Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy, Not-So-Happy, then once again Happy Highways!

For the next few postings I thought I'd share a long-delayed cautionary tale concerning the joys of acquiring original art and the disappointments of long distance shipping.

Part 1:

Attending elementary school in Canada in the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s meant that there was a good chance that you might have been exposed to a series of readers published by Toronto, Ontario based J.M. Dent and Sons. I did grow up during the aforementioned period and was exposed to these three early 1960s books during my formative years. "Happy Highways 4", "Under Canadian Skies 5" and "Broad Horizons 6" were each three hundred-plus page hardcovers, lavishly illustrated by Jerry Lazare and Lewis Parker in full colour and black & white. Wonderfully evocative illustrations graced nearly every spread, accompanying the varied stories of Canada's past, present and future. Even after I had long moved beyond these educational volumes I fondly remembered the enjoyment they brought me.

In the late 1990s I was lucky enough to find copies of all three books at a used bookstore during a visit back home. In the intervening years I had become an illustrator, and I now appreciated these works not only for the pleasant memories they brought back but also for the style and skill of the illustrator's work that was so clearly abundant. They quickly took a prominent place in my bookshelf.

Earlier this year I decided to share my love of these books by posting a number of the illustrations from them to the image sharing site Flickr. Response was positive and a couple of months later I added a few more scans. In doing research ( well... mainly Googling actually ) for this second post I once again plugged in the name Jerry Lazare ( my earlier search had returned little information ), this time with some success. I found reference to a "Gerald" Lazare who had recently been inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards committee for his pioneering World World Two era work on Canadian comic books. His age seemed about right, his location ( Toronto ) fit and best of all he was still active and had a website! I contacted Mr. Lazare and inquired whether he might be the same "Jerry" Lazare who, along with studio mate Lewis Parker, had been responsible for the wonderful work in these three readers. It turns out he was, and over the next few weeks of our correspondence I was able to pass along my appreciation of his work and learned a little of his long and varied career as a teen-age comic book artist ( along with fellow Canuck Mel Crawford ) for Bell Features during the War, his illustration work from the mid 50s to the mid 70's, and of his painting and teaching years - it turns out one of his students was illustrator / comic book artist / author / publisher Ken Steacy, who was instrumental in helping my career.

In talking to Gerry I was very excited to hear that he was able to retain a number of his illustrations from the J.M. Dent readers, a rarity made possible due to the fact he was also art director on the books, and that it might be possible for me to acquire them. To say that I was pleased would be an understatement.

Arrangements were made to purchase three illustrations ( coincidentally all from the same 1962 book, Happy Highways 4 ) from the stories "The Little Kite", "Ferry Boats", and "Mr. Boopy's Sensitive Bones", and I anxiously awaited their arrival via United Parcel Service.

Here, of course, is where this happy tale takes a dark turn... ( cue ominous organ music! )

Next time in Part 2: "But the parcel looked fine from the front!!!"


Ward Jenkins said...

Oh, I don't like the way this is turning out....please tell me that the artwork wasn't ruined!

Glen Mullaly said...

Hmmm... I guess you'll just have to wait for the next installment to find out!

...or go over to Flickr right now.

Anonymous said...

Dear Glen, For quite a few years now I have every so often been pining to read these books again. My favourite story involves a boy in China, a duck egg, some soldiers and the boy helping his father escape. It was a thriiling story, to me, and I don't remember which reader it was in. Could you tell me the title of the story, the author, and the reader that it was in? I would SO appreciate it. kathryn
my email is baikaidi at yahoo dot com

Glen Mullaly said...

Hi Kathryn,

The story you remember is from Happy Highways 4 and is called "Little Red". It's by Pearl S. Buck and was originally (without the wonderful Gerry Lazare illustrations) published in "Youth Replies, I Can" in 1945.

Hope that helps!