A guest post by one of our favourite bloggers, Scribbler, founder and writer extraordinaire of the utterly fabulous blog called Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves. She is mum to a 4-year-old aficianado of vintage kids’ books.
I’ve loved books my whole life. Children’s picture books in particular, and if you read my blog, you know I sort of went nuts after I had my son… obsessively collecting books for him that I’d had as a child and ones I wished I’d had. I don’t remember exactly which Molly Brett title was my first… I just remember an American childhood filled with her books and illustrations. Wonderful little worlds inhabited by cuddly animals and fairies. Adorable wooded scenes with teddy bears and squirrel babies. A moss-covered wonderland where salamanders lead pet snails around on leashes. Owls wear top hats. Where children’s toys are in cahoots with sparrows. And frogs shop for sausage links. All the sorts of things little girls imagine to be happening right outside their bedroom windows when they are just out of ear shot.
A native of Surrey, England, Molly’s mother was a painter of animals, so although Molly had no training, she was a natural at creating the stories so many children around the world came to love. Under her publisher, The Medici Society of London, she produced 21 books and countless illustrations for greeting cards and prints before her death at 88 years old in 1990.
I spent hours and hours of my youth, poring over these intriguing tales, then would close my eyes at night and wish and pray they were real. Oh, what I would have given to be invited to an animal tea party! One of my favorite stories from this book in particular is called “The New Policeman” and involves a mess of sweet forest animals driving around in toy cars:
Fuzzy Hedgehog felt rather lonely as he scuttled through the wood, for the other animals found him too prickly to play with, although he longed for friends and to join in all that went on around him. Just then he saw a notice on an oak tree which said—‘Nest Builders and Hole Holders are asked to a Meeting to discuss the Dangers of Traffic on Winding Way.’
Well, one thing leads to another, and one can only imagine how proud Fuzzy must’ve felt when he received his policeman’s helmet and set to work making the traffic right. Delightful! If I remember correctly, most of her books were made up of a series of stories, each with one illustration in color and then sketches on the type-page in black and white.
There is lots of Beatrix Potter on these pages, and one has to assume Molly grew up studying her books. There’s just something about the English countryside that breeds this sort of enchantment. Brett… Potter… Milne. The landscapes and gardens are ripe for one’s imagination to pick. A medley of trickling brooks and sparkling skies. Shadows and toadstools and beds of leaves hidden beneath shady branches. Really, I could wax poetic for a lifetime about these amazing people who brought the magic of England all the way across the pond to my own little bewitching corner of the globe. South Carolina might be a world away from Surrey, but to my childish heart, we were all living in the same hundred-acre wood.