11 July 2008

Denslow and the Civilized Boy

Leonard S. Marcus's new history of American children's books, Minders of Make-Believe, features cover art that W. W. Denslow created in 1899 for Father Goose, his first collaboration with L. Frank Baum.

The image is licensed from Corbis (also known as "your chance to give Bill Gates even more money"). I don't see Denslow's name on online images of the jacket or copyright page, but his signature's there in the lower left corner, and Corbis credits him.

The illustration adorned Baum's poem "Civilized Boy," which I now offer for Poetry Friday:

Pray, what can a civilized boy do now,
When all the Dragons all are dead,
And the Giants stout, that we have read about,
Have never one a head?

Now, wasn't it mean that Jack o' the Bean
Should slay these monsters fast,
And the other Jack should cut and hack
When there weren't enough to last?

The boys today are as bold as they say,
As ever they were of yore;
And they'd spill a flood of Dragon's Blood
If Dragons lived any more.
As in many of his later fantasy stories, Baum was playing with the theme of traditional fairy tales in opposition to the modern world.


casemusic said...

I find it exasperating that Marcus's publisher included no info about this image anywhere in the book, including the fact that it came from a book discussed in the text.

J. L. Bell said...

The publisher might not have realized the source of that image, beyond Corbis. And the department that designs covers rarely sees the manuscripts of books or interacts directly with authors.