Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Maurice Maeterlinck's Blue Bird

Maurice Maeterlinck's Blue Bird
Brian Wildsmith
~ Franklin Watts, 1976


This is what I get this week for stepping away from my decades of choice (60s-80s) and offering up picks from the 50s. That said, before I accidentally post anything else offensive again and get completely disheartened, I'm racing back to the 70s!!!!

(Let me just say, all I'm trying to do here by highlighting vintage books is bring a little of past illustrations and storytelling back. We all know sometimes there are portions of the past that are better left behind, and if those portions of that ugly past bleed onto this blog by accident, I apologize. All I am trying to do here is make people happy and remind them of books they might have forgotten. If for even one second I've made someone feel otherwise or done the opposite, then I have royally failed. But anyways...)

Based on a famous play, L'Oiseau Bleu, by a Belgian writer (who himself had lots of controversy, plagiarism and such... but we won't go there), I'm not focusing on the words as much as the pictures. Mainly because the story is pretty fantastical and abstract and I don't entirely understand it myself. My son loves it for the bird theme, but I doubt he could tell what it's about either. There's a witch-like old lady and a couple of children and some elements that come alive like fire and water and milk and bread. There's the search for the illusive bluebird of happiness. After 36 pages of the hunt, they finally catch him, only to discover...

Outside, the three children admired the Blue Bird. "There are bluer ones," said Tyltyl, but you can't catch them." "That doesn't matter," replied the little girl. "He's beautiful. May I hold him?" she asked. "Of course," said Tyltyl happily. But as he took the bird out of the cage, the bird escaped and flew away. "He's gone," sobbed the little girl. "He's gone." Tyltyl watched the bird disappear into the clouds and, with a mixture of happiness and sadness, said, "I know, but I'll catch another one for you."Ah, yes. The very thing we seek has been with us all along. Wildsmith's colors overwhelm in the best possible way here. His bold strokes and deep shades of turquoise, orange and mauve are eloquent. Fun geometric shapes so evocative of the times. They remind me of all the art books my parents had when I was little. I'd peruse them and wonder without ever fully understanding. Isn't memory bliss?

Also by:
A Child's Garden of Verses
Professor Noah's Spaceship
Brian Wildsmith's Birds

10 comments:

tinypants said...

I had no idea Maeterlinck could be made into a kids' book.(I have a Masters' in Drama.) VERY cool.

conuly said...

Here's a book I don't know if you've reviewed, I just picked it up yesterday.

Happiness! by Eva Janikovszky. (It's a translation, first printed in English in 1969.)

Now, in light of recent posts I feel I should mention that there is one small picture of the boy riding on his grandfather's back with a mock "indian headdress". But I also should point out that this is not specifically stated and that the picture is abstract enough that I spent two minutes staring at it trying to figure out what it represented, and small enough that I didn't see it before buying. If your kid doesn't know, they probably won't even know.

Nicola said...

Brian Wildsmith's work has never really appealed to me. It's just too much for my eye. Though I do like that little leaf lady! Certainly has a 70s palette going there with the yellow, orange and green.

Scribbler said...

Thanks Conuly. I've never seen that book before.... I will definitely check it out....

I did take that post down however because, although I am all for open conversation... that's not what i am trying to do here. i originally started collecting vintage books for my son because so many of the ones available now are crappy and expensive... and to teach him about all things and everything.

and like that other website points out, all of this misrepresentation is sadly still going on in mainstream children's literature... so vintage or not, it is hard to escape it.

i'm glad I learned what I did because, like i said... i didn't even realize they were offensive. Now I know better. It is nice to be naive about ugliness in the world, but not so good to the detriment of others....

i am officially closing this subject until I screw up again.... when that happens, i hope readers will be there to help fix me of my naivete ...

nicola... and i never was a wildsmith fan either until my son started getting into birds... so i totally see your point...

conuly said...

I figured.

I won't say anything else about it since you don't want to talk about it, but just that making a mistake, or liking a book that in the cold light of day has some serious problems with it, this doesn't make you a bad person. We can say we don't like this or that book, and that doesn't mean we're casting aspersions on the people who wrote it.

And now I'm done :)

vanessa said...

I love Brian Wildsmith--we especially enjoy his 12 Days of Christmas songbook.

Kimberly said...

You are amazing, and I love reading this blog. Please keep up the good work. I've learned much from you about books and about how to handle feedback graciously.

Will said...

love it.

Jesse said...

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have found this post!! This was one of my FAVORITE books as a little girl, and I've been looking for it online for, like, years!!! No one in my family remembers it at all and I've just got the vaguest memory of the story. Googling "blue bird milk sugar dead grandparents" got me to the play, and eventually I found your blog. So excited! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely fantastic! What a great idea to dig up books we'd remember from the past. My brother and I were talking about this very book only the other day and we both agreed we remembered the illustrations more than the story - although he remembered the children's names, which is pretty impressive. I remember milk and bread coming alive and the illustrations so dream-like yet painstakingly detailed, lustrous fabric landscapes, thousands of puddingy cakes, a beautiful fountain personifying water... I want to get my hands on that book again. Why did we let it slip from our fingers?
Thank you so much for sharing this - so appreciated!

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