Monday, August 19, 2019

More Forgotten Kids Books

The Last Forest by Laurie Glick. 1973, Young Reader's Press.

As far as I know this is Laurie Glick's only published book.  You may recognize her art because she did the cover of the album Free To Be You and Me which became the famous television special.  She also did the occasional illustration for Ms. magazine in the 1970s.  In fact, an abridged version of The Last Forest also appreared in Ms.

The Last Forest is a cautionary environmental tale set in the future.  Fern, a forest ranger,, tries to save the animals' last refuge as the residents of earth threaten what remains of a forest.  In the end, the people retreat and instead chooses to rebuild the forests by replanting in their cities.  Glick tells the simple story beautiful with her unique style which flows over double page spreads.

Energy from the Sun by Melvin Berger.  Illustrated by Giulio Maestro. 1976, Crowell.

This was part of a science book series for young readers.  This one focuses on the Sun and how it creates energy to sustain life.  The illustrations here are of course the standout for me.  Maestro was a professional illustrator, who did the art for many children's books including other books in this series.  His range of styles is diverse from project to project.  I like the style he employed in this book.  The bold, cartoony line and the limited color palette make it memorable.  Just a beautifully designed object that stands up well next to more well-known artists like Chwast or Glaser.

The Hare and the Tortoise. adapted by Arthur Friedman.  1981, Troll Associates.

This is a retelling of the famous Aesop tale by Arthur Friedman.  Friedman did many books in the 1970s and 1980s and he is probably most well-remembered for creating the Count Morbida puzzle pages that appeared in Scholastic's Dynamite magazine.  Friedman also illustrated a variety of Jewish themed picture books.  I love his whimsical style.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Electric Company Magazine

The Electric Company was the Children's Television Workshop's second series after Sesame Street.  It premiered in 1971, less than two years after Sesame Street's debut.  It was an aimed at elementary school age children and featured sketch comedy, music and cartoons.  The show had a six season run and ran through 1977.  It continued to run until 1985 on PBS as reruns.

Like Sesame Street, the Electric Company also had a corresponding magazine.  The magazine ran from 1972 through 1987 outliving the program on which it was based.  Original content included comics, activity pages and puzzles.  It was an extremely creative endeavor that possibly inspired Scholastic's Dynamite magazine. My favorite issues were those art directed by Mary Schenck from roughly 1974-1977.  Schenck would later design some early educational software for CTW with her husband, also an illustrator.  She authored an instructional book on one of the early adapted computer art programs, Print Shop.  Below is Mary Schenck's cover to a 1975 issue:

Another issue from 1975 featured this collage made up of various children's illustrations of their homes:

The Electric Company Magazine certainly had a lot of interesting illustrators and designers.
Below are some pages illustrated by the quintessential New York illustrator of the 1970s, Seymour Chwast of Push Pin Studios:

Al Jaffee, famous for his colorful fold-ins on the back cover of MAD magazine also did fold-ins for The Electric Company Magazine.  Sample below:

Gerard Huerta, who created the very recognizable logos for People Magazine, HBO and the band AC/DC, did some early work for the magazine as well.  The sample below is from 1975.  

Below is the lettering design Huerta did for an LP of The Three Degrees Live.  Looks exactly like something you would expect to see in The Elecrtric Company or Bananas magazines and makes me imagine that he probably designed the Electric Company logo as well.

Roger Huyssen was Huerta's frequent collaborator and also a contributor.  Some of Huyssen most well known images are the cover to the Boston's debut album, the poster to the 1976 film Lifeguard and the original Muppets Take Manhattan poster.

Guy Billout, an illustrator who has published many books and done a cover for the New Yorker also did a lot of early work for the Electric Company Magazine.  His cover below is from 1975.

Another feature in these early issues were comics by Stan Mack whose Real Life Funnies ran in the Village Voice for 20 years.  Below is an example of Mack's work from Electric Co.

Spider-Man's first live-action appearances began on the The Electric Company tv show.  In 1974, Marvel co-published a new Spidey Super Stories comic book.  The comics were advertised as "easy to read" and for a younger audience than the Amazing Spider-Man.  John Romita drew some of the covers and the interior artwork was by Win Mortimer.

The Children's Television Network also published a couple of cartoon humor books based on the show.  These were published by Golden Books.

For a related post, see my previous entry on 1970s Kid's Magazines here.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Parents' Magazine Press

Parents' magazine was founded in the late 1920s and was one of the leading magazines for adults with kids.  It is still being published today but many of its offshoots have been somewhat forgotten.  For example, from 1941-1965 the company also published comic books and digests for kids.  These included Calling All Kids, Calling All Boys and Calling All Girls.  George J Hecht, who started the company, later purchased FAO Schwarz, which Parents' magazine owned and expanded from 1963-1970.

(Cover of Calling All Girls, from 1946)

(Penny, a comic strip by Harry Haenigsen about a teenage and her father that appeared in Calling All Girls)

In the late 1960's Parents' magazine began publishing their own line of children's books.  The books were published as hardcovers without dust jackets.  They were made available at affordable prices through a subscription based book club model.  They had several clubs and the most notable was the Read Aloud Book Club which existed into the early 1990s when Scholastic eventually dominated this market.

The books that Parent's Magazine Press published in the 1970s and 1980s hold a special place in my heart.  They were the books I always saw as a kid in every place from the school library, to doctor's offices, used bookstores and friend's homes.  I also love these books because many of them have that perfect balance of image and text that essentially makes a good picture book special.  Most of these books follow the trajectory of Parents' Magazine's association with cartoonists.  The art in the majority of these books is line based in a cartooning tradition (rather than using techniques such as painting, collage or realism).  Some were even made by cartoonists, like Stan Mack, who are more known for their comics than their picture books.  They also published some early books by Marc Brown, creator of Arthur, who would go on to be one of the best-selling picture book creators in the 1990s.

