My interest in Marcia Brown was piqued when I read about her life and work in A Caldecott Celebration (linked to my review), so when I saw her Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper on the library shelf, I brought it home to share with my girls. They love a good Cinderella story as much as the next girl, especially since Nana began collecting Cinderella stuff not long after Lulu was born. 🙂 Of course, this book isn’t Disney’s Cinderella; it’s a “free translation from the French of Charles Perrault.” It was fun to read and note how the story differs from what we have come to expect. Of course, the strength of this book and of Marcia Brown are the illustrations–Cinderella won the 1955 Caldecott Medal, her first. The pictures are finely drawn in pen and ink, and the painting is done using a four-color gouache in rose pink, cobalt blue, pale ochre, and charcoal. (For a little more about what this means, go here and scroll down to number twelve. To see a sample page from Cinderella, go here.) The pictures have a very old-fashioned feel to them, perhaps because of the limited color scheme. I enjoyed sharing this translation of Cinderella with my girls.
Marcia Brown’s Dick Whittington and His Cat practically leapt off the shelf at me because I had only moments before picked up a copy of the Newbery honor book Whittington, a juvenile novel based on the same story. Dick Whittington’s story is one that was completely unfamiliar to me, and I have enjoyed learning this bit of English folklore. Basically, it is the story of a poor young lad who through perseverance, good fortune, and the help of a wily cat, eventually becomes the Lord Mayor of London. The illustrations in this book are unlike the ones in Cinderella; Dick Whittington is done in two-color lineoleum block prints. (For a sample, go here.) The illustrations for this book are limited to three colors: black, white, and gold. Of course, our modern palate is not accustomed to this style, so it might seem a little boring to some readers. However, the story of Dick Whittington and his cat is anything but boring, and I think the method of block printing is fascinating. It was fun (if a little confusing!) to read this book at the same time I was reading the novel. More on this tomorrow, though. 🙂 I think it’s interesting that Marcia Brown’s work won a Caldecott Honor for this book, even though it is completely different from the style of her first winner.
Marcia Brown was one talented artist, as the combined nine Caldecott Medals and honors her works garnered during her lifetime attest. (I’ve reviewed another of her award winners before here at Hope Is the Word.) Thinking back to what I read about her in A Caldecott Celebration, she was an obviously intelligent woman who “settled” on teacher’s college because her poor minister father couldn’t afford to pay for more education. After school, she took her life and career in hand and showed a lot of moxie in finding a publishing house and editor and working hard to be successful in her field. I like that she didn’t settle on being a teacher when her artistic talents enabled her to do something entirely different and, I assume, more fulfilling to her. (This makes me wonder what I have settled for, too. I don’t mean to imply that being a teacher is less, as obviously I am a teacher at home to my children, and it is a truly wonderful thing. I just wonder how many of us, me included, just give up on a dream because it isn’t easily attained.) I also remember that it was her early Caldecott success that enabled her to travel to and throughout Europe and hone her skills. Ah, the benefits of fame! I was also reminded that Marcia Brown’s editor for many of her books was Alice Dalgliesh, a wonderful writer herself and the author of the last chapter book Lulu read (and one I hope to review in the near future). For more about Marcia Brown’s life, go here.
I’m linking this post up to the Children’s Classics Award Winners link-up at 5 Minutes for Books tomorrow. For more about award-winning children’s books, be sure to visit there tomorrow!