Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

Bumper Book

When I was a child, the book I treasured most was The Bumper Book: A Harvest of Stories and Verse. The condition of my book would not command the $350 that this vintage edition is selling for on eBay: the binding is gone, pages are torn and the cover is well-worn. Published in 1946, and given to me for my fourth birthday, these stories, fables and poems were my bedtime companions. “Wynken, Blynken and Nod” by Eugene Field, “Animal Crackers” by Christopher Morley and “The Swing” by Robert Louis Stevenson were some of my favorites. The colorful illustrations, printed on heavy glossy paper, fascinated me, drawing me into the stories because of the sweet depictions of the children in their vintage clothing.

 W, B, and Nod2

Thoughts on Anachronisms

One particular poem featured vignettes of the days of the week, illustrated with a little girl doing chores for each day. Around the turn of the 20th century, women’s chores were assigned a day of the week, as described on the blog, A Hundred Years Ago. When I was a child, I loved play houses, and the settings in these illustrations seemed to take place in child-sized surroundings. I marveled that somewhere children played in these finely crafted miniature homes.

The Week’s Calendar

Monday, Watch the bubbles fly –

Monday

Tuesday, See the wash get dry –
Wednesday, Mend with all our might  –

Wednesday

Thursday, Make things clean and bright –
Friday, Bad for dust and flies  –

Saturday

Saturday, Good for cakes and pies.
Sunday, From all tasks we’re free
After church we have our tea.
–Frances Heilprin

Because the little girl was cleaning and cooking in these picture frames, I wonder about the message that gave me about preparing for the eventual role of running a house. And then I wondered again, was that such an unfortunate model? Regardless of our path in life, we do have to take care of a home, either as a single person or with a partner and children. Of course, the drawings would have been more socially progressive if she had a boy to help out.

In our hierarchy of important jobs, our culture views work inside the home as a lower value. Yet today, with so many demands on our time, managing a home is a difficult responsibility. Cleanliness, orderliness, household finances and meal preparation offer considerable challenges. Work inside the home is the glue that keeps any society held together. This is honorable and necessary work that is best shared by all in the household.

PICT0017 - Version 2

My  laundry circa 1949.

Question: Artistic Greatness

Eulalie Banks, a British/American illustrator, born in 1895 and who lived to be 102 years old, did all the artwork in the book.  In her obituary, Nicholas Tucker wrote,

Eulalie Banks illustrated over 50 children’s books during her long lifetime. Never a great artist, she was always a popular one.

Interesting how the terms never a great artist, fill the second line. Really? I’ve seen many testimonials on the Internet to the Bumper Book, as adults reflect on how the stories and artwork became part of their childhood. Many, like myself, read the stories to their own children. The delightful illustrations offered a window into a rich fantasy world, enhancing the writing of the authors and poets. Conventional interpretations of greatness rarely include the breadth of experiences of children, which would lead to wider interpretations of artistic influence and “greatness”.

More on Antique Books

Children’s Books Online: The Rosetta Project: Largest Collection of illustrated antique books on-line . . . we think.

Literature with Girls as Strong Characters

Strong Girl Character: Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels

 

Comments on: "The Bumper Book: Enchanting Stories from Childhood" (5)

  1. It is interesting how people who produce work for children don’t get the same respect, despite taking as much care as other illustrators and writers. I agree with you, those images are wonderful.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Charming delightful pictures, especially that lovely little girl from 1949. Of course, our home is our haven and our reflection of our spirit. It is honorable to keep it beautiful.

  3. It seems that many critics feel children’s literatures lacks substance, but that is from an adult’s perspective. Could be that children “read” much more into the pictures and content based on their unique perspective. Thanks for commenting on the blog.

  4. The illustrations in the book are absolutely delightful. I love some of these old children’s books. And, thanks for the nice mention of A Hundred Years Ago.

  5. Thanks for the shout-out! I’m not familiar with this particular book, but I do remember encountering others with similar sweet, old-fashioned illustrations — I’m thinking of an illustrated book of R.L. Stevenson’s poetry, or A.A. Milne. They fascinated me, too…a window into a different world.

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