If It Moves, Is It A Book?

“Goodbye to the Martians” pop-up from The Jolly Jump-Ups Journey Through Space (McLoughlin Bros., c1952) Cotsen 586

We all know what a book is, don’t we?

A collection of printed or hand-written pages, bound together with some sort of covers, be they hardback or paper wrappers of some sort, right? And definitely something meant to be read or perused (in the case of picture books or volumes collecting illustrated plates).

But a few weeks ago here on the Cotsen blog, we looked a genre-bending variation on the general theme of a children’s book: an interactive musical toy, which combined (simplified) musical scores with words, bright color-process illustrations, and a mini musical instrument: read, perused, and played upon.

This week, I’d like to tell you about another variation on the theme, a type of “moveable” book, which also defies our normal expectation of a book as essentially a two-dimensional object: pop-up books.  As the name implies, pop-up books make use of carefully-folded cardboard or paper (that’s thick enough to stand up), which then “pops up” to reveal an illustrated scene when the pages are turned. (Illustration is key — a pop-up book with printed text alone generally wouldn’t very interesting.)

One of the pop-ups in Robert Sabuda’s Winter’s Tale

In terms of historical development, late nineteenth century paper-engineered mechanical books by Lothar Meggendorfer (1847-1925) are often regarded as forerunners of moveables and pop-ups. Meggendorfer’s work was not aimed at children, although children certainly do delight in seeing them — and a lucky few probably did get to actually manipulate these fairly pricey publications at the time.  In terms of recent pop-ups for adults and children of all ages, some of Robert Sabuda’s work comes to mind, Winter’s Tale, for instance. But the genre usually seems to be aimed at children, who delight in the bright illustrations and the non-static, interactive aspects of pop-ups.

Chromolithographed cover of The Jolly Jump-Ups & their New Home (McLoughlin Bros., c1939) Cotsen 12945

The bright colors of chromolithography were certainly an important part of the visual appeal of children’s pop-ups, which became major items in the inventories of England’s Ernest Nister and America’s McLoughlin Brothers, both of whose work is very well represented in Cotsen’s collection.  Nister’s chromolithographed books were generally printed in Bavaria or Germany (thus carrying on Meggendorfer’s legacy), while McLoughlin’s books were first printed and assembled in the firm’s Brooklyn production facility, in the days when Williamsburgh was a gritty manufacturing, not a trendy boutique and art center. After being sold to Milton Bradley, the McLoughlin imprint changes to “Springfield, Massachusetts,” the location of the parent company. (Thanks to technological developments in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries, chromolithography, which had originally been a printing process for plates and art book reproductions, became commercially viable for cheap, children’s books — McLoughlin’s stock-in-trade).

The Jolly Jump-Ups series list (from rear cover of The Jolly Jump-Ups Journey Through Space)

McLoughlin Brothers was a real pioneer in mass-produced, relatively inexpensive color-printed materials for children, and the firm’s output included paper toys, board games, all sorts of novelties, and elaborately-cut paper Valentine’s Day cards.  The clever paper engineering in pop-up books was thus a natural for them.  One of their earliest pop-up books was The Jolly Jump-Ups and their New House, of which Cotsen Library has two copies, both marked “copyright 1939,” but with one bearing the text “patent applied for” above the copyright mark and the other noting “trade mark” after the title words “Jolly Jump Ups.”  “Jolly Jump Ups” was McLoughlin’s title for this series of pop-up books, whuch eventually included eleven titles, and the “patent applied for” label indicates how proprietary McLoughlin was about their pop-up paper engineering.  (This cover variation between what otherwise looks like identical editions, exemplifies an aspect that makes McLoughlin publications so tricky to catalog or identify with certainly — especially in view of the frequent lack of a publication date on many of their other books, which the firm often reissued over and over again over the years, sometime with the same inventory number noted and sometime with different ones.  Are these two copies of New House from two different editions printed at different times, or part of the same edition  — what bibliographers often term “the same setting of type” — with “just” minor printing variations on the cover, perhaps just “stop press” changes made to reflect a change in patent or trade-mark status? )

