Tuesday, February 6

Finally Featuring Louis Slobodkin

Ian McKenzie guessed correctly that last week's mystery artist was Louis Slobodkin, illustrator of one of my favorite children's books, The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. Before Louis was an illustrator of children's books, he was a sculptor, and you saw a couple of his sculptures in the two mystery artist posts. The one of young Abe Lincoln was done for the 1939 New York Worlds Fair, but it was never exhibited there.
. . . when the Slobodkins arrived at the Fair on opening day to inspect the installation, they were informed by a doorman: "'Taint here any more." The shocking word quickly went round that workmen had demolished the statue on order of Theodore Hayes, Executive Assistant to the Federal Commissioner for the World's Fair, Edward Flynn. Five days later, Slobodkin told The New York Times that, according to a source in Washington, his sculpture had indeed been set upon with sledgehammers, reportedly because a lady who "lunched with Flynn" had not found it to be in "good taste."
It's hard for me to imagine, looking back from my vantage point close to 70 years later, what it was about Slobodkin's young Abe that the woman found not in "good taste". What could it be? That it was a little exaggerated, and not entirely realistic? I feel a little better knowing that the destruction of the Rail Joiner caused plenty of controversy, even drawing Eleanor Roosevelt, who was disheartened by what happened to the statue, into the fray.

Not long after this incident, Louis Slobodkin met Eleanor Estes, who was able to persuade him to illustrate her children's book The Moffats, and he went on to illustrate two more books on the Moffat family. Don't the pictures in the Moffat books (example on the left) look as if they were done by a sculptor?

Another book illustrated by Louis--the one for which he was awarded a Caldecott Medal, and a favorite of many--is James Thurber's Many Moons, the story of the little princess who wants the moon.

However, Louis Slobodkin didn't just illustrate other people's books; he illustrated 50 that he wrote himself. One of my favorites of those he wrote is Hustle and Bustle, the story of two hippos in the zoo.

They were very good friends—

VERY, VERY, VERY GOOD FRIENDS!

Until the day it became obvious to everyone that the friendship ended.

When I did the series of mystery artist posts last year, I wanted to feature Louis Slobodkin, but couldn't find much about him on the internet. I knew he'd been a sculptor, but there just weren't any photos of his work. So imagine how happy I was to recieve an email from Carol Reid, pointing me to her new website featuring Louis Slobodkin. Just about everything there is to know about Louis is there all in one place, including all the information and the quotes in this post. You'll find the sculptures, the children's books, The New Yorker cartoons, and much more.

This is one of Louis Slobodkin's cartoons in The New Yorker. Can't read the caption? Put your cursor over the cartoon or click for the larger version. What do you think? I'd say it might be a good thing he concentrated most on his children's books.

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