Bravo, Tortue(Bravo Tortoise), 1950; 7″ x 8 1/4″
Last week we met, Christina, working at our beloved Cafe Neuf—here in Toronto for a 1 year hiatus from work at the Paris publisher, Flammarion. On hearing this from her, it was a very quick step to happily discussing the Pere Castor children’s illustrated books (which adults can’t resist)—a commitment by Flammarian going back to the early 1930s.
Today we bring you 2 issues of the series in our collection, which we didn’t cover in the previous blogs. Our pairing today is special in that it spotlights one from the Golden Era of the 1930s, with illustrations by Rojan; but, for a change of pace, one from 1950, illustrated by Romain Simon.
Let’s begin with the youngster, wherein Simon not only covers the visuals but also the text, a version of the well known race of the hare and the tortoise, titled, Bravo,Tortue (Bravo, Turtle).
Rendered here is the overconfident rabbit, Vif (Quick)
The tortoise (in this version a wise and elderly lady) sensibly prepares for the big day. Strictly earth tones and simple compositions allow the ancient truths about preparation, perseverance, politeness and modesty to more directly cut to the chase.
Bourru, l’Ours Brun (Brown Bear), 1936. Front Cover; 8 1/4″ x 9″
Bourru, l’Ours Brun (Brown Bear), 1936. Back Cover
Where Tortue gives us virtually a timeless story (from Aesop, an ancient writer) Bourru is a wonder of specific affection, vicissitudes and courage with graphic panache leading the way.
The cub, along with his twin sister, Polka, denizens, we learn, of Eastern Europe, is born in the dead of winter. And only his mother’s great attentions keep them alive. This little family is visited by the cubs’ older brother to make their way toward adulthood.
Much more is made in this story, about the typical regime of learning survival skills, than in the more poetic volumes of Pere Castor, like, Quipic (The Hedgehog).
A two-year-old Bourru demonstrates skills in discerning the scents of various animals and food.
He revels in fishing. Being far more daring than his sister, Bourru comes through a School of Hard Knocks in a wild forest.
The nearly-adult children say goodbye to their mother. Here a sense of solitude (entirely devoid of sentimentality) takes us far beyond children’s literature.