Two Picture Books Re-Prints That Make Me Happy
(Or, Some Cute and Deadly Before Breakfast)

h1 September 14th, 2010 by jules

“She was shaking so much she could barely eat her morning hay. Her nose got redder and redder and began to itch. Her eyes watered. Her throat tickled.
‘K-k-k-k—‘ ‘KA-CHOW’ she sneezed.”

(Click to enlarge spread.)

(Click to enlarge.)

I’m taking a moment this morning to highlight—by sharing lots of art from within—two old-skool re-prints, James Flora’s The Day The Cow Sneezed and William Wondriska’s A Long Piece of String.

Flora’s jaunty, absurd, fast-paced and whacked-out tale of how one cow’s sneeze can wreak havoc on a town was originally published in 1957 but was re-printed this month by Enchanted Lion Books. This makes many folks very happy, including Betsy Bird in her BRING IT BACK! Out-of-Print Crimes Against Humanity! series of sorts, as well as illustrator Ward Jenkins. You’ll want to read his post on the book. Well, I mean if you want. Look at me bossing you around in a these-are-not-the-droids-you’re-looking-for kind of way. Sorry. (Aaaaand I digress, as usual.)

There’s lots of art from this one below. Check out Flora’s color choices and lines and composition; particularly striking is how he manages to propel the action forward on each spread. Straight-up pandemonium is what occurs in this story. Madcap zaniness abounds.

As his wonderful site says, Flora was best-known for his jazz and classical album covers for Columbia Records in the late 1940s and RCA Victor in the 1950s. The author of the site goes on to say (and I love this):

He authored and illustrated 17 popular children’s books and flourished for decades as a magazine illustrator. Few realize, however, that Flora (1914-1998) was also a prolific fine artist with a devilish sense of humor and a flair for juxtaposing playfulness, absurdity and violence.

Cute — and deadly.

Okay. Fine. Despite the title of this post, The Day the Cow Sneezed isn’t exactly deadly, but I just couldn’t resist.

That’s definitely a site worth exploring. And I especially, ardently love this post at the blog, because Yee-Haw Industrial Letterpress is in my beloved Knoxville.

But, before we get to Flora’s illustrations, let’s take a quick look at William Wondriska’s A Long Piece of String, originally published in 1963 but re-issued last month by Chronicle Books. This one’s a sneaky alphabet book in that, very simply, a long piece of black string trails a series of objects on wordless spreads, which astute readers will note begin with each letter of the alphabet from A to Z. This is a short, wide book, fitting given that we are following one lengthy string. Indeed, many spreads include very little of the object and much more white space. Wondriska was a graphic designer, as well as a children’s book illustrator, and a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University. He’s now retired and lives in Concord, Massachusetts. Striking here are the simplicity of the artwork and the design, bold in its economy.

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

And now for some of Flora’s illustrations. Enjoy.

“Down the road they flew, over the bridge, up the hill, through the woods, and over the cliff by Jack Makemson’s barn. They fell with a flip-flop and a loop-the-loop and landed on a steam roller. Now, everyone knows that a billy goat doesn’t know how to drive a steam roller. Neither does a cat, nor a mouse for that matter…”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

“Fletcher was reciting in social studies, and when he saw our cat and our billy goat on the steam roller, he jumped on too and tried to stop it.
But he couldn’t find the right lever….”

(Click to enlarge spread.)

“…They ripped through the fence around the zoo. My, what a mess!…”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

“…Great gobs of fireworks began to blow off. The noise was frightful….”
(Click to enlarge spread.)

“…The wheel rolled off the mountain onto a long dock. At the end of the dock was a fishing boat. The wheel rolled onto the boat, and out to sea they went
scattering rockets right and left…”

(Click to enlarge spread.)

* * * * * * *

THE DAY THE COW SNEEZED. Published in 2010 by Enchanted Lion Books. Originally published 1957, © by James Flora. Images here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

A LONG PIECE OF STRING. Copyright © 1963 by William Wondriska. First Chronicle Books LLC edition published in 2010. Reproduced by permission of the publisher.

7 comments to “Two Picture Books Re-Prints That Make Me Happy
(Or, Some Cute and Deadly Before Breakfast)”

  1. Hurrah! So glad they’ve been reprinted.

  2. Jules! Thanks for posting. LOVE it! Still so fresh and fun. Go old-school illustrators!

  3. At long last!

  4. Yay, I LOVE both of these books!!

  5. The book is great, isn’t it? I plan on doing a post/review/comparison of Cow Sneezed soon on my blog! I’m very impressed with the quality of the printing. Excellent job by the Enchanted Lion people!

  6. SO glad to see these available again – they are GORGEOUS!!! 🙂 e

  7. This is amazing! I just now remembered that I was friends with William Wondriska’s daughter in kindergarten and 1st grade! Then we moved unfortunately. I haven’t thought of him in so long and I’m only now realizing what an influence he was to me. Thanks for posting…although I am quite late to this.

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