Incidentally, I received another guest post in my inbox yesterday from one of my favorite book bloggers. What I do in quantity, he more than makes up for in quality. While my blog is a ditsy blond who overuses words like "cute", "sweet" and "awesome", his is the ivy league professor... a literary powerhouse who tells us more about authors and books than I ever could. Meet Ariel, author of the blog We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie, a place that highlights children's books by classic authors not otherwise known for writing children's books. The man does his research. So, without further blah, blah, I welcome Ariel and his book smarts to my humble abode.
W. T. Cummings ~ Whittlesy House, 1960
After seeing the Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves post for Miss Esta Maude's Secret, I interlibrary-loaned all four of W. T. Cummings's picture books. While Esta Maude and The Girl in the White Hat are more whimsical and therefore perhaps more fun, the masterpiece is The Kid.
This is the children's book Cormac McCarthy would write if he wrote a picture book, complete with the dead grandfather, the horse, and the lone boy's journey through the mountains. While it is never explicitly said that the grandfather is dead, just that "now the boy was alone," it is about death and mourning and my two-year-old right away asked what had happened to the grandfather. When I told her, she was silent, her brow furrowed but her eyes active, clearly trying to absorb the idea. Even with that puzzle at its center, she has sat through it more than once.
According to Gale Biography in Context, Cummings' full name is Walter Thies Cummings (which seems odd given that the bio in one of his books shows he was known as "Bill"). He was born May 31, 1933, in San Diego, CA. He received a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University in 1962, and served in the U.S. Air Force for four years where he became airman first class. As far as Gale is concerned, Cummings was still alive as of 2002. I haven't been able to find any obit online, and oddly enough, no other reference to him in any capacity. He produced only four picture books: The Girl in the White Hat (1959), The Kid (1960), Miss Esta Maude's Secret (1961), and Wickford of Beacon Hill (1962). The Girl in the White Hat was one of the 10 Best Illustrated in the New York Times in 1959, a year that included Little Blue and Little Yellow among other now classics.
I've posted the entire book on my Flickr, here.
Miss Esta Maude's Secret
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