“Moving Day” – Pop-Up #1

Take a look at the cover of The Jolly Jump-Ups and their New House.  It’s a virtual collage of all the idealized aspects of small-town or suburban life that you could imagine!  Packed together are happy children playing, a boy on his bicycle, a horse-drawn flower-seller’s cart, a pretty girl in a princess dress buying some flowers, a delivery van, and even an organ grinder and his monkey.  In the background, a flashy car drives in front of brand-new subdivision housing, with the Jump-Ups’ large, brand-new house looming large on a hill. It’s hard now not to find this jumble of so many sentimentalized features a little over the top, but perhaps McLoughlin Bros. thought children needed all the cheer they could get in the dark days of 1939, when war had just broken out?  Sentimentality and nostalgia for an idealized past were important aspects of many wartime stories for both children and adults.

The pop-up pages inside the book continue in this cheerfully idealized vein, depicting the perfect house, the perfect sunny day, the perfect happy family, lots of good wholesome fun… And despite the fact that the book has quite a bit of text, it’s really the color-rich pop-up illustrations that make a vivid impression and bring the story to life.

Lots to do — but no mischief afoot!

Family time in the evening “children’s hour”

Copyrighted some ten years later, the 1948 Jolly Jump Ups ABC Book features a cover of happy children presented as fancifully-manipulated lottery figures.  Quite a range of fun activities are displayed.  I particularly like the fact that P and R are playing with phonograph records (along with Q) and that S is in the sand-box (along with T, U, and V), but perhaps I’m reading too much into this?

S is for Sand-box?  Cover of The Jolly Jump Ups ABC Book, featuring children as lottery figures (McLoughlin Bros., c1948) Cotsen 19276

The actual pop-pages inside the book take a different pictorial tack though, using familiar illustrative objects for each letter of the alphabet: A is for child artist, C is for clown, T is for turkey, etc.  In addition, each letter is chalked on a recurring blackboard backdrop, both in capital letters and cursive writing (remember that?) and provides the object of short, four-line poems in the manner of many earlier alphabet rhymes.

And S is for Saw, T is for Turkey, U is for Umbrella…

Pop-up depiction of the letters: A is for Artist

The illustrative objects seem to be an eclectic, free-associative combination, and at least one of the juxtapositions seems portentous, perhaps unintentionally.  Does the “sharp saw” leaning on the turkey somehow suggest the poor bird’s Thanksgiving fate?

The Jolly Jump-Up Series includes the Jump-Ups at the Circus, … On the Farm, … At the Zoo,At the Circus, and … On a Vacation Trip, when they visit Washington, DC, West Point, and the Grand Canyon.  But, without question, my favorite of Cotsen’s books in the series is The Jolly Jump-Ups Journey Through Space, copyrighted 1952, a real evocation of the era when “outer space” and the idea of humans traveling into space really took hold of the public’s imagination.  (As context, Sputnik was launched in 1957, the first Earth-orbiting satellite, transmitting radio signals back to Earth, a landmark event in the furious competition between the USA and the USSR to be “first” in the various aspects of space exploration.)

The text is presented in the narrative frame of a series of reports transmitted from “Station S-C-I-E-N-C-E radio and T.V., located in the Inventagon,” which describibe the Jump-Ups’ voyage to Mars. As such, the text is longer and perhaps more imaginative than that found in any of the other books in the series.  But, once again, the illustrations really steal the show and make dynamic use of color-process-printing in the pop-up format.

Up, up & away in a spacecraft from Jules Verne…

“Set for Mars” – The Jump-Ups & the 1952 media.

In the book’s first pop-up illustration, the Jump-Ups (traveling as a family, just like the Space Family Robinson) pose for the press.  A veritable catalog of 1950s clothing and then-state-of-the-art media technology is set against a futuristic backdrop that seems to belong to a very different world.  In the second pop-up, a spacecraft more akin to something from Jules Verne than even the most fanciful 1950s mock-ups, blasts off against a beautifully-rendered sunrise.  The ship’s fire-red blast-off plume is vividly done, and the its horizontal trajectory dramatically cuts across the rectangular plane of the illustration and perhaps even presses up against the envelope of the book’s “two-dimensional” rectangular plane.

