Tag Archives: pre-1900

[Q] The Quick-Change Artist (Clown Putty Face) by Lothar Meggendorfer

19 Apr

In addition to Old Daniel, I found another interesting old book at the Natural History Museum while hunting around for Attic Adventures.

Clown Putty Face, the Quick Change Artist by Lothar Meggendorfer It was an interesting children’s picture book of poetry called Clown Putty Face, the Quick Change Artist by Lothar Meggendorfer (London: H. Grevel & Co.; New York: Frederick Stokes Company, 1900, first published in German in 1899).

Clown Putty Face, the Quick Change Artist by Lothar MeggendorferThis interactive book has a 3D clown face that sticks out all the way to the front cover. (Here you can see the foam donut it came with to protect the face):

It was actually one of the first books I cleaned and organized when I started volunteering at the Natural History Museum last year, so it has a special place in my heart, despite its creepy clay face…

With each page turn, the clown face is placed in a different scene to match the poem on the opposite page:

Clown Putty Face, the Quick Change Artist by Lothar MeggendorferV.
As Cyclist.
As cyclist now the clown we view
He looks as though he better knew
To mount the wheel than ride a horse
Past trees and fields he takes his course
And while we look and turn the leaf
A change is made for time is brief.


This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Q.

[P] Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

18 Apr

(I was going to read this book for my pre-1900 book in my History of Youth Literature class, but I decided to read Black Beauty instead because I already knew the basic story of Pinocchio. I went back and read it for my “P” book, though.)

I think pretty much everyone knows the story of Pinocchio–at least the Disney version of it. It was never one of my favorite Disney movies, and after reading the original version (published by Italian author Carlo Collodi in 1883), I can kind of see why. I think the problem with the Disney version was that it stuck too close to the original story, and in the book and in the movie, Pinocchio is an exasperating character.

The purpose of the book is to teach little boys to be good and obey their parents, so naturally, Pinocchio represents all the little boys who act before they think and get into all kinds of scrapes because they go against what their parents tell . Little boys are supposed to read Pinocchio and think, “Oh, what a nice life he would have had if he had only listened to (his parents/the fairy/the cricket)!”

The main difference between the book and the movie is probably the Blue Fairy, who in the book starts as a little girl with blue hair and acts as his little sister, and later turns into a woman who acts more like a mother to him. But the role she serves is pretty much the same. She save him, chastises him, warns him not to do it again, and then sends him off on his way (so he can do something else equally or more foolish).

Also, from what I remember of the movie, Pinocchio’s most memorable feature is his nose that grows when he lies. This is not nearly as important in the book, and it even gets broken off so that it gets closer to a normal length, which is something that I don’t remember in the movie.

My memory of the movie is pretty hazy, though, since I’ve probably only watched the whole thing through once or twice a long time ago… I recently watched a Japanese stage adaptation that seemed to stick closer to the book than the movie (I remember being surprised when Pinocchio’s nose got kicked off by Geppetto’s cat, thinking it was a device they used so the actor playing Pinocchio wouldn’t have to go through the whole play with an extension on his nose, but it turns out it was actually something from the book.) I enjoyed this adaptation more than the Disney version, but probably because they deviated more from the original story. Pinocchio was put in the frame of a modern school setting, and going through the adventures of Pinocchio made the main character into a stronger person who eventually made friends with the kids who were bullying him at the beginning.

In a way, I think placing it in a modern setting gives it the context needed to see how the story can apply to real life without forcing the lesson onto students. I’ve been thinking a lot about pairing classics with modern stories and nonfiction lately because of my Youth Literature class, and this story within a story frame version of Pinocchio reminds me of what we’ve been talking about.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter P.

[O] Old Daniel by Margaret King Moore

17 Apr

(This was first written for my History of Youth Literature class. For my first assignment, we had to write about the oldest book we could find in an assignment called Attic Adventures. The title is technically The Stories of Old Daniel, but it’s often shortened to Old Daniel, so I decided it would be okay to use for the letter “O” for A-to-Z.)

