Today is my big sister's 31st birthday...Happy B-Day Miss M! Or I should say Mrs. M since she's married now. With the budget restrictions in full-effect, I feel like the Little Drummer Boy on the occasion of her birthday. I have no gift to bring, pa rum pa pum pum... BUT, I will not let the occasion go without distinguishing her and it.
My sister has always been a great reader. While I was messing around with crayons and paste, she was breezing through Little Women, every single edition of Sweet Valley High, and Anne of Green Gables - all of them, even after Anne grows up and marries Gilbert. One periodical that she also read through was Cricket Magazine.
Founded in 1973 by Marianne Carus, who wanted to create a "New Yorker magazine for children." Her lush periodicals were filled with beautiful illustrations, poetry, and stories that my sister positively ate up when they arrived in the mailbox. Cricket is still in publication, and still targeted for 9 - 14 year olds, but as a grandmother of the Harry Potter craze, adults can read it too. Little critters also appear in the margins - Cricket, Ladybug, and Tom, to be exact- and they explain difficult words or situations, helping along the young linguist.
True to visual form, I always loved the pictures. For instance, this cover illustration from Cricket in October, 1975 - the month my sister was born. (To be fair, we actually received this issue as a hand-me-down back issue from the collection of our friend and neighbor Astrid, once she had outgrown it.) I loved this cover so much that I have actually kept it in my files of precious things with the intention that it will one day be framed in my home. I used to spend hours and hours staring at this image, creating stories behind all of the little vignettes that I saw in the simple black silhouettes...: Who cut the bars of the dungeon to escape? Was it the goblin under the bridge? Or maybe someone that had been caught and put in the pit under the hill - the lowly hand grasping at the skeleton. What's happening in the castle - is it a party? Is that why the maharaja came? Is that a princess in the tower? What about the frog on the drawbridge - will it hop away before the elephant comes? Where did the elephant come from anyways? What about the unicorn? Is it in cahoots with the witches? How could all those witches live in that little house - wait, it isn't a house - it has a big foot, does it just walk away? What about the owl in the tree, what does he know? Is that a nice dragon or a mean one?
I'll cut this web-spinning off before I have a flashback, but suffice it to say, the illustration by Jan Pienkowski has fueled my imagination for years. I am thrilled to find that he is producing new books of silhouettes for new generations of children. This illustration looks to be similar to his book of "The Fairy Tales" - illustrating classic stories in silhouette formats on Italianate swirl-print backgrounds. While this book has been available in the UK, it is only just arriving state-side, and is now on Amazon.com.
But back to the birthday. As a way to help my sister celebrate, I only thought it appropriate that I remind her that her current self as a brilliant legal eagle was formed early-on in the pages of Cricket. Happy Birthday and lots of love!!!
PS - Spoiler! I did give my sister a present - a talisman of moral integrity in the legal world: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - with the inscription that her outlook will always remain Capra-esque, as everyone's should be.