You can still attend “Creating Children’s Books” the October 2014 symposium at UPenn’s Kislak Center!

kislak flier croppedIf you are interested in the modern American picture book, but weren’t able to make it down to the Kislak Center in the University of Pennsylvania’s Van Pelt Library on October 18-19 for the “Creating Children’s Books” symposium, it’s possible to watch the videos of the four lively Saturday sessions. Here is a who’s who of the program (the link to the session follows the names of the panelists):

Session 1: “Creating Children’s Books: Authors and Illustrators”

Moderator

Andrea Immel, Curator, Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library

Panelists

Harry Bliss, Children’s book illustrator and cartoonist http://www.harrybliss.com

Richard Egielski, Children’s book author and illustrator http://www.richardegielski.com

Matt Phelan, Children’s book author and illustrator http://www.mattphelan.com

Robert Sabuda, Children’s book author, illustrator, and pop-up artist http://www.robertsabuda.com

For the video recording of session 1: Click here

Session 2: “The Role of Collaboration: Publishers and Agents”

Moderator

Lynne Farrington, Curator of Printed Books, Kislak Center, University of Pennsylvania Van-Pelt Library

Panelists

Wesley Adams, Executive Editor, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, McMillan Children’s Publishing Group

Lily Malcolm, Executive Art Director & Associate Published, Dial Books for Young Readers

Holly McGhee, Creative Director, Pippin Properties, Inc. http://www.pippinproperties.com

For the video recording of session 2: Click here

Session 3: “Diversity in Children’s Books”

Moderator

Ebony Thomas, University Pennsylvania School of Education

Panelists

Jerry Pinkney, Children’s book author and illustrator www.jerrypinkneystudio.com

Deborah  Taylor, Coordinator, School and Student Services, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore

For the video recording of session 3: Click here

Session 4: “The Future of Children’s Books”

Moderator

Leonard Marcus, Children’s book historian, author, and critic

Panelists

Lauri Hornik, President and Publisher Dial Books for Young Readers

Judy Schachner, Children’s book author and illustrator www.judithbyronschachner.com

Laurent Linn, Art Director, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

For the video recording of session 4: Click here

 

 

Horrid Henry’s Predecessors

May 4th, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections began the Big Move, where miles of rare materials were shifted into its cavernous new vault in Firestone Library.  (We celebrated its early and successful conclusion in the previous post, “Moving Day in Feather Town.”)  During any collections move, books with problems crop up and  sometimes combinations of them turn out to be unexpectedly interesting.  When resizing books the other week, three nineteenth-century books featuring boys who are no angels passed over my desk.

These days characters whose halos have slipped down to their shoulders are not underrepresented in children’s books.  Think of Francesca Simon’s Horrid Henry, whose antics have given rise to a multi-media empire.  My trio of old books offer some pretty compelling evidence that the way bad boys are punished for their evil deeds has changed dramatically as attitudes towards authority, curiosity, mischief, and mistakes have become more tolerant–or overly lenient, depending upon your point of view.

Contrast the implicit acceptance in Horrid Henry of children disrespecting adults with the Old Testament’s zero tolerance. In Kings 2:22-3, when the prophet Elisha passes a pack of young louts on the road to Bethel.  Because the word for the boys was mistranslated in the King James Bible, they are usually understood to be little boys,not teenagers. These ancestors of the Purple Gang yell at Elisha, “Go up, you old baldy.”  He curses them and two female bears come out of the woods and maul forty-two of the no-goods.  If the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime, Biblical scholars are inclined to think that for centuries readers really haven’t understood the text between the lines that explains what was really going between the young men and the prophet.

 

The story of Elisha and the bears must have inspired many cautionary tales about bad boys who mess with the wrong person  and get more than they bargained for.  Another familiar type in cautionary tales is the no-good who disobeys his loving parents and comes to a spectacularly gruesome end.  The history of the brothers Tommy and Harry in Daniel Fenning’s The Universal Spelling Book (1756) was in wide circulation from the mid-eighteenth to the late nineteenth centuries and was even mentioned in  Dickens’ David Copperfield.  Harry the elder is a rotter and Tommy the younger is a Peter Perfect.  Guess which brother goes to the dogs and is eaten by lions?

Woodcut, page 43, Cotsen 118 (19th edition, 1773)

Woodcut, page 43, Cotsen 118 (19th edition, 1773)

Nineteenth-century picture books are full of bad boys, but often they are shown making mischief in a series of detailed illustrations rather than starring in a continuous narrative.  All three of the books I found during the Big Move–one French, one British, and one German–all fall into this category.  In Les Proverbes de Pierre (1890), illustrator Jean Geoffrey dresses up his sturdy little devils in Pierrot costumes and sets them loose in the classroom and in the street.  Notice that it is a young peep show operator (the one with what looks like a little tower strapped on his back), not an adult, who breaks up the squabble in the first illustration.  In the second picture all hell seems to have broken loose when the teacher steps out of the classroom.  Is the boy in the upper left sending up his teacher?  Where are the wild beasts?

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Page 21, Cotsen 10743

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Page 1, Cotsen 10743

In Young Troublesome (ca. 1850), John Leech gleefully shows just how much mischief a public school boy could make at home during the Christmas holidays.  In this plate the adults stand by helplessly as the young pickle shows his little brothers and sisters how easy and delightful it is to slide down a bannister.

Plate [2], Cotsen 3141

Plate 2, Cotsen 3141

There are also illustrations showing boys playing practical jokes that are anything but fun and games.   In Ludwig Kies’ Der Kinder Art und Unart (ca. 1855′), the boys in the boat dump an elaborately dressed tailor overboard.  The tailor’s terrified expression suggests he fears he will drown once his heavy clothes become waterlogged.  The boys, who may be working class, show no remorse for their act of gratuitous cruelty, for which they deserve to be severely punished.  Likewise Leech’s Young Troublesome seems to think nothing of interfering with the servants while they are on duty, even if his prank ruins their clothes.  The hapless servant may have no other recourse than complaining to his comrades below the stairs.

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Plate [53], Cotsen 24963

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Plate 10, Cotsen 3141

Of all activities forbidden to children, playing with fire may have been one of the most satisfying because so risky.  From the late eighteenth century onward, it is not that difficult to find illustrations of children whose clothes have caught fire, a very real possibility in homes where there were multiple fireplaces with open grates.  William Darton senior liked such subjects, but no engraving in his firm’s juvenile books can compare with this one from Der Kinder Art und Unart of a boy running out of the hen house, which he accidentally set aflame.  Unlike many of the plates in this book, no adult appears to reprimand him (or mourn his passing as the kitties did Hoffmann’s Paulinchen).

Plate [30], Cotsen 24963

Plate [30], Cotsen 24963

In sharp contrast, Young Troublesome and his assistant look as if they have deployed every bit of firepower behind the scenes to bring the juvenile theater production of The Miller and His Men to a triumphant conclusion. The size of the explosion seems to have given his papa pause.  Or perhaps his ears were ringing from all the racket from the special effects.

Plate 7, 3141

Plate 7, 3141

Last but not least, is this illustration of a boy on his way to school pausing to get a light from a street urchin, while a gaping classmate watches them indulging in a forbidden vice.  A casual depiction of underage smoking like this one in a picture book would be enough to get Les proverbes de Pierre a PG-13 rating these days.  But did boys have more fun back then?  I wonder…

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Page 33, Cotsen 10743