Friday, 25 March 2011

Y is the Yak?

I've been meaning to do a post for ages about these little children's ABC books. There are six in total and each one is 9cm square. They don't have a date anywhere on them or any publishing details, but I think they must be American and date from around or just after World War II.

One reason for dating them to WWII is the high number of warlike images -- you would never get T is for Tank and U is for U-boat nowadays.
     In fact there's a strong undercurrent of foreboding throughout all the books. A fireman tackles a blaze, a nurse runs to help someone.

Watch out, that policeman's already swinging his truncheon, and you'd better know what jail looks like, son.
Even that staple of children's dictionaries, the animals, look either malicious or forlorn. Did you ever see a more dispiriting monkey?
     The compilers of these little books have really tried to stretch their young readers' vocabularies. You can forget about X is for Xylophone and Z is for Zebra. The zebra already made an appearance as Q is for Quagga, and as for X is for Xerus -- huh??
Well I really love these books. I've long collected children's dictionaries for the very reason that the images in them are often at odds with the innocence of the concept. I had a long-running project to make narrative stories using just three pictures from these dictionaries -- a hand ringing a doorbell, a woman stepping out of the shower, a candle burning. The more grand guignol I could make the stories, the better. Perhaps I'll do a post on these one day. They were fun, but perhaps not to everyone's taste!
     I also like the typography on the covers of these little books. There's a big letter on the front and back of each, making 12 letters out of 26 possibles. I've made a few more of the easier missing ones using Photoshop, but there's still only a ...
... of words you can make. But it would be a nice typography project when I have more time!!!


Joanna said...

Wonderful images!

You wouldn't want to meet that cat down a dark alley way would you?!


LAC EMP 2020 said...

That monkey looks frightened for his life! I'd love to see some of those stories with the three images. What a challenge to set yourself.Sounds difficult but fun at the same time. Lesley