Let’s take a closer look at the colors and details:

Space Ship away … in a fiery exhaust plume

Once on Mars — which looks like a cross between the enchanted wood of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Grand Canyon (which the family had visited in their Vacation Trip pop-up book) — the Jollys meet friendly Martians, who look a lot like fairy sprites or the “little green men” of Martian lore.  And of course, they get back to Earth safely.  But how? Take a look the illustration!  Did they fly home with wings?  No, as the narrative below informs us (which I’ve cropped out here in hopes of better showing the illustration), the children have used their “spectrachutes,” a gift from the Martians, and ask their parents to safely land the spaceship.  Some aspects of the relation between parents and kids never change, do they?

Floating down to Earth via “spectrachutes,” a Martian gift

On Mars, with friendly Martians, taking lots of vacation photos

The Jolly Jump-Up Series must have been popular with children or — at least their book-buying parents — since the books were in print for well over ten years, and the number of titles in the series continued to expand during that time. The popularity of the Jump-Ups Series is also documented by several McLoughlin Brothers catalogs from the 1940s, copies of which we have in the Cotsen collection from McLoughlin’s own publisher’s archives”.  The series is often the lead item in a catalog, and a four-page 1947 Price List touts the “The New Jolly Jump-Ups,” in addition to listing the well-known series titles. But what became of popular books?

Publication of the series ceased, not because it fell out of favor with child readers, but rather due to hard realities of business financials.  Milton Bradley shut down publication of McLoughlin Brothers titles some time after the end of World War I; in 1951, Julius Kushner, a New York toy manufacturer, bought the trademark and reissued the Jolly Jump-Ups for a few years until some time about 1954.  So The Jolly Jump-Ups Journey Through Space seems to have been something of a last hurrah for McLoughlin publications, and, indeed, its 1952 copyright date makes it quite possibly the last-issued McLoughlin publication in Cotsen’s collection.

Gone but not forgotten, the Jolly Jump-Ups pop-up books represent an important phase in American children’s book publishing, particularly in terms of “interactive” books or print items that push the envelope of what a “book” can be. So apart from sharing delight in the color-printing and ingenuity of pop-ups, I invite you to to use the Jump-Ups as an invitation to think about questions like, “What is a book?” and “What is it that a book can, or cannot, do”?

Cover of The Jolly Jump-Ups Journey Through Space (c1952)

Jim Kay’s Wizarding World 2: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets begins by assaulting on the reader, who on page five is suddenly confronted by a large pair of green eyes staring out from the hedge.  Does the reader want to escape the gaze?  Or put out the eyes of the spy?The startling pink-rimmed eyes belonged to Dobby the house elf, the first, least, and bravest of Harry’s protectors in The Chamber of Secrets.   After reading the entire novel, the eye’s gaze appear more to be watchful rather than malicious.

It’s the first of many images of wide open eyes (and references to eye sockets) in a story stalked by an unseen beast whose gaze kills.  The terror it arouses is foreshadowed in the illustration  that shows the reflection of Professor Quirrell lifting up a fold in the back of his turban at the end of the Philosopher’s Stone.

At the climax of The Chamber of Secrets, Harry with eyes shut tight, senses the stone serpents’ empty eye sockets tracking his movements in the dark.  Then Tom Riddle disarms him and tries to break his spirit by twirling Harry’s wand while they talk.  Even after Harry learns that Ginny was the pawn in Riddle’s scheme to destroy him, he insists that Dumbledore is the greater wizard of the two, summons the phoenix Fawkes to the chamber Slytherin built.  What Riddle has forgetten is that Fawkes will be able to blind with the basilisk with its beak and cure any wound it inflicts with its tears.  Harry is so reinvigorated by the phoenix’s bravery that he is able to give the basilisk a mortal blow with Godric Gryffindor’s sword and to thrust the monster’s fang into Riddle’s diary, unknowingly destroying the first Horcrux.

At their best, Kay’s illustrations capture an uneven story’s  grandeur.  One of the volume’s functions is laying down material that will drive the complex plot forward in the series’ successive installments, not unlike The Subtle Knife or The Two Towers.  From scene to scene, the shifts between low comedy and heroism are not always managed skillfully and some of that awkwardness is reflected in the pictures.

