The phenomenal Best In Children's Books series published by Doubleday Book Clubs from 1957-1961 [was] something of a minor league for children's book illustrators with stories drawn by artists such as Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, Peter Spier, and Barbara Cooney.Another illustrious name that can be added to that list is Andy Warhol. In the late 1950s, before turning his back on "commercial" art out of fear that the gallery world would not take him seriously, Warhol illustrated six stories for the Best In Children's Books series. At the time, he was in Doubleday's stable of freelance artists, designing book jackets and illustrating adult trade books such as the etiquette books of Amy Vanderbilt. These were works done solely for money as Warhol still struggled to find his milieu, and the art is rather bland and impersonal.
Amazingly, these illustrations are almost never mentioned in Warhol biographies and there appears to be a dearth of criticism in the academic press. The only significant acknowledgment that these Warhol drawings even exist comes from the 2009 auction of the original art for "The Little Red Hen" from Best In Children's Books 15.
The illustrations throughout this post are from "Card Games Are Fun" by Alfred Sheinwold in Best In Children's Books 27 (1959), which is currently the only volume with Warhol art that I have gotten my hands on. As usual, you can see the entire set on my Flickr account here. The other titles sell for little more than $1 online if you're eager to see more, and a complete list with lots more information on the Best In Children's Books series can be found in the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection. I'll post other books as I stumble across them.
There are other books by Warhol that are sometimes considered children's books. As far as We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie is concerned, the Best In Children's Books illustrations are Warhol's only works for children. The understandably mistaken Andy Warhol's Children's Book, was an outgrowth of an 1984 exhibit ostensibly for children "Andy Warhol's Children's Show," but the book was made in the limited quantities expected of catalogs for art exhibitions with a price point that did not invite giving it to an actual child. Similarly, the Andy Warhol Series, a group of small gift books compiled around a theme and released posthumously (titles include Yum, Yum, Yum; Love, Love, Love; Cats, Cats, Cats) look like they might be children's books, but they were never marketed as such and the art included was certainly not made by Warhol with children in mind. To explore more of Warhol's work that could tangentially be related to children, but is correctly classed as not for children, search Andy Warhol at daddytypes.com, a site that has done an exhaustive exploration of Warhol's more juvenile turns.
The background information for this post came from several Warhol biographies, and Nicholas Paley's commentary "About Andy Warhol's Work For Children" in Journal of Aesthetic Education Vol. 21, No. 4, Winter, 1987.
I WANT TO TAKE A BRIEF MOMENT to apologize for how infrequently I now update We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie. For those of you who are or have been full-time caregivers, I think mentioning that my daughter is two-and-a-half is sufficient explanation. For everybody, I hope that when I do post, it's worth the wait and that you'll all bear with me.
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