A New Gallery Brochure about Puss in Boots Coming This Fall

The pamphlet Cinderella in the Cotsen Children’s Library has been out of print for some years and there have been requests for a new one on another classic fairy tale.  But which one?  Sleeping Beauty?  Too passive.   Blue Beard?  Too violent.  Ditto Little Thumb.   Riquet with the Tuft?  Too obscure.   Donkey  Skin? Too kinky.   That left the cleverest cat of all, Puss in Boots.

The selection of pictures will not come from the ones on display in the current exhibition, “Most Masterful Cat.”  Here are a few illustrations of Puss that may be new to you.   They may or may make the final cut.

Here he is trudging down the road to the King’s palace, with the gift of a nice fat rabbit slung over his shoulder.  The illustrator is Edmond Morin, whose book about the hard life dolls lead was the subject of  another post.

One of my favorite illustrations of Puss shows a rather chubby, furry tom cat hunting for  quail, which were also to be presented to the king.  This beautifully observed picture is by the great German 19th-century artist Otto Speckter.  Wearing boots must disturb the cat’s concentration while hunting.  It is one of two quite different versions of the same scene, both of which I love.There are many wonderful pictures of Puss after his elevation for service to the crown.   This one by Harrison Weir  imagines him as an elegant but swaggering courtier.  No wonder the ladies can’t keep their eyes off of him.  Obviously being waited upon by them is much more amusing than catching mice around the palace.Until the pamphlet goes out on the shelves of the bookcase in the gallery entrance, there’s some consolation for cat lovers  here.

 

The Phantom Tollbooth’s Classic Cover Morphs

Norton Juster’s 1961 fantasy The Phantom Tollbooth is that rare classic in which the text and original illustrations are inseparable, rather like Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland.  Mention Alice and some illustration of her drawn by  John Tenniel probably pops into the mind.  Is Milo ever anyone but the skinny boy in a black sweater Jules Feiffer drew?   And there’s only one cover design for the book.  This one.

But when a work becomes so famous that translations in other languages are called for, covers and dust jackets have a way of changing publisher to publisher, country to country..

Here’s the front board of the Korean-language version.  The right illustration is on the turquoise background, but the shade of turquoise is not quite the same as in the original.  Look carefully and you can see that the figures of Milo and Tock are shiny.  They were printed on a material other than paper and applied to the dust jacket.  American books almost never have a colored band that wraps around the boards, but it’s common in the packaging of Japanese books–and I assume elsewhere in Asia.  And the raised white characters below the banner with the English title are interesting typographically whether they are legible or not.

The selection of typefaces are the most noticeable change in the design for the Lithuanian-language.  The slate blue background is handsome, but perhaps a little dark, compared to the turquoise original.  The color did not photograph true, so you’ll have to take my word that it’s quite dark..The cover artist for the Romanian-language edition substituted another illustration for the original one of Milo and Toc and colorized it. Some of the figures  were also printed on the same shiny material and laminated to the cover just as in the Korean translation.  Should Milo’s car be orange?  Why does he have blue hair?  By the way, the sea in the middle distance is actually turquoise and the sky slate blue.

Now for the covers that are completely different from Feiffer’s.  All the familiar characters are there, but without making any reference to the original illustrator.  The  Hebrew and German covers are in a surrealistic style, which underscores the possibility that the journey was all in Milo’s mind.  The German translation has no text illustrations except for road signs, a concept that works very well.

The brightly colored cartoony covers for the Japanese- and Serbo-Croatian-language editions impose themselves on Juster’s world, rather than bringing out different dimensions of it.   It’s unclear why Tock was given the teeth of a human being instead of a dog, unless the change was to make him look more friendly.

The French Livre de Poche paperback is unique in placing Tock and the Humbug center stage, with Milo and his car floating in the background along with the author’s name in an extremely small sans serif type.  The French translation is, incidently, completely unillustrated except for Juster’s map. Last but not least is the Polish translation with a cover design by Grzegorz Kierzkowski.  The title set in a wild mixture of different typefaces hints that what is to come may violate rhyme and reason!   Kierzkowski deserves credit for having the confidence to reimagine Juster’s story without reference to Feiffer.  

Norton Juster himself presented to Cotsen this delightful tasting menu of modern cover design on the translations of his celebrated fantasy.  Thanks, Norton, for this very welcome and unexpected addition to the collection!  You can hear Cotsen’s Outreach Coordinator Dana Sheridan’s interview with Norton on the Bibliofiles.