Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Have You Seen Birds?

Have You Seen Birds?
Joanne Oppenheim ~ Julio de Diego
Young Scott, 1968

I almost wasn't going to write about this book today, as I know sometimes I overwhelm with the bird books, but then I dug a little deeper into the artist and decided to share the intrigue. Have You Seen Birds? was re-illustrated in a more contemporary edition, but I couldn't find much on this original. However, there is a ton about the artist. It's not often you see someone who was considered a fine art painter delve into the world of children's books. It makes me so curious as to how it came about. A Spaniard by birth, he (not surprisingly) conceived carnival performances, designed opera sets, was a jeweler and lithographer, and was married to Gypsy Rose Lee for a spell. (Here's a picture of them together from the Life Magazine archives.) His paintings have been shown all over the world, in a fascinating life story that ended in Sarasota, Florida, which if you've never been there, has a colorful artistic history unto its own. So, how did he find his way here, painting these fluid birds for children? Curiouser and curiouser.

Have you seen birds?
Bug-sized small birds?
Long-legged tall birds?
Brightly breasted
gaily crested
meadow tan or fancy fan.
Have you seen birds?

Was this the only book he did? And who did he meet that inspired him or charged him to paint a children's book? Gosh, I almost can't stand it sometimes, the amount of talent in the world, swirling around. And the ones who get remembered the most, how is that decided? To me, that's the best thing about the Internet. Books like these would have slowly crumbled away, one by one. But now, somewhere in cyberspace, each one is getting slowly chronicled or remembered or talked about. Will the Internet last forever? Will it be able to handle all the information and images it gets filled with everyday? What happens when blogs like these go and someone stops paying for the domain names? Where does it go then? It's hurts my brain almost as much as thinking about the universe itself does.

All cosmic woes aside, this is a beautiful little book filled with all sorts of fabulous notions about our winged-friends. I'm glad I reconsidered it this morning.


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Vivi said...

Glad you shared this book! It's beautiful. I love, love, love the watercolor colors...

Lise said...

I love it when you post bird books--and hate it, too, because I know I'm going to have to go and buy another one! My daughter loves birds, too. We have the more contemporary version of this one, but WOW--this one is so much more beautiful!! Must have it! Thanks for sharing it.

At least some of the books will live on in the minds of the many people who read your blog.

Burgin Streetman said...

I know... that top one with the birch trees kills me!

Luisa said...

The books is beautiful thanks for sharing.

Queen of the Nook said...

You always give me food for thought!

daysease said...

I think you must have the most amazing selection of books. If I could, I would get lost in your collection, I should think. However do you choose which to let go, and which to keep? Oh, it makes my heart ache to get rid of a book. I dream of having an extensive and most amazing library of my own someday. I have yet to build up my Italian book selection, but, once i get on that it should be interesting. Thanks for sharing. really, truly. and, the stories behind the scenes are ALWAYS intriguing to me. I am a fan of Google as Wikipedia has come in handy more times than I can mention for just such searches. Have a wonderful eventing.

Nohemí said...

Lovely watercolours!!

Ariel S. Winter said...

It looks like the only other juvenile that Julio de Diego illustrated was "A Stranger in the Spanish Village" by Anita MacRae Feagles (1964). There don't seem to be any images online, although a few copies are up for sale.

DB said...

Really nice water media drawings of birds, very naturalistic but also really successful as illustrations from their fanciful settings.

I'm sending you an email to webe@soon Please read!

Hanah said...

How interesting! I picked up a different edition of this book at a garage sale maybe a year ago, also out of print, but the illustrations are completely different. I also love the illustrations in my version, which are done in a claymation putty style. My son and I completely love both the text and the illustrations, but it's so neat to see that it was published earlier with a different set of lovely artwork.

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