Friday, March 11, 2016's not for the faint of heart

Sometimes, book covers can just be creepy.  A case in point is this book, “Babyhood: Rhymes and Stories, Pictures and Silhouettes for Our Little Ones,” which recently came across my desk.  In my opinion, it has a cover that just has to be shared.

The artist(s) who prepared the cover is currently unknown to us.  Some of you out there might know who the artist was (and if you do, please send the name our way). Published by Estes & Lauriat in 1878 and edited by Laura E. Richards, this book looks very sweet at first glance: a baby in a basket, what's not to love?

Then you turn the book over and look at the back cover.  There you find some nice childhood vignettes: a Jack and Jill scene, some kids running while holding hands, and even a little girl chasing a butterfly. But then your eyes are drawn unwillingly to the central figure, a somewhat creepy baby tearing through the paper cover and popping out of the book at you in a very "here's Johnny" kind of way. And you know that this baby recognizes you—and knows all about you!  Not only that, but you have a strategically placed fly to the left of the creepy baby ...

Here's a close up for your viewing pleasure:

My first thought is why? What made the publisher (and the artist who designed the cover) think that the fly was a good idea? Was there any conversation about putting a fly into the image? Flipping through the book, there doesn't appear to be a story or poem about flies although there are plenty about meadows and being outside. And was the baby popping out of the book okay when the book was first published?  I have to remind myself that The Shining wasn't around back then to cast its shadow over this innocent(?) baby picture, so the intended audience might well have thought it was cute and perhaps even endearing.  But what about the fly?

The illustrations in this volume, while mostly sweet and cute, also include a duck eating a frog, and a cat carrying away a mouse in a dress which I find mildly disturbing, though realistic (except for the mouse wearing a dress, of course). 

I wouldn't want to end this post after only showing the oddities of the book, so here is an image of the lovely pink endpapers to send your cuteness meter over the top and make partial amends for the strange baby. Who doesn't love babies and dogs?

But … what about that fly?