Sure, you played "Hearts" and "Crazy Eights" and "Go Fish", maybe even an occasional game of "War" or "Old Maid".
But unless your Dad was Nick The Greek, you probably didn't know your card games well enough growing up to invite your friends over for a hand of "The Earl of Coventry" or "Frogs In The Pond" or "I Doubt It".
Now, with the help of this lost edition of "50 Card Games For Children", whenever their pockets start to itch, my kids can hustle me for extra lunch money by mastering the arcane rules of a sporting proposition like:
"Giggle A Bit" (Bob the Dealer begins by saying something like this: Henry went along a country road. He saw - after he says 'saw' he flips the top card of his pile over on the table, face up. And this is won by the first player, including Bob, to say two adjectives and a noun beginning with the same letter as the name of the card. For example for a Ten, Three or Two, "a tiny, tiresome tadpole" would do; for an Eight, "an elegant, elongated elephant". But, if two or more players shout correct words at precisely the same time, no one takes the card!
Sure, these kids may look innocent enough, but if you see them sitting down at the green felt table, keep walking, or be prepared to have your wallets emptied in a friendly game of "Turnstile"!!
Is it a book or is it a record?
Not a question you often come across these days.
But back in the day, John Winston solved this age-old problem that was plaguing mankind when he created the Magic Talking Book. Rather than including a record with an accompanying book as many children's publishers did back then, he made the book cover itself into a record: plop the volume down on the turntable and spin away!
I found a copy of one of these unusual artifacts at a used book store here "down under" and thought I would share this fun lost technology with you here.
As the ad copy says, they "add a fourth dimension to books"!
While this weekend has been preoccupied with phone banking for the Obama campaign, and high anxiety about what world we will all awake into on Wednesday morning, it's probably as a result of this cloud of high tension that I find comfort in sharing with you some simpler times and imagery.
The last thing I want to post from the treasury of Tiny Golden Books is a series of images from the back covers.
Elsa and I went to the "Milk" premiere in San Francisco last night.
Recognize this image?
No, it is not the little drawing in my banner, but it is remarkably similar!
It is a drawing of acrobatic cats, by an artist who single-mindedly made his whole career out of drawing cats: the amazing Louis Wain!
I first heard about this artist from another wonderful artist, the animator Sally Cruikshank, back in 1981. I had come to Los Angeles to meet with her, as one of the many hats I was wearing back then was as a distributor of short films to cable television, and her short "Quasi at the Quackadero" was one of my most popular titles.
Sally was married to a great guy, producer Jon Davison, who was famous at the time as the producer of "Airplane", the Zucker Brothers' hit comedy. He was one of the first "real" producers I met in Hollywood, and he was very gracious and generous with us "just off the boat" kids from Chicago. The thing that impressed me about both Sally and Jon was just how "real" they were; coming from the Midwest, Hollywood could often seem like the phoniest of places, so it was reassuring to meet people who weren't just reciting box office grosses, but were talking with passion about an obsurce, instiutionalized 19th century children's book artist!
Wain was born in 1860 in London and went to the West London School of Art as a young man. He married a woman ten years his elder, but tragically she died of cancer only 3 years later. He did most of his major work as an illustrator in the years before World War I, publishing books and postcards and games, all of his uniquely human cats which became his obsession.
He had a run of employment and fame and modest fortune from his cat art (starting in 1901 there was even a Louis Wain Annual!).
But by 1916 he was almost flat broke and in increasingly desperate circumstances. Never one to play to current vogue, his drawings were out of fashion and were slowly getting weirder.
By 1924 he was committed to the Middlesex County Asylum for the Insane. He continued to draw, and in some ways did some of his most astonishing work there.
It was a cat named Peter, whom he nicknamed Peter The Great, that was given to he and his wife as a gift by his sisters, that he spent hours studying and sketching during the long hours and years of his wife's illness. In retrospect, this tragedy was the formative event of his life, being both the wellspring of his genius, and the fount of his obsession and madness.
Louis Wain died on the 4th of July in 1939. His work is only known today among a certain circle of afficianados; both cat people, outsider art fans, and anyone like myself lucky enough to have known Sally Cruikshank back in the early 80's in Los Angeles!
It's great when people share their personal passions and obsessions. We learn so much about the vast world we live in.
"Three Little Bunnies" was published in 1950.
A year later, Rooks was back collaborating with author Ruth Dixon on another children's book featuring photographs of live animals, "Three Little Puppies".
In this book, his wife Sally Rooks is also credited and appears in the book. I don't really know if she worked on the first book and was not given credit, or whether she joined the enterprise, as wife?, collaborator?, sometime in the period between the two publications.
If the information I found previously about his age was correct, he was born in 1920, and would have been thirty or thirty-one when he was collaborating with his wife on these unusual photographs.
It is tempting to project something innocent and bucolic about their artistic process; making the clothes, the sets, working with the pets, coming up with the ideas for each composition, lighting, retakes, even the hand-touched quality of the coloration in the final pictures.
My wife is an amazing artist. Maybe someday we will collaborate on a project? One problem though: I am allergic to cats and dogs and other animals! So we will have to find our OWN path; however we will certainly be inspired by the fantasy we have of Mr. and Mrs. Rooks, and their elysian studio way back in 1950!
There has been a lot of interest lately in Dare Wright, the author/photographer who, starting with The Lonely Doll, created a series of children's books featuring black and white photographs of a young girl's doll posed in arranged tableaus with a teddy bear and other animals and toys.
Especially after the publication a few years ago of a new biography called "The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll" which chronicled her troubled life and offered a revisionist view of the pain and torment behind those seemingly innocent images.
But before Dare Wright, there was Dale Rooks, who pioneered some of the same techniques of introducing photography into the world of children's illustrated books, creating amazing tableaus using live animals posed in character and costume, and seemingly without the angst and trauma that fueled Wright's work and made her books so haunting.
I could not find a lot of biographical information on Dale Rooks, but I saw one post online that said that he died in 1954 at the age of 34. So young. I wonder how he passed away?
Here is a photo of his first book "The Three Little Bunnies."
Here is an image that would surely inspire Liberace.
I wonder how many hours it took to get this pose in the camera?
I love this outdoor woods set.
Something about Rooks' work feels like the predecessor to one of my all-time favorite movies, "Babe". I wonder if author Dick King-Smith ever stumbled across a copy of one of Dale Rooks' photo books of anthropomorphized animals growing up?
Stranger things have happened, that is for sure.
Tomorrow, more of Dale Rooks and his Amazing Books!