Happy Saturday, girlfriends!
It just occurred to me that I have not identified the little ones in my images for this “31 Days of Children’s Books” series. This cutie pie is my six-year-old granddaughter Cady. She is holding a book her “Mimi” (
me, no I) bought for her. The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Cady has beautiful hair that hangs in soft, natural ringlets. Not long before this picture was taken, my daughter Brennyn trimmed Cady’s hair. My granddaughter was devastated when she saw her curls on the floor. Of course, once Brennyn washed Cady’s hair the curls would be back but that’s hard to explain to a little girl. I thought maybe this story about Zoe Fleefenbacher’s wild hair might be the perfect way to soothe Cady’s fears about losing her curls.
And of course, Cady’s curls returned. But she is very particular about how she wears her hair and is tender-headed so hair may always be an issue for this baby girl.
The book we are really talking about today isn’t The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School. Not really. Today we are really talking about the first Caldecott Medal winner, The Animals in the Bible by Helen Dean Fish, illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop.
I have a few confessions to make regarding this book. First in regards to this particular copy of the book. The image above is one I borrowed from Amazon. But I own this book and here is the cover of my copy.
See that white rectangle just to the right of the spine of the book? Above the sheep or ram? Well, this book came from the Moye library where I worked until I retired. That rectangle is where the barcode for checking out the book was until the book was withdrawn from the library collection.
I had very mixed feelings about withdrawing this book, and I am remembering (I think) that we may have had two copies of the book, and I withdrew one. It is the first Caldecott winner, which makes the book notable. But if the book is never checked out, never looked at or enjoyed…does it matter that it was once notable?
I kept this withdrawn copy because it is a Caldecott. But as I said in yesterday’s introduction to these award-winning books, illustration in children’s books has come a long way, baby.
Animals of the Bible is really just illustrated verses from the King James version of the Bible. The passages to be illustrated were selected by Helen Dean Fish, but of course, she didn’t write them! Here is one example of a two-page spread.
These verses are from Matthew 15. Lathrop’s illustrations are simplistic and have an innocence about them. While she was an accomplished printmaker, the pictures in this book seem to be pen and ink drawings.
In the illustration above and the one below, less attention and detail are given to the humans. Their faces are stylistic and generic. But I love the face of the lion with its regal mane.
I appreciate that each illustration is signed by the artist/illustrator, more like a work of art than a picture in a book.
The contrast in this third drawing is particularly striking.
And look at the texture in the rhinoceros/rhinoceri?, the trunk of the palm and its fronds, even the turtles/turtli? But then the polar bears and lions are not much more than outlines of their body shapes. It is almost as if the animals are floating, too. They don’t seem to be really walking on solid ground but almost riding on a big black shadow. Or hovering over a black opening in the earth. I am certainly no Biblical scholar but I think I know which story in the Bible Lathrop is illustrating here. Can you guess, too?
In my research about this book, I came across several reviews by regular Joes like me, or Josephines, I guess. Over and over, the reviewers mentioned that children today would not be terribly excited about these B&W illustrations. One reviewer suggested that the book might be better received if the drawings inside were in color like the art on the cover.
I’m no Bible scholar or expert on book illustration either. BUT, I am thinking that in 1938, when Animals in the Bible received the first Caldecott Award, it was quite cost-prohibitive to make a children’s book with full-color pictures. First of all, how many children had books at home then? And B., how many books boasted color illustrations in mid-20th century?
Read one review from a librarian who said she would never “weed” or withdraw this book from her collection because it was an award-winner. Now I am feeling ashamed, knowing I did weed at least this copy from the library at Moye.
Oh, boy, I just checked the online catalog and there isn’t another copy of Animals in the Bible at Moye. Ah-oh. That means one of two things…either I withdrew the only copy or I withdrew one copy and one of the librarians who followed me withdrew the other.
Let’s go with that.
This is just a few of the illustrations from the book. Based on this sampling, how do you feel about the pictures? Are they award-winning caliber (for 1938?). Play librarian for a second. Would you keep this book on the library shelves IF it was purchased in 1974 and was last checked out in 1996, and it is 2006 when you are trying to decide whether to keep or withdraw the book?
Maybe I should order a copy of the book and send it anonymously to the Moye library? Please let me know what YOU would do in a comment below.
Hope you will return tomorrow as we progress through the Caldecott winning books.
Hugs and kisses,