Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Mother Makes Christmas"

One of the first artists to make an impression on me as a child was Lois Lenski, illustrator of more than 100 children's books. Lenski created the art for the Betsy Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace – up until Betsy became a teenager, when the style of illustration changed completely, throwing me for a loop as a young girl.

Lenksi also wrote children's books, including Houseboat Girl and others in what she called her regional series. She used a distinctive style of hand lettering to write the titles of her books, and now I am wishing that typemaster Mark Simonson would create a Lenski font. (What would be involved, I wonder?)

Once on our winter trip to Minnesota we stopped in Bloomington, Illinois, to eat at the Central Station Café, one of the few restaurants downtown. There is a fabulous used bookshop across the street, where I found a copy of Mother Makes Christmas by Cornelia Meigs, with Lenski illustrations.

I can just see my friend Deb now, rolling her eyes and saying in a knowing way: "Ah yes indeed, Mother DOES make Christmas!" To all of you mothers out there in the Christmas aftermath, including my own, thank you for your efforts this year. Here are the endpapers of Mother Makes Christmas: look at all the help she has in that bustling kitchen!


Nor said...

Oooh those endpapers!! ... makes me wish I'd taken a photo of the trim in the old kitchen on Irvine. I think it was two little Dutch children & windmills, wasn't it? But a charming pattern & patina. I can feel the time when those Betsey/Tacey illustrations changed-- how awful & impossible to figure out why.

elena said...

Cynthia sent me a similar message: "..when the new illustrations appeared, in books when the girls started wearing heels and pining for boys, I felt like I'd lost a best friend."

When I read the books to Sav when she was younger, we only made it as far as through "Betsy and Joe", which is where I stopped as a child, too. And even by then the books forced me to think about the inevitability of change: Tib moves back to Milwaukee, I believe, at some point. There is no happy stasis where everything remains the same.

I always loved the fact that the books somehow represented Mankato, Minnesota, the town where I was born.

Yes, I wish we had an image of that Irvine kitchen trim, and I always appreciated the fact that you never painted over it!