Monday, 20 November 2017

The Squirrel's Breakfast

I know lots of you enjoy vintage postcards so today I'm sharing a few more from my collection.

An unused postcard published by Valentine & Sons in pristine condition. 

Published by J. Salmon and posted in 1940 the message reads;
Dear Mummy, thank you for the lovely Bonzo card you sent me. Please send me some more Bonzo cards but no fairies. With love from me.

Another Salmon card posted in 1933 - the message reads;
Dear Helen, I hope you had a nice time at Auntie
 Stella's the other day. I'm sorry darling to hear that all your dollies are sick & naughty, but 'praps they are well and good again now! Aren't these two little bunnies darling.
Only four days more here then mummie and daddy start for home, so Helen will soon have her surprise present. Lots of love and kisses my sweet pet from mummie and daddy xxxx

An unused postcard published by Valentine & Sons

An unused postcard published by J. Salmon Ltd

All the cards that follow are published by Valentine's.
This card and the one that follows were sent to Virginia in 1938, and they both have the same message which is;
Lots of love from Nannie xxxx

Another card from Nannie this time the message reads:
Dear Virginia, I hope you are being good. Have you been walking in the rain? I have. 
Lots of love from Nannie

This one also posted in 1938 says;
See you Friday darling. 
Love from Nannie

This one posted in 1937 has no message but is covered in kisses so a message of sorts.

Rain on the green grass. Rain on the trees. And rain on the house-top but not on me!
Damaged card with no message. 

This one posted in 1954 reads;
Dear Lesly hurry up and get well soon. With love from Janet and Jan.

This final card is for the little girl who requested more Bonzo cards but no fairies. đŸ˜‰

*The first twelve postcards are illustrated by Rene Cloke the last one is by G. E. Studdy.   

Sunday, 12 November 2017


I’m not quite sure where my enchantment with old circus wagons got its start!

I’ve always been a fan of the old more so than the new—perhaps a side effect of having a godmother who specialized in teaching Modern European History and who took me along as a child to movies about Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, and Mary, Queen of Scots.
Or perhaps it was a result of reading my way through childhood, with plenty of fairy tales populated by knights and dragons, along with Greek myths and their panoply of magical creatures.
Whatever the cause, I knew almost from the minute I thought of creating a series of children’s books about a cat in a small town circus museum, that one of the stories would weave a mysterious and old circus wagon into the plot. And so the second Finnigan book became, quite naturally, “Finnigan and the Lost Circus Wagon.” The plot revolves around the arrival, at the little museum that has become his home, of a decrepit wagon that has seen better days, but holds a valuable secret. In the course of the story, crooks must be outwitted, the mystery must be solved, and Finnigan’s presence must remain a secret to the humans in the story.
But here I want to share my utter fascination with these wagons, which harken back to the Golden Age of circus parades. Imagine, if you will, a time before television, before MTV, before the Internet! Back in the day, before we had the world at our fingertips with our smart phones and tablets, everybody turned out to watch the circus parade that heralded the wonders to be found under the Big Top that had just arrived. But it wasn’t just the panoply of the performers and the clowns and the exotic animals that drew the eye. The wagons that doubled as bandwagons and storage wagons and animal cages were an extravagantly theatrical art form of their own.

The Finnigan books began with a combination of a real kitten in the family, and the fact that my younger daughter is a contemporary circus aerialist—think more Cirque du Soleil than Barnum & Bailey. Circus, kitten…kitten, circus…you might imagine that the books were inevitable! But an added element was that my daughter and I, for the past several years, have made what amounts to a yearly pilgrimage for inspiration to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, built on what was the original home of the Ringling Brothers Circus.
The wagons there, many of which have got intensive restoration, are jaw-droppingly beautiful. There are fairy tales, and tales of valor, beasts both mythical and real, and scenes of incredible imagination. Lions roar, tigers leap, mermaids and dolphins cavort, and St. George battles a magnificent dragon. And nestled in amongst them quite naturally--although technically not a wagon--is the spectacularly embellished Gavioli pipe organ, built in Paris in 1905 and trotted around the United States to various carnivals via railroad for decades. I could spend days rather than hours walking among them, admiring their artistry and craftsmanship, and reflecting on just how much courage and strength it has always taken circus folk to embrace a disciplined and gruelling life of entertainment on the road, conjuring magic and laughter and wonder from town to town.
And so when I began to draw the illustrations for this second Finnigan book, it wasn’t much of a leap to draw some of the pictures either from a few of my favorite historic wagons, or from posters and signs from a century ago. Like I said, I generally favor the old over the new! 

