Saturday, February 16, 2008

Small Rain

Small Rain

chosen by Jessie Orton Jones with illustrations by Elizabeth Orton Jones/ published 1943 by The Viking Press

From what I can gauge looking at the illustrations of Elizabeth Orton Jones, the woman had a gigantic heart. What I've always loved about her books is that even though they are religious, they are not exclusive and include all races and creeds... seeing everyone's God as one God. They are quite simply marvels.

The other day I stumbled across two of her books at a library sale that I'd never seen before, Small Rain and This is the Way. This is the Way is a collection of prayers from world religions and includes verses from Bushmen, Taoists, Buddhists, Hebrew and a myriad of other religions I've never even heard. And the illustrations of the children from different cultures are stunning.

Her Caldecott Medal winning Prayer for a Child is her most famous work, but something about the illustrations in Small Rain just breaks my heart. The text is made up exclusively of verses from the bible, and the pictures are glorious. The joy that is drawn into these children literally leaps from the page, and scanning their faces, you can't help but feel nostalgia, melancholy and glee for your own more innocent times.

I am but a little child:
I know not how to go out or come in.
Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart...
That I may discern between good and bad.

Her life seems truly fascinating as well. The family tree that Wikipedia gives is pretty stellar in terms of the influences she must have had at a young age. "Jones' great-grandfather, Joseph Russell Jones, a friend of Abraham Lincoln, was minister to Belgium under President Ulysses S. Grant. Her grandmother was a professional pianist and her grandfather owned a bookstore."

Perhaps her illustrations create an idealized and ultimately untruthful vision of childhood that doesn't exist for most (particularly in the racist and war-ridden time in which this book was concieved), but geez... wouldn't it be splendid if it did?

Also by:
Little Red Riding Hood
Prayer for a Child


rowan said...

What beautiful illustrations! I love this style of drawing, thanks so much for alerting me to Elizabeth Orton Jones' work. Love your blog!

Burgin Streetman said...

Aren't they spectacular!?!

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