artists and craftspeople. The book is available here (at a good price, I must add) at Amazon.com.