BOOK SELLING (AND BUYING)
A couple weeks ago, I made an expedition which, among other things, demonstrated why people go to bookstores, particularly second-hand bookstores. Such forays are essentially fishing trips. Fishing is different from hunting. For fishing, you have a fishing pole; for hunting, you have a rifle (or bow and arrow, I suppose).
When hunting, you know what you’re going for, and when you see your prey, you get it in the sights of your weapon and fire. But when fishing, you don’t know, quite, what will nibble the hook you drop into the water. Sometimes, you catch something good; sometimes, not so good.
Visits to second-hand bookstores are fishing trips. Sometimes, you find some treasure that you’ve always been looking for — or something you didn’t even know existed but a treasure nonetheless; sometimes, you don’t catch anything.
Well, I caught a couple things. Beginning in about the fifth grade, I was an avid reader of the Freddy the Pig books by Walter Brooks. I’d seen one of these books on a bookshelf in the classroom, and after reading it, I began looking for the rest of the series in the city library — Freddy the Detective, Freddy and Mr. Camphor, Freddy and the Bean Home News, and so on. There are 26 titles all told; I haven’t read but maybe 8 or 10 of them — all while still in the fifth grade.
Freddy and all the other animals in the books talk — among themselves, and, in Freddy’s case, with humans. Freddy often must disguise himself as a human in order to accomplish his purpose in that book, whatever it might be. So he dresses up in human clothing and walks on his hind trotters, looking like a short, chubby pink-faced person.
Some people think Brooks’ Freddy books were inspired by Orwell’s Animal Farm. Both authors have pigs on a farm, virtually running things. But Freddy first appeared in 1927; Animal Farm came out in 1945. So if anyone inspired anyone else, it was the other way around.
The Freddy books were all illustrated by Kurt Wiese, who drawings I always love. And on this bookstore trip we made, I happened upon a book I didn’t know existed: The Art of Freddy. In it, many of Wiese’s illustrations were displayed. A treasure, I’m sure you’ll agree. I did. And I bought the book as fast as I could. I’ve posted scans of a couple pages.
But that wasn’t the only treasure I found. I also found (and promptly bought) The Lone Ranger’s New Deputy. Published in 1951, it was illustrated by Ted Shearer, who worked most of his life in commercial art but who, towards the end, became a syndicated comic strip cartoonist with Quincy, the daily gentle adventures of a black kid in an inner city. Shearer, I should note, was also African American. The strip is one of the most beautifully drawn in the history of the medium.
The Lone Ranger illustrations don’t at all remind me of Quincy, but I’m delighted to have this specimen of Shearer’s earlier work on my self. I’ve posted scans of a couple pages from the book—plus a page of Quincy strips.