Friday, December 23, 2011

BAM ZAM BOOM! A Building Book by Eve Merriam (1972)

I used to think Maira Kalman's style (in books like Roarr!) was pretty original, but after finding this book it's clear her style is pretty derivative of William Lightfoot's design and Eve Merriam's text in this book, right down to the rhythm of the poetry and way the text and pictures look.

This is not a book for parents who believe in historic preservation; Jane Jacobs must have hated it. Bam Zam Boom is a book about knocking down historic buildings and putting newer ones up in their place. And it's really beautiful.


Friday, October 14, 2011

City Windows, by Margaret and Gilbert Riswold (1973)

Found this at the Salvation Army last week. The "Holt Basic Reading System," was a "total language approach" curriculum for children from preschool the sixth grade. In addition to textbooks and workbooks, the system including all kinds of supplementary materials, including "lightscreens to provide a viewing device for filmwords, filmpictures and filmstories, class wordbooks with study cards and teacher's guides and audiovisual kits, including recordings, utilitarian (phonetic analysis) and aesthetic (musical comedy)." This "book" is identified as a supplementary unit to that system, and it doesn't really contain any text or have pages like a traditional text. Instead, it just folds out into a ten-foot accordion with illustrated storefronts on one side, and richly-colored photographs of shop interiors on the other:

I love seeing these interior shots of old city shops. It's pretty crazy to think that to my kids' generation, shops like this must seem as ancient as the Walker Evans and WPA pictures of country stores that made such an impression on me as a kid. 


I really love this old butcher shop:

There are definitely still bakeries like this one around.  We go to one regularly in Hamtramck.

In the middle of the "book" is this two-page spread showing a construction site from the sidewalk (illustrated) and a photo of what's behind the fence:

And last, the corner drug store:


Friday, September 23, 2011

Another Selection from our Collection of Terrifying Reagan-Era Children's Books: Goodbye Rune (1986)

Here we have what is perhaps the saddest children's book we own. I pity the poor parent who buys this thinking Goodbye Rune is another stupid Goodnight Moon knockoff. It starts out pleasant enough, with two children romping across the Scandinavian fields together. . .

. . .and hold each other ever so tenderly. . .

Goodbye Rune was originally published in Norway as Farvel, Rune. In America, when we farm out the task of talking to our kids about difficult subjects like sex or death to a book, we're usually more inclined to euphemism and stories about anthropomorphic leaves or kindly honey badgers or the unreadable text of Judith Vigna. In Norway or Denmark or wherever the hell, I guess you give your child a book with haunting illustrations of bloating corpses floating in the fjord.

I do feel like I understand Lars von Trier a little bit better now.

The paintings are all really beautiful, though wouldn't you say there's a terrifying (though not-wholly inappropriate) anxiety in those brush strokes? I've never before seen a children's book that looked like it was illustrated by Edvard Munch.

And you thought the book about the boy who wanted to keep his grandpa's corpse in his closet was grim.

Then, as if things weren't bleak enough, as soon as poor Rune's tiny white coffin is placed in the earth, here comes the harsh Norwegian winter (where even the aurora borealis is colorless).

The saddest thing about finding this book at the thrift store was thinking about why someone ever bought it in the first place.