Aleph-Bet Books has issued its Catalogue 98 of Children's Books and Illustrated Books. These works are primarily both, children's and illustrated books, and though 600 items are offered, each has at least one color illustration accompanying it. As such, there are probably a few covers shown that you will remember from your childhood, especially if that time was quite awhile ago. Once again, Aleph-Bet takes us back to a time of innocence, or at least seeming innocence for we were very young.
There are but a handful of children's books that rise to the level of popularity and collectibility of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This tale of a place very unlike Kansas had already spawned dozens of books, both by its author, L. Frank Baum, and his successors, by the time it was made into one of the best known movies ever filmed. Item 60 is a copy of the first edition of this classic, published in 1900. Priced at $32,000.
Baum wrote for both children and adults, but after the great success of the Wizard, few thought of him as anything but a children's author. In fact, the association was so great that he feared using his name on other types of books could hurt his very successful career. So, when he published a novel for adults in 1908, he did so anonymously. Item 67 is The Last Egyptian: a romance of the Nile. This, too, would be made into a movie, in 1914, but unlike Judy Garland's version of the Wizard, this film was a flop. $275.
While the original Wizard was illustrated by W.W. Denslow, the next 35 of the “canonical” Oz books were illustrated by John R. Neill. In fact, Neill wrote three Oz books in the early 1940s, dying while writing a fourth. However, his work was not limited to Oz, and the year after illustrating his first title in that series, he provided the illustrations for this work: Romero and Julietta, by Tudor Jenks, published in 1905. This is the story of a princess who becomes very small, is rescued by a small prince, and then has to address the problem that arises in their relationship when she returns to full size. Item 379. $225.
After Baum died, the series was continued by Ruth Plumly Thompson. She would go on to write the next 19 “canonical” books in the series, more than anyone else, Baum included. Thompson wrote a few other books, though not nearly as many as her Oz titles. Her one book published before she started writing for Oz is this one: The Perhappsy Chaps. Published in 1918, it consists of fairy tales written in verse. Item 553. $975.
Not all children's books were meant for pure entertainment. Some carried weighty messages. Item 79 is A Home in the South, or Two Years at Uncle Warren's, by “A Lady.” Published in 1857 by the American Reform Book and Tract Society, this work was designed to instruct children in the horrors of slavery. In the story, three children lose their parents, and as a result are sent to live with their Uncle Warren in the South. The children are forewarned that the slaves are “poor degraded half brutalized creatures,” whom they should do all they can to help. Uncle Warren is oblivious to all this, but in time, he, like the children, comes to see and understand the wrongs, and by the end, frees his slaves. Unfortunately, few other slaveholders saw the light, so civil war would come a few years later to force them to act as did the fictional Uncle Warren. $1,200.