Saturday, September 27, 2008


An iconic, yet simple design; A list of authors and illustrators that reads as a who's who of American children's literature; A billion and a half copies sold over the past sixty years; A backlist that appears to contain thousands of titles; It's no wonder the Smithsonian has included it in its collection of Cultural History.

Margaret Wise Brown, Richard Scarry, James Marshall, Leonard Weisgard, Garth Williams, Tibor Gergely, Eloise Wilkin, Gustav Tenggren, Alice and Martin Provensen, Feodor Rojankovsky, Anita Lobel; the list is endless, and every year a box of lost classics appears here in the shop. Sure there are duds in the batch, many of them Disney related. But even among the Disney titles, there are a number of lovely classics, often illustrated by the great golden age Disney animators. Even the Sesame Street titles from the 1970s are infinitely better than their current pale and bloodless counterparts (shame on you Sesame Street!) and much loved by adults of a certain age, and their children. But it's those titles from the mid-forties through the early sixties (Golden Books started as an austerity line during WWII. Also, at 25 cents, they were much more affordable than your typical three dollar children's book) that are so compelling.

Richard Scarry spent most of his career at Golden Books. His early painterly style is gorgeous, and a revelation to those familiar only with his later amphetamine-like "Busy Town" style. Eloise Wilkin's cherubic illustrations are often at odds with the un-reconstructed Brothers Grimm/ Mother Goose stories she chooses. Margaret Wise Brown's prodigious output for Little Golden Books, only reinforces the strangeness and abstraction hinted at in her more famous work. It's like a Hollywood musical. She drops everything mid-sentence and starts rhyming, and then just as abruptly, stops. Characters shift from anthropomorphic to biologically and behaviorally real. Tibor Gergely's take on Thomas Hart Benton and Rojankovsky's Expressionism for Toddlers, are illustrative styles that would be lost to history if not for the perpetuation of these titles. I dare you to find a protagonist in today's children's picture books who not only is cheered for driving recklessly, but smokes cigarettes that look like they were scrounged off the curb outside Grand Central Station (The Taxi That Hurried).

All titles can be purchased from:

Brickbat Books
709 South Fourth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

215 592 1207

Open every day, 11am to 7pm.

We accept Visa, MC, Amex, and cash.

We ship anywhere.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

This is the distilled essence of your amazing store! Great stuff, amigo!