It’s quite noticeable in the illustrations of Dobby, a crucial supporting character who unites servility with bravery.  Like Hagrid, he speaks in an awkward dialect that demotes him to a caricature.  Dobby is  first compared to “an ugly rag doll” and Kay obliges with a picture of the house elf perched on the edge of Harry’s bed.  His pink slab of a lower lip, enormous pop eyes, huge ears fringed with fine bristles, and filthy feet with long untrimmed nails do not make him loveable, although the resemblance to a Frank Oz creature is unmistakable.  At the fantasy’s end, the equally unattractive portrait of Dobby cradling Harry’s filthy sock to his face (here pristine) gives the reader permission to laugh at the moment of freedom from slavery.  Dobby’s toughness, loyalty, and misdirected ingenuity, is captured the vignette of him with the pillow case riding above his buttocks intent on the destruction of Aunt Petunia’s pudding.   His appearance is off-putting but funny without being as hideous or ridiculous as in the other two pictures.

Creating portraits that blend the admirable with the risible was perhaps one of the biggest challenges the text presented to Kay.  Moaning Myrtle has a mug right out of a cartoon when a better model would have been Shirley Henderson, who played the ghost in the film with a crafty yet infantile expression.

More satisfying is the second of the two portraits of Mrs. Weasley, holding up a flower pot of Floo powder, her red hair in need of a good hair cut under the crumpled green witch’s hat.  Kay was perhaps justifiably a little cruel in his depiction of an older woman’s body, who has had seven children, but Mrs. Weasley’s warm, unguarded expression makes her individual and likeable without sacrificing the realistic edge.

Kay proves he can do gross in the sketchy picture of Ron vomiting slugs followed by a full-page spread decorated with slugs dragging trails of bright yellow bile.  The artist’s attempts to create something like cinematic special effects are more mixed than magical.  Harry’s figure on his maiden voyage on Floo powder should look as if it were speeding out of control instead of frozen in one moment (if indeed that’s possible).  When Harry bursts through the window in Tom Riddle’s diary, he seems to have fallen into an Abstract Expressionist painting instead of a memory strategically selected by his nemesis.

The October 2016 publication date for The Chamber of Secrets must have obliged Kay to repeat himself, not having the time to realize more of those important but potentially difficult scenes like the magnificent aerial view of St. Pancras,  Hagrid making his way down Knockburn Alley, or the tense interview between Aragog, Harry, Ron, and Fang.  For my money, the three following illustrations are critical to establishing the novel’s mood (and play to  Kay’s strengths) than do the two pictures of Dudley stuffing his face or the crowds of garden gnomes, Cornish pixies, and spiders.Architectural subjects are one of Kay’s fortes.  Yet it is easy to understand  why he chose to draw a frieze of high relief figures romping in medieval bathrooms instead of the entrance the Chamber of Secrets.  Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom may be in desperate need of remodeling, but that sink cannot have survived intact after a thousand years’ of abuse by school children with magical powers! More to the point, where is Dumbledore’s office, a scene tailor-made for Kay, which I would have been willing to trade for the four new blocks of Diagon Alley?  Why is there no stupendous view of the Chamber, with its columns, serpentine decorations, and ominous statue of Salazar Slytherin with the weedy beard down to his feet?  The spread with the basilisk’s gigantic moulted skin with small figures of Ron, Harry, and Lockhart in the middle distance is nothing more than a teaser.

Nor is it clear why there are no pictures of the two most important actors-Ginny Weasley and Tom Riddle.  Perhaps Kay was unable to find the right models in the time.  As wonderful as the pictures of Sir Patrick brandishing his severed head astride his skeletal steed, a rueful Hagrid, or the label for Skelegro are, they are no substitute for seeing the handsome, charming and utterly ruthless sixteen-year old shimmer in and out of focus.  Those missed opportunities ultimately diminish the fantasy.

I wish the publisher had done away with most of the black pages, which are the equivalent of movie music that tells members of the audience what to feel, instead of trusting their imaginations.  Sections with the pages specially patterned with shadowy outlines of snake scales, spider webs, lime green triangles, and imitation foxing don’t add enough to the reading experience to deprive readers of a chance to see Fawkes fly off with Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Lockhart, after those tantalizing pictures of soaring birds (and magical cars) in the novel’s opening chapters.  If it were up to me, I’d give Kay the time he needs to draw the illustrations The Prisoner of Azkhaban  that will bring the story to life.