Christopher's Parade, illustrated by Richard Hefter, is one of Hefter's first books.  Soon after this he would create the line of Strawberry books for McGraw- Hill, the WOW magazine for Scholastic, and The Sweet Pickles books that he is most remembered for.  He also was an early educational computer game innovator with his Sticky Bear titles.  But it all started at Parents' Magazine Press.

Frank Asch is another famous children's book illustrator who got his start at Parents' Magazine Press.  His first book was George's Store, illustrated by cartoonist Bernard Wiseman.  Another cartoon influenced book that he wrote and illustrated was Popcorn.
Bread and Honey is a later book by Asch and you can see from the cover that it has a decorative border motif that was the trademark of Parents'  books around the late 1970s. Bread and Honey is a classic read aloud book because it has a drawing activity that can be utilized in the telling.

Benjamin's Balloon from 1978 is a great example of the sort of straight forward storytelling these titles excelled at. In the story, Benjamin's balloon creates chaos as it grows larger and eventually lifts him high about cities and mountains.  It's not too wordy and most of the humor lies within the art itself.

Remy Charlip's books for Parents' Magazine Press were formally experimental and some of the most innovative picture books ever created.  They include Thirteen, Arm in Arm (1969) and Hooray For Me! (1975). Unlike the previous books mentioned, these do not have straightforward narratives and do not work as read alouds.  They are more for individual reading and exploration and seem to play with the book format itself, pushing the boundaries of what could be done.  Hooray for Me! doesn't even have any traditional type in the finished artwork by Vera B. Williams and black outlines are absent.  These books have been loved through generations and have been reprinted several times even after Parents' Magazine ceased to publish books.

Jack Kent, creator of the comic strip King Aroo (1950-1965), created several memorable books for Parents' Magazine. Socks for Supper from 1978 is among the best.  The story feels like a classic folk tale and the cyclical nature of the story is surprising and makes it worth revisiting.

The five Henry the Duck books by Robert Quackenbush are some of the funniest read aloud books ever and have been put back into print as recent as 2018.  The inspiration for the books came when a reader asked him the following question in regards to his last name, Quackenbush. "Are you really a duck?".  Quackenbush replied with this series about a klutzy duck and the mishaps he gets into trying to impress his girlfriend Clara.  

Anyone who grew up in the 1980s will be more than familiar with Jim Henson's Christmas special Emmett Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.  The origin of that show is in the sensitive book by Russell and Lillian Hoban from 1971.  In the book they really create a quiet, gentle world that centers around friendship and family.  Their first Christmas book, The Mole's Family Christmas from 1969, is equally charming.  These are longer books and probably function better as bedtime stories than storytime read alouds.

Lisl Weil was one of the most prolific illustrators of children's books throughout the 1970s, having worked on over 70 titles.  Fat Ernest was her first for Parents' Magazine Press and it was published in 1973.  The story is set in an urban housing project.  Joel, an African-American boy moves into a new apartment with his family.  He has two pet gerbils named Fat Ernest and Erwin.  The girl next door becomes Joel's playmate.  The neighbor on the other side, is an easily frightened older white woman.  When she encounters one of the gerbils, she thinks it is a rat and immediately reports it to management.  Later, when she is escorted to Joel's apartment, she sees that the gerbil is not harmful.  She eventually decides to get one of her own.  The message of this story is of course one of acceptance and learning more about your neighbors before making a snap judgement.  But the story is told in such an honest and playful manner that this message does not hit you over the head.

This was followed by The Funny Old Bag (1974) which again features the character of Joel and his friends.  In this episode the kids make-fun of a grumpy old man who carries a strange black bag.  When one of the children is injured it turns out that the man used to be a doctor and has his equipment in the bag.  Eventually the children have dinner with Mr. Gugelhupf who they now see differently.


These are just some of the many extraordinary books that Parents' Magazine published.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Bernard Wiseman's gags

Bernard Wiseman was born in The Bronx, New York, 1922.  He is best remembered as the author and illustrator of over 40 picture books for children.  A few of the most well known ones are the Morris the Moose series including Morris the Moose (1959), Morris Goes to School (1970) and numerous others.  He also collaborated with Frank Asch on his first book George's Store, originally published in 1969.

Wiseman is less remembered as a gag cartoonist even though his contributions to the field were significant.  His cartoons appeared in True, Look, This Week, the New Yorker, Cosmopolitan and other highly regarded magazines of the time.  He also created a number of advertisements for clients such as American Airlines, New York Transit Authority and Woolite.

Ballantine was the first to publish a book by Wiseman.  It was a space themed collection called Cartoon Countdown, and rather ahead of it's time for 1959. Dell published several collections of his gag cartoons.  Irwin the Intern (1962) featured a shy doctor who constantly found himself in uncomfortably sexual situations.  The Boatniks (1962) and Sex-Ed (1971) followed and were also adult in nature. 

My personal preference for Wiseman's work lies in his largely forgotten full color gags for men's magazine such as
Playboy and Rogue.  He also occasionally both wrote and illustrated stories for Joe Weider's magazines Monsieur and Jem, mostly from the late 1960s and early 1970s.  You can see some samples below:

Wiseman was also a contributor to Boys' Life Magazine around this time.  He was friendly with the editor and named his son Andrew after him.  The stories in Boys' Life were both written and drawn by Wiseman.  Samples below:

Wiseman passed away in 1995 in Florida.  He served in the Coast Guard as a young man (1941-46), was married twice and had three children.