Stories of Old Daniel by Margaret King MooreThe oldest children’s book I found was The Stories of Old Daniel: or, Tales of wonder and delight. Containing narratives of foreign countries and manners, and designed as an introduction to the study of voyages, travels, and history in general by Margaret King Moore[1] (Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1808). It was published during the end of the Enlightenment period of children’s publishing. However, it was part of the Godwins’ Juvenile Library[2], which aimed to encourage a child’s imagination rather than teach morality, placing it closer to the Victorians in sentiment. The table of contents promised exciting stories like “The Ventriloquist,” “The Unlucky Travellers,” and “The Murderer.” Because the book was so old, it had to be handled very carefully, so I wasn’t able to read the whole thing, but I was able to flip through the pages and figure out that the book was about a well-traveled man called Old Daniel who told stories about his adventures to the boys at a day school. According to the first few pages, the boys wrote his stories down and later presented the book to Old Daniel, so presumably the narrator of the book was one of those boys.

In the Natural History Museum library catalog, Old Daniel had been recorded as being published in 1810 with a question mark after the date, but when I researched it further, I found that the second edition was published in 1810, but the first edition (the one in the collection) had been published in 1808. There was also a third edition published in 1813, and a sequel was published a few years later (WorldCat has it at 1820), showing that the book itself was very popular in its own time. It has since been reprinted a few times and is currently available in an anthology of children’s literature by Irish authors from 1765 to 1808.

The book itself is small and worn, with brittle and torn edges and stains (foxing) on the pages. The cover is a plain brown, with powdery edges (red rot?) that rubbed off when I handled it. It looks old enough to perhaps be the original cover, but the spine has definitely been rebound with library binding. On the title page, there is an inscription that says it had been presented in 1823 to someone named James by his cousin. To the left of the title page is a frontispiece showing scared boys being approached by a dirty-looking traveler, with the caption “An Old Friend with a New Tale.” Interestingly, this frontispiece image was replaced by one showing Old Daniel waving a stick around surrounded by boys listening to his stories in the 2nd edition, and in the 3rd edition, the scene becomes even more genial with his stick resting next to his chair.

[1] Moore was an Irish noblewoman, Lady Mount Cashell, and Mary Wollstonecraft had been her governess as a child. (http://exhibitions.nypl.org/biblion/outsiders/outsiders/section/godwinsec5)

[2] Started by William Godwin (Mary Wollstonecraft’s husband until her death) and Mary Jane Godwin (his second wife), it also published The Swiss Family Robinson and Tales from Shakespeare. (http://exhibitions.nypl.org/biblion/outsiders/outsiders/story/storygodwinjuvenile)

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter O.

[B] Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

2 Apr

(This was first written for my History of Youth Literature class.)

For my pre-1900 book, I read Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, which was first published in 1877. The book is an autobiographical account of the life of a horse told from the horse’s point of view. Sewell’s descriptions of horses and their behavior make it easy for readers to imagine themselves in the horse’s place and sympathize with his feelings. I can see how this book would turn young readers into animal lovers (as it did to at least one of my students who would be a vegetarian if her mom would let her). At the same time, I also felt very strongly the underlying message of treating others with love and respect conveyed through the story.

When I was growing up, I wanted a horse as much as the next girl, but because everyone around me was reading this book, I thought it was too “mainstream” and didn’t read it just to be different. By the time people around me had stopped reading it, I thought it was too “easy” and never went back to read it. While I was in college, I played polo for a year and learned that it was dirty, hard work taking care of horses, which cured me of the desire to ever own my own horse. Having experience with horses helped me better imagine what was going on in the book, though, and in a way, I’m glad that my first time reading the book came after I learned how to ride and take care of a horse myself.

Black Beauty gave me goosebumps from the very first chapter reading about the title character’s experiences with kindness and cruelty throughout his life. I could see how Sewell wrote her message of love for animals and other people in a way that would teach children (and adults) the core of the Christian faith in a very real way without being preachy. Maybe I’m getting sappy in my old(ish) age, but as with all good books, I was drawn into the world of Black Beauty and didn’t want to leave.

Also, as a Los Angeles native, I particularly enjoyed Sewell’s descriptions of weaving a horse and cab through London traffic. I wish that my car were as intelligent driving through L.A. traffic as Black Beauty was going through London!

Black Beauty is usually seen as a girly book, but I don’t see any reason why boys would not enjoy this story as much as girls. There’s plenty of action and adventure, and the main character (Black Beauty) is male. I think more boys should be encouraged to read this story. 🙂

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter B.