My desk is strewn with complex drifts of sketches, sheafs of them stacked or sliding and crackling, faint fairies everywhere, to be sorted into order and details filled out. This is the next fairy book in embryo state, on the long road to the exciting box of glossy new volumes.
The life of even a well-loved children's book eventually comes to this, either a collectors shelf or the recycling bin. The Saturday morning dog walk took us by a community garage sale, with the usual boxes of coffee mugs, planters, used electronics, videos on vhs, magazines and once-popular novels, plus a few surprises. In a box of plain-looking and well-worn books with moisture-bent covers were these treasures.
Their very shabbiness was the draw. Some one spent hours with these once, as the crayoned-in illustrations and pencilled notes testify.
I used to colour in my books like this, I thought it made them prettier.
This chapter-page brings to mind blissful holidays spent on Prince Edward Island, as a child and more recently as mother.
In surprisingly fine condition is this volume, The Magical Land of Noom, 1922, by Johnny Gruelle (of Raggedy Anne and Andy fame), all 12 illustrations in place, with only a single water-droplet mark on the cover. I'm almost afraid to read the story for fear I might let a crumb or friendly cat-paw mark a page. I'm getting out the cotton gloves for this one!
The shabbiest volume, coverless and tattered, seems to have been the best loved. "Mrs. Herbert Strang" edited several other annuals like these. A pseudonym for Mr. Herbert Strang, it was in turn a pseudonym for two male editors. The illustrator doesn't get a mention, which is too bad,
for this illustration is my favourite.
I wonder who he or she was?
Loyalty to the crown, expressed in primary school readers, was once a part of the national identity.
There used to be a picture of the Queen in every classroom and my young school days began with the Lord's Prayer, a salute to the flag ("shoot the flag"), "God Save the Queen", and "Oh Canada". ("Two pastry gloves in all thy sons command", years later turned out to be "True patriot love" etc. And "Forgive us our trespasses" always led my thoughts astray to Winnie the Pooh and Piglet's "Trespassers Will". But I digress.) The Royal Visit in 1939 made its mark on the country, and on school textbooks.
The years go by and things change. "God Save the Queen" disappeared when "Oh Canada" became the official national anthem in 1980. Canada Day, which used to be known as Dominion Day, is coming up on July 1. There will be a street festival in the neighbourhood, flags and red maple leaf icons every where, and in the evening, fireworks in the harbour. At dusk we'll pack up the lawn chairs, blankets and snacks and make our way with the holiday throng, down the street to the lake. Adults and children will sit on the pier, children too close to the edge for parental comfort, swinging their feet over the water and applauding the test flares that go up first. Sometimes a few will start singing "Oh Canada" (with silly cheers) while waiting for the show to start.
From a daughter of the Empire, "God Save the King!"- and Queen.