For reasons that escape me, I’ve at least 3 editions of Gulliver’s Travels. I haven’t read it, have no plans to read it. Just like I have no plans to read Treasure Island, Little Women, or Men, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, Kidnapped, anything by Kipling, or Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Is the last even a children’s title? These are considered classics. My question–who determines such things? Who designates one book over another as a classic? How did The Swiss Family Robinson turn into a venerable read? Or Heidi? Sales? I doubt it. It had to be some dry critic of eons past who bestowed upon Heidi the crown of ‘classic.’ I’ve tried numerous times to read the book, but Shirley Temple keeps intruding her voice echoing, “Grandfather, Grandfather” over and over. That reminds me of two others I can’t seem to get past the first few chapters–The Little Princess, and The Secret Garden. Shirley’s half sobbing shouts, “Father, Father, don’t you know me? You MUST know me, I’m Sara, I’m your Sara!” as Queen Victoria wheels by makes drab the narrative of the original Princess. Naturally all ends well within the movies. I heard a rumor, however, that in the book, the father is really dead and never returns to poor Sara. No way will I crack open that book to be dashed in the end.
I have an illustration that I slid off of an eBay auction about a billion years ago, when you could still do that. I loved it so much, I tried to make jewelry, print it, do various and sundry things, but as it goes, dpi is notoriously low on eBay and most of the world of eBay, because it doesn’t take much to render a picture pretty nice looking on your screen. A few other images were purloined that long ago day, but none of them did I remember to jot down title, author, illustrator, or publisher. I only remember I couldn’t afford the book with the super fairy tale picture, and that was that. Since then I’ve been sporadically perusing bookfinder, google, eBay, etsy, trying to locate the original source of the picture. The only clue I had were the artist’s initials and last name. F. S. Cooke. Not an individual I’d heard of, but then I have found through the years that there are far more golden age illustrators than just a few well publicized ones like Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, the Robinson brothers, Jessie Wilcox Smith etc. Children’s book illustrators in the teens, twenties and thirties seem to be numerous–from pictures for school book primers, to endless renditions of Mother Goose, to magazine covers. A magazine cover of an odd thing called Etude, confirmed that a F. S. Cooke did exist, and had created an ingenious piece of artwork for a magazine devoted to high falutin’ music. A little row of houses in the shape of musical instruments in candy colors certainly catches the eye, and his Deco sensibility is exactly what I love. I realized then that I had a couple Etude magazines with front covers with his artwork. Inside the magazine there is nothing–well, nothing that I care about, I suppose music lovers would disagree, ha. So what else did this man, I assumed it was a man because it usually is, what else did he do?
Anne Anderson’s House That Jack Built is worlds apart from a Victorian’s book plate, or Art Deco vision, or a Golden Book’s mid century idea of what the perfect abode would look like in Mother Goose Land. Because of these differences it’s like a birthday, or holiday whenever a collector finds a new version of … Read more