Colin Thompson’s Imaginary Book Case for Puzzling through the Pandemic (and National Library Week)

Here is a detail of an imaginary library by English-Australian author-illustrator Colin Thompson.  But it’s not from a book illustration.It is several shelves from a design for a Ravensburger jigsaw puzzle.  After writing and illustrating twenty-four pictures books, writing another nineteen picture books illustrated by other artists, three volumes of poetry, six young adult novels, and the Flood Series in fifteen volumes, Thompson has changed his focus.  Since 2016, he has concentrated on producing illustrations for a smashing series of jigsaw puzzles.

The pieces spread out on a table make an intriguing and colorful display.   Some puzzlers consider a five-hundred piece jigsaw hardly worth bothering with.  Kind of like the Monday New York Times crossword.   If you are the only person in the house putting it together, it’s large enough to take a while, but not so long that despair sets in on those days when nothing wants to fit together.

One of the pleasures of a Colin Thompson puzzle is its whackiness.  This one features fractured book titles. Some of the edge pieces go together relatively fast becauseof the added clue of completing the titles.  And it’s more fun that frustrating to see where some of the some of the surprising details like a flower pot or a honking goose are going to land.

Last week the New York Times ran an article about Ravensburger in Germany.   Demand for their jigsaw puzzles has increased so much since the beginning of the pandemic, that the firm can’t produce them fast enough.  And the process can’t be sped up because of the emphasis on quality.  So have fun scrolling through the list of Colin Thompson puzzles and dream for the days when stores will be able to keep them in stock again.

Make Your Paper Dolls Parisian Easter Bonnets

La recreation des demoiselles. Paris: H. Jannin for H. Rousseau, ca. 1852. Cotsen Toys unprocessed 6186008.

Is there anything as stylish as a French doll?  Cotsen has a very elegant kit from mid-nineteenth-century Paris for making paper dolls and wardrobes of undergarments, dresses, hats, and coats.  Above is the box lid and the designer of the pictorial title label has, of course, shown Maman and her two daughters absorbed in the activity of making paper dolls from this very object.     Here is the inside of the box.

The large center compartment holds different kinds of colored papers.  Finished hats are in the upper right hand corner and bits of tinseled ribbon in the upper left.  Dolls are in the rectangular compartments on the sides.  Because of all the evidence that the kit was used, it is probably missing original materials that the publisher included.  Perhaps new colored papers were supplied as the little girls consumed the nicest ones dressing the dolls.




Simple patterns were printed on this sheet above the lithographed text.  The  only skills required were cutting along the outlines, including the circle for the doll’s neck, and folding in half at the shoulders.



Not so!   This sheet shows that the little girls were expected to transfer the outline of the pattern onto the fabric with pin pricks, which is much more economical than cutting them out and throwing them away.  This way patterns can be used over and over again.

Three dolls modelling white dresses, perhaps underclothes.The shift for the youngest girl (number 3) is completely without any decoration, while the knee-length one (number 2) has trim on the hem of the sleeves and the neckline.  The garment with the elbow flounces hovering just above the tops of number 3’s boots might be a dress.

Wrong again!  The doll in the lower right hand corner is clearly wearing number 3  with all the lace trim under her blue skirt and white jacket with something that looks like a peplum.  the jacket is number 3 on the sheet of pricked patterns. The doll above her has garments created from textured papers in pink and green.  The doll to the left is dressed in active wear, suitable for rolling her hoop.

Some unfinished finery underneath the paper samples in the central compartment.

Big brother inspects the ladies’ handiwork and seems to find the results attractive. His approval of their good taste selecting silhouettes, combinations of colors, and “fabrics” is probably critical, as they are playing at living, learning how to make themselves attractive to future suitors!

This kit is another example of the fine lithography of the H. Jannin firm, which has been highlighted in a post on Noah’s ark toys and a jigsaw puzzle  of fashionable fruits and vegetables in Cotsen.  Jannin also made fans and panoramas, and, of course, illustrated books of all kinds for children.