Tag Archives: children’s picture books

“You’re wrong as the deuce, and you shouldn’t rejoice. If you’re calling him Seuss – he pronounces it Soice.” (But then changed it to Seuss, so…)

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 9.00.17 AM

By Margueritte Peterson

If someone says “Children’s Books” to you, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Picture books? Perhaps here is the better question… what author first comes to mind? I would venture to bet that at least 90% of you come up with the same name. However, did you know that the name you come up with is not his true name? (Probably most of you do, since you are members of the book world or bibliophiles and would know something like that… but humor me!) 

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 8.59.38 AMTheodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2nd, 1904 to a German family in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father ran a family-owned brewery in Massachusetts (well, until the Prohibition did away with that). Geisel went to school in Massachusetts until he went to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, graduating in 1925. During his time at Dartmouth, Geisel first showed skill and interest in humorous literature as rose to the role of editor-in-chief of the literary magazine the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern before graduating. Unfortunately, one college incident threatened to end his early literary career – when Geisel was caught drinking gin (the Prohibition was in effect) in his dorm room with some of his friends. In punishment for this crime, Geisel was forced to resign from his position at the magazine. In order to continue publishing his work at the Jack-O-Lantern, Geisel began writing under the pen name “Seuss”, his middle name. The beginning of Dr. Seuss was underway. 

Once graduating from Dartmouth, Geisel began his PhD studies at Lincoln College, Oxford, to earn a degree in English Literature. Though he left Oxford without a degree in early 1927, Geisel was still able to begin his living publishing humorous cartoons. He accepted a job at the humor magazine Judge and 6 months after he began working at the magazine he first published work under his pen-name “Dr. Seuss.” Geisel’s cartoons gained popularity throughout the end of the 1920s and the entirety of the 1930s, largely due to his help with advertisements of popular brands like General Electric and Standard Oil – adverts that helped him and his wife maintain financial stability through the Great Depression. Due to help from a friend (despite his popularity), Geisel was able to begin publishing humorous poems with the Vanguard Press. In 1940, he published a poem under the title “Horton Hatches an Egg” – a poem that has, to this day, sparked further books, movies, animated films and even musical productions. 

Our signed copy of Bartholomew and the Oobleck can be found here!

Our inscribed copy of Bartholomew and the Oobleck can be found here!

Throughout the 1940s and WWII, Geisel created hundreds of political cartoons criticizing Hitler and Mussolini and strongly supported the US war effort. Shortly after the war, Geisel and his wife Helen moved from New York to La Jolla, California and he returned to writing children’s books. Between 1950 and 1960 Geisel published many of the works he is most well-known for today, such as Bartholomew and the Ooblek (1949), If I Ran the Zoo (1950), Horton Hears a Who! (1955 – a more in-depth work on his original poem), If I Ran the Circus (1956), The Cat in the Hat (1957), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) and Green Eggs and Ham (1960). In 1954, William Ellsworth Spaulding challenged Geisel to write a book with 250 words chosen by the education division of Houghton Mifflin of words that all 1st graders ought to know. The result contained 236 of the 250 words and was Geisel’s famed The Cat in the Hat

Though Geisel (surprisingly) never won a Newbery or Caldecott award, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth (1956), a Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1980, and the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 (for his “substantial and lasting contributions to children’s literature”). Geisel also never had children of his own (perhaps he was too busy teaching and entertaining everyone else’s children!), but will forever be remembered as one of the fathers of Children’s Literature! 


Kate Greenaway: Legendary Illustrator of Children’s Books


“May Day”

One of the few artists to gain true celebrity from illustrating children’s books, Kate Greenaway was one of the most influential illustrators of her age. Greenaway, along with Randolph Caldecott and Walter Crane, revolutionized illustration. Popular in both Europe and the United States, Greenaway has remained highly sought after, even among contemporary children’s book collectors.

Greenaway’s Early Rise to Fame

Born on March 17, 1846, Greenaway was an only child. Her father was a draughtsman, while her mother was a seamstress who owned a tailoring shop. Both parents encouraged their daughter’s artwork, and in 1867 Greenaway completed her first accompanying illustrations for Infant Amusements, or How to Make a Nursery Happy by William Kingston. The following year, Greenaway began exhibiting watercolors in London’s Dudley Gallery.


Christmas card by Greenaway

Over the next twelve years, Greenaway would illustrate over 30 children’s picture books. She also created Christmas cards and bookplates, which were both incredibly popular. Greenaway’s singular style differed considerably from other illustrators of the day; her pictures were simple and elegant, and they captured a quiet innocence. Greenaway always depicted happy, well loved children in natural scenes, which resonated with people of all ages.

A New Venture


“Beneath the Lilies” from ‘Under the Window’

Though Greenaway gained considerable notoriety doing illustrations for other authors’ works, she also longed to write her own book. In 1879, Greenaway made her debut as an author with Under the Window. Like her illustrations, Greenaway’s verses were simple, elegant, and charming. The book was an instant success, selling approximately 150,000 copies. Both French and German editions of the book were published. Subsequent titles were equally successful, and Greenaway received a tidy sum for her works. She also published yearly almanacs from 1888 to 1897 (excepting 1896).

Greenaway’s publisher, George Routledge & Co, had earned prominence for publishing yellowbacks, that is, colorful, eye-catching and less costly, glazed-paper volumes, which, to a very large degree, helped make literature more accessible to people of more modest income levels. Famous engraver Edmund Evans, known for his significant artistic contribution to the genesis of the yellowback phenomena, used chromoxylography to reproduce the images for Greenaway’s books.

Trendsetting in Illustration–and Fashion

Likely because her mother was a seamstress, Greenaway paid particular attention to the clothing of her characters. Rather than stick to the fashion of the time, she chose instead to depict characters in clothing from the early 19th century. Though unconventional, the choice proved instrumental in influencing Victorian fashion.

As Greenaway’s books gained international renown, they also attracted the attention not only of book lovers, but also the fashionable set in London. Parents began to dress their children in outfits that could have come straight out of Greenaway’s illustrations. Liberty of London, a well known department store in Britain, even adapted her “looks” for a line of children’s clothing.

A Sterling Reputation among Artists and Collectors


“The Rainstorm”

While Greenaway stayed quite busy illustrating and publishing children’s books, she still found time to contribute to the art world. In 1890, she was elected to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-colour. Greenaway’s work captured the attention of legendary figures like John Ruskin and Arsne Alexandre, and she was compared with Stothard, Reynolds, and even Botticelli.

The variety and beauty of Kate Greenaway’s work have made her a perennial favorite among collectors of children’s books. Her books, greeting cards, book plates, and other art offer limitless potential for building an interesting and dynamic collection.