Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vintage Whimsy

From Lion, thanks to Eliz.avery

William Pène du Bois was an American author/illustrator who led a happy, productive life 
writing and illustrating wonderfully whimsical children's books. He was born in 1916 
into an artistic family: his father was a painter and art critic, his mother a designer 
of children's clothes, while his sister also became a painter. 

 Elizabeth, the Cow Ghost, 1936

In 1924 the family moved to France, where du Bois attended a boarding school.
During this period he developed his lifelong passions for France, Jules Verne, 
and the circus. The family returned to the US when du Bois was fourteen, 
and he received a scholarship to the Carnegie Technical School of Architecture. 
His plans changed when, to his surprise, he sold Elizabeth the Cow Ghost, 
a children's book he had written and illustrated as a diversive during vacation. 

 Giant Otto, 1936 

Otto at Sea in a revised and re-illustrated edition, 1958

Following his first success, in the same year du Bois produced Giant Otto and 
Otto at Sea. These two books about the adventures of a giant otterdog 
were the first in a popular series of Otto books that continued through the 1970's. 

Du Bois joined the Army in 1941 and worked as a correspondent for Yank magazine
After his discharge in 1945, he continued as a correspondent for Yank and in 1953
was a founding member and the first art director of The Paris Review
 In 1947 du Bois published The Twenty-One Balloons, which received 
the Newberry Medal in 1948 and became his most famous book. 

Other awards followed, including Caldecott Honor awards for Bear Party in 1951 
and Lion in 1957. The latter is an original story about how the Artist Foreman 
designed LION in the animal factory at the beginning of the universe. 
As you can see, before getting it right he had to make a few adjustments.

Three Little Pigs, 1962

The Alligator Case (1965) and The Horse in the Camel Suit (1967) 
parody the detective novels of Raymond Chandler.

Cover and spread from Fierce John, 1969, found here

Du Bois was a disciplined craftsman who produced at least one illustration a day. 
During his career, he illustrated twenty-five of his own books and 
forty-one by other authors including Roald Dahl, Edward Lear and John Steinbeck
Only four of these titles are in print today, including The Twenty-One Balloons 
and three books written by others: Twenty and TenA Certain Small Shepherd
and William's DollDu Bois died in Nice, France in 1993. 


  1. Wonderful! Makes me want to be a kid again.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.



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