Monday, April 26, 2010


IN 1955, THE SAME YEAR SHE PUBLISHED THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, Patricia Highsmith began a nearly four year affair with Doris Sanders, an advertising copywriter at the McCann-Erickson Agency in New York City. The most tangible remainder of that relationship is Highsmith's only children's book, Miranda the Panda is on the Veranda (1958).

Sanders had been living with another of Highsmith's love interests when they met. Once their affair took off, they moved into a converted barn in Sneden's Landing (now Palisades), New York, where they composed Miranda.

The book consists of simple nonsense rhymes with crude literal line drawings. "Golf sox on a musk ox." "A habit on a rabbit (A funny on a bunny)." "A chandelier on a little deer."

The rhymes were written by Sanders, the illustrations drawn by Highsmith.

"An adder on a ladder." "An armadillo on a pillow." "A monk and a skunk and some junk on an elephant's trunk."

Highsmith was a womanizer, and domestic stability only made her feel stifled and smothered. In the end, she cheated on Sanders, which ended their relationship. The two went on an extended European tour as friends the next year, but were never lovers again.

I have tried, without success, to track down a copy of Miranda with a dust jacket, less for the cover image, which is the same as the first page of the book seen above, but for the flap copy. If you have access to a copy and would be willing to scan it for me, I would be happy to attach it to this post as an amendment.

For a limited time, I have posted a complete scan of Miranda the Panda is on the Veranda as a Flickr set here.

Background on Highsmith and Sanders's relationship came from the much lauded recent biography by Joan Schenkar, The Talented Miss Highsmith.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


TWO YEARS AFTER ILLUSTRATING The Cat and The Devil by James Joyce, Richard Erdoes illustrated Come Over to My House (1966) by Theo Le Sieg.

Theo LeSieg, of course, was the pen name of that other great cat creator of children's literature, Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. Geisel used the LeSieg nom de plume for books he wrote, but did not illustrate.

Come Over to My House is a tour around the world in which a young boy is shown all the different kinds of houses that people live in in other countries.

The book is told in rhyme, but it lacks the brilliant playfulness of The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham settling for simpler more obvious constructions.

Come Over to My House appeared two years after the 1964 World's Fair where Walt Disney and Mary Blair's It's A Small World debuted, and in the same year that the ride became a permanent fixture at Disneyland. Multiculturalism taught through idealized smiling faced children was a common technique adopted at that time, and can still be seen in picture books today.

Erdoes, who later went on to be an outspoken champion of Native American rights and who penned or compiled dozens of books on the subject, had his own series of books on a similar theme at the time, Around the World.

Erdoes was someone who knew about internationalism firsthand; from the author's bio for his book The Green Tree House (1965): "Richard Erdoes grew up in Vienna, Austria. He studied at Art Academies in Berlin, Vienna and Paris. He wrote and illustrated short stories and children's books until the Nazis arrived in Austria. Then he lived for two years in Paris and London....He is now a citizen of the United states..." Erdoes died at home in Santa Fe, NM in 2008.

To see more art by Richard Erdoes, visit my Flickr sets where I have posted (and will continue to post) full scans of several of his out-of-print children's books. Many of Erdoes's books are still in print, and I encourage you to seek them out, and to appeal to publishers to bring more of his books into print.

Until I am forced to take it down or lose my nerve, I have posted a full scan of Come Over to My House here. Needless to say, most of Dr. Seuss's books are still in print including many written as Theo LeSieg. To dig into this hidden canon, I recommend my personal favorite I Wish That I Had Duck Feet.

Richard Erdoes was a master of endpapers, so to finish, the endpapers to Come Over to My House.

Monday, April 19, 2010


ON AUGUST 10, 1936, JAMES JOYCE started a letter to his grandson Stevie: "I sent you a little cat filled with sweets a few days ago but perhaps you do not know the story about the cat of Beaugency."  So began what was to be Joyce's only known story written for children.  First published in Letters of James Joyce (1957) edited by Stuart Gilbert, this letter to Stevie has been subsequently published as a picture book in English two separate times: in 1964 by Dodd, Mead & Company, illustrated by Richard Erdoes, and in 1981 by Schocken Books (from a 1978 French edition), illustrated by Roger Blachon.

From the inside flap of the 1964 edition: "This charming little fable was written by James Joyce in a letter to his grandson "Stevie."  It is an incongruous but delicious mixture of Irish wit and French folklore that explains the magic overnight construction of an actual bridge across the Loire, a very old bridge over which any young reader who might doubt the tale may still walk or ride his bike this very day."

The story is a legend that has been applied to several bridges over the years.  In this version, it is the people of Beaugency who need a bridge to be built over the Loire River.

The lord mayor of Beaugency makes a deal with the Devil.  The Devil will build the much-needed bridge over the Loire River in one night on the condition that the first soul to cross the bridge will belong to the Devil.  Upon completion of the bridge the next morning, the mayor sends a cat across the bridge into the Devil's arms, fulfilling his end of the bargain but foiling the Devil's plans for acquiring a human soul.

The devil, needless to say, is quite perturbed, but he retires like a gentleman.

Joyce tells the story in a straightforward grandfatherly tone, but can not resist, in the end, a bit of word play and self reference.

In a similar moment of playfulness, Richard Erdoes made his own visual addition to the scene of the completed bridge.  Is that Madeline and her class on the bridge?

In 2005, a Croatian edition of Joyce's book came out, illustrated by Tomislav Torjanac (see below).  For more images from that edition, visit Tomislav Torjanac's website here.