Monday, February 15, 2010

Pop Quiz! (Now, Stop Groaning--It'll Be Fun)

Sharpen your #2 pencils. And please, fill in the ovals neatly and completely.

Q. What do the following images have in common?
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (Viking)
  1. D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d'Aulaire and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire. (Doubleday)
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (FSG)
  • The Big Honey Hunt by Jan and Stan Berenstain
  • Dr. Seuss' Sleep Book by the inimitable Dr. Seuss
  • Brian Wildsmith's ABC by same (Franklin Watts)
  • My husband and me
Give up?

A. All of the above were published in 1962. Even the Brendlers. They're all first edition covers (Or very close! I tried really hard to get 1st edition images, except in the case of the human beans.)

Curiosity (and the fact that the interview I had planned to post today hasn't happened yet) led me to search for children's books published the year I was born. I wondered if they would seem outdated and drab compared to today's books.

I looked for a unifying design element or theme. Are there any common elements? Not really, but here are some rather general conclusions:
  • The covers are all bright and colorful (with the exception of A Wrinkle In Time, which is, nevertheless, graphically interesting, like the others--yes, even the Berenstain Bears, I think). The fact that all of the above book covers are colorful is more than I can say for the television programs of the time. (We led tortured lives back then.) I was kind of surprised, in fact, about how much color and liveliness there is in each cover design--especially since children's books before then often used just one-color printing in the interior illustrations. Hooray for the proliferation of the four-color printing process!
  • A person of color on a children's book was new and daring. The Berenstain Bears were brand new that year, too. So were my husband and me.
Here's a quote about cover design in the early sixties from Alan Powers in Children's Book Covers:
The 1960s began with a burst of colour that was equally typical of the transformation from the neat, small-scale patterning of the '50s towards the abundant and unrestrained at the beginning of the '60s, as seen in interior decoration and clothing.
Nineteen-sixty-two. The last of the baby boomers and the beginning of the first books since the war that weren't on the drab side. "Abundant and unrestrained." Maybe that should be my new motto.

One point for everyone who got the answer right without peeking.

Extra credit: If you can recall a controversy that I vaguely remember as a kid surrounding the Berenstains, I will add a half-point to your final score. It was some outcry which caused Jan and Stan to change their name from the original "Berenstein" to Berenstain. Am I dreaming it, or did these books used to be called the Berenstein Bears, and someone took offense?

Happy President's Day in the U.S. and Happy Family Day in Canada!

Breaking news: If you haven't already, have a look at the winners of this year's Cybil awards.


  1. Extra credit question ... If you do the research, the Berenstain family goes back to the 19th century. Stan and Jan created cartoons for McCall's magazine during the 40s and 50s ... one only has to check the cartoons to see that their name was "Berenstain" then, as it always has been.

  2. Thanks! I had suspected I did dream it, since I could find no evidence of a name change anywhere. It's not the strangest dream I've ever had.