So here’s a gallery of some of my favorite wagons, and some of the incredible details that never fail to spark my admiration. To old circus wagons, and the colorful history they still bring to life!

Mary T. Wagner is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who changed careers at forty by going to law school and becoming a criminal prosecutor. However, she never could step away from the written word entirely, and inevitably the joy of writing drew her back to the keyboard.

A Chicago native, this mother of four and recent new grandmother now lives in "coastal Wisconsin," where she draws much inspiration for writing from frequent trips to the shore of Lake Michigan, watching the waves ebb and flow and make shifting mosaics of sunlight on the sandy lake floor.

Her first three essay collections - Running with Stilettos, Heck on Heels and Fabulous in Flats garnered numerous national and regional awards, including a Gold E-Lit Book Award, an Indie Excellence Award, and "Published Book of the Year" by the Florida Writers Association. Her latest essay collection, When the Shoe Fits…Essays of love, life and second chances rounds up her favourites and reader favourites into a "best of" collection available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.  Her newest publishing venture is a series of children's chapter books for young readers. Finnigan the Circus Cat the first book in the series was featured on my blog here. Finnigan and the Lost Circus Wagon is the second book in the series. If you are interested in acquiring a copy (and I heartily recommend it), you can do so here

I know readers of my blog will want to join me in thanking Mary for such an interesting and entertaining post. Thank you Mary.   

Monday, 6 November 2017

Josephine Keeps House illustrated by Honor C. Appleton

Regular readers of my blog might remember me telling you about a recent purchase from Marchpane books in London. It’s a really nice copy of Josephine Keeps House by Mrs H. C. Cradock. 

Credited with being one of the most popular children’s writers between the wars Mrs Cradock, daughter of an Anglican Clergyman was born August Whiteford in 1863. She married Henry Cowper Cradock in 1893 and wrote under her married name. She died in 1941 having survived her husband by eight years. If you would like to know more about her, The British Library website is a very good place to start.  

Josephine Keeps House by Mrs H. C. Cradock. title page

The Illustrations are by Honor C. Appleton (1879 – 1951). Honor Appleton studied at the South Kensington Schools (which later became the Royal College of Art), Frank Caderon's School of Animal Painting and the Royal Academy Schools. At the end of her first year at the RA Schools, she published The Bad Mrs Ginger (1902). She became a professional illustrator eight years later with Blake's Songs of Innocence (1910). During the following three decades she illustrated over one hundred and fifty books. While the best known of her early illustrations were for the 'Josephine' series, she produced much other fine work. [The Illustrators The British Art of Illustration 1800- 1997: Chris Beetles Limited, London]

Josephine Keeps House by Mrs H. C. Cradock. Colour plate

There are eleven Josephine books in the series plus three compilations;

Josephine and her dolls 1916 Blackie
Josephine’s happy family 1917 Blackie
Josephine is busy Blackie 1918
The big book of Josephine (contains all three of the stories above) Blackie 1919
Josephine’s birthday Blackie 1920
Josephine, John and the puppy Blackie 1920
Josephine keeps school Blackie 1925
The bonny book of Josephine (contains all three of the above stories) Blackie 1926
Josephine goes shopping Blackie 1926
Josephine’s Christmas party blackie 1927
Josephine keeps house blackie 1931
The Josephine dolly book (contains happy family Josephine John Josephine busy) blackie 1934
Josephine's Pantomime Blackie 1939
Josephine goes travelling Blackie 1940

Josephine Keeps House by Mrs H. C. Cradock. Colour plate

In the first book in the series, we get to meet the dolls who are really the stars of the show. I’m sure the author had fun describing them as in; Charlie has pale blue eyes, a crack in his head, a little hole in his nose and no feet and no arms.  While Sunny Jim is “Always smiling even though the back of his head is off.”

Josephine Keeps House by Mrs H. C. Cradock. Colour plate

In Josephine Keeps House Josephine and the dolls are moving but as Josephine explains, “We can’t find one that will do,” “so we must build.” “Now we must count you and see exactly who is big, who is little and all that." 

Josephine Keeps House by Mrs H. C. Cradock. Colour plate

The first time I looked at the two little dolls in the corner of this picture I assumed they were conjoined twins. However, they are described as “The two Koreans.”  "One arm off each."  

Josephine Keeps House by Mrs H. C. Cradock. Colour plate

Have you read anything written by Mrs H. C. Cradock?  

Josephine Keeps House by Mrs H. C. Cradock. Black and white illustration

Josephine Keeps House by Mrs H. C. Cradock. Black and white illustration

I can’t remember every throwing away broken toys. Damaged dolls were great for playing hospitals with. What about you, did you play with your toys long after they were past their best? Do you still have them? 

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