Friday, March 15, 2013

Lost and Found

I've been looking for an ancient children's book called Colors since the early days of the internet. Over the years I've perused ebay, abebooks, and hundreds of specialized blogs devoted to out-of-print books, but no dice. Turns out that there are about 8 billion children's books titled "Colors", and none of them ever turned out to be the one I wanted. 

Then I had an epiphany. I Googled "Colors" + 1970's 3-D puppet book. It led me to a curious site called The Trash Collector. I scrolled through the entries and stopped halfway down the page. My jaw dropped to the floor. After searching all these years, there it was--my old Colors book! I was ecstatic. 

I noticed that the artwork is credited to Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata, so--armed with this new information--I did a search on Amazon and whaddya know? There it was!

Of course, the book has been out of print for decades, but luckily there were some independent sellers that carried it. I ended up ordering two copies--one for $13 and one for the bargain price of 73 cents! I bought two because I want to use one for a future crafting project and keep the other one intact.    

I have fond memories of this long-lost tome from my childhood. My parents started reading to me when I was a baby, and Colors is one of the very first books I remember. I even have a photo--dated September 1975 (I would've been two years old)--of me and my cousin Jon huddled in my grandmother's armchair reading it together.

Cute little 1970's moppets!
I was thrilled to find this book, and not just for the nostalgia factor. The main reason is that I sincerely love the artwork: gorgeous color photographs of poseable puppets set against painstakingly rendered backgrounds. The effect is strange, beautiful, and somewhat creepy. 

Here are a few images from Colors, along with the accompanying text (the first copy arrived in the mail yesterday), photographed by yours truly.

Easter eggs to color--what fun it is to do! 
We'll paint them pretty colors, like purple, pink and blue.

The big yellow sun shines its light all day
But a small pink parasol keeps the brightness away.

On a shaggy green carpet, chasing a bright red ball,
A playful orange kitten has the most fun of all.

There were several 3D puppet books with artwork by Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata published between the 1960's and the 1980's. Unfortunately, there is precious little information online about the artists themselves. I'd love to learn more about them, and I'm curious to know if they have art that predates the work they did for the children's books. 

Here is some more info about the books, courtesy of The Trash Collector blog: 
Introduced in the 1960s, 3-D Picture Books were a popular import from Japan. These books featured full-page photographs of the action utlizing poseable puppets, many bearing the large eyes popular in Asian children's fare as well as in contemporary American pop-art. 
Although Colors is the only 3D puppet book I owned as a child, I do have recollections of other books from that genre, some checked out from the library, some belonged to friends. Many of them featured wicked cool lenticular (hologram) placards on the covers, like this one:

Izawa and Hijikata also did a series of fairytale books that I remember vividly, including Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and (my favorite) Snow White. I found some images online of the latter, and holy shit--they're absolutely stunning.

She ends up with the handsome prince.(Sorry if I ruined it for you.) 

It's ironic that I've spent years going out of my mind looking for Colors and I end up finding a copy on Amazon, the most prosaic of places. In fact, Amazon has a ton of the Izawa/Hijikata 3D puppet books. Some are outrageously priced--one copy of Nursery Tales is listed for $506.01 (???) but most of them are reasonably priced at under $20, and some go for under $10, depending on the condition of the book.

Of course, I'm not going to buy up all of them. For one, John would totally freak out if I spent all our money on old out-of-print children's books. Also, we don't have the space. 

I did break down and order that copy of Snow White, though. It was only nine bucks.    


Ms Sparrow said...

The illustrations really are striking. I can see why they appealed to you.

andiepants said...

Thanks Janice! They're cool, aren't they?

Sexy Savvy Geek said...

Neat. These totally remind me of the puppets from Mr. Rogers.

andiepants said...

Oh yeah, I can see that. King Friday, Queen Sara, Henrietta Pussycat. Good times.