11 April 2011

This is the Past

From the Boston Globe I learned that Rizzoli has reissued M. Sasek’s This is… series of travel books for children, such as This is Paris, This is Greece, and the ahead-of-its-time This is the Way to the Moon. The latest is last month’s This is Washington, D.C.

Those eighteen books were published between 1959 and 1974, and I remember leafing through them at the tail end of that span. It wasn’t just the exotic locales that stuck with me, but also Sasek’s style of art and design. Even then the books seemed to come out of the Old World and out of the past, without the fresh vibrancy of, say, Richard Scarry’s Busy, Busy World, which was published in the middle of that same era.

The Globe states, “some facts in the reissued editions have been updated,” but Rizzoli’s catalogue copy for This is Hong Kong (where a lot has changed since 1969) describes those updates “appearing on a ‘This is . . . Today’ page at the back of the book.”

And of course the illustrations can’t easily be altered. Sasek’s art still has a Catch Me If You Can vibe, from when Americans dressed up to travel instead of dressing down. I look at these reissues, and think if they must be selling on the basis of adult nostalgia and artistic appreciation rather than child curiosity. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) That would certainly explain the The is London tea towel.

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