Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Michael Hague, part 1

by Steven Williams

Michael Hague black and white photograph

Michael Hauge (b 1948) is an important modern American illustrator of children's books. Some of his most notable work has been his work producing illustraed childre's editions of classics. In recent years he has also begun producing books in partnership with his wife as writer. Most recently he has begun to produce young adult fantasy adventure books beginning with In the Small due for release May , 2008. He curently lives in Colorado.

The Pilgrim's Regress, An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism by C. S. Lewis and illustrated by Michael Hague front cover

The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism (1981)
(by C. S Lewis, illustrated by Michael Hague)
In 1933, not long after he became a Christian, Lewis published this third work and his first novel, The Pilgrim’s Regress. The story in this novel, which begins as a poem, tells of the progressive 'travels' of a fictional character as he journeys through a philosophical landscape to eventually arrival back at his beginning point, traditional Christianity. The work is essentially based on John Bunyan's seventeenth-century novel Pilgrim's Progress. Lewis reworked and updated the story to incorporate early twentieth-century politics, philosophy, and aesthetics. Much of Lewis writing in this book focuses on the easy road to nihilistic philosophies and their association with European fascist movements that were very prominent at the time the book was written.

Clive Staples 'Jack' Lewis aka C S Lewis circa 1947 black and white photograph by Arthur Strong

Clive Staples 'Jack' Lewis (1898–1963), best known as C. S. Lewis, was an Irish writer and scholar. Lewis was born in Belfast, Ireland and eventually attended Oxford University on a scholarship. After one year of school, Lewis enlisted in the army in 1916 and saw trench warfare at the Somme Valley in France and was wounded in the Battle of Arras. After recovering and returning to school, Lewis received the American equivalent of degrees in Greek and Latin Literature, philosophy, ancient history, and English. Lewis became a good friend of J. R. R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) and both men were leading scholars in the English faculty at Oxford University.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis front cover color illustration by Pauline Baynes

Lewis is also well known as a writer of popular religion, most of them from the perspective of a skeptic who had returned to religion. Lewis' best known work as a fiction author are The Chronicles of Narnia series of seven fantasy novels for children that have become classics of modern children's literature. The author wrote all of the books in this series between the years 1949 and 1954. Pauline Baynes (born 1922) illustrated the published editions. Most of the books in this series begin with children finding themselves transported to Narnia, a world where the animals talk, magic really exists, and good battles evil, through a magical portal.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon by Peter Christen Asbjornsen, edited by Kathleen and Michael Hague, illustrated by Michael Hague front cover.jpgEast of the Sun and West of the Moon (January, 1980)
(by Peter Christen Asbjornsen, edited by Kathleen and Michael Hague, illustrated by Michael Hague)
This is a retelling of a classic Scandinavian fairy tale filled with mysterious castles, trolls, and romance. A girl travels east of the sun and west of the moon to free her beloved prince from a magic spell. Peter Christen Asbjørnsen (1812-1885) was a Norwegian zoologist, writer, collector of Norwegian folklore, early conservationist, and scholar. In 1832, just before Asbjørnsen began attending university, he began collecting Norwegian fairy tales and legends. He is known to have completely covered Norway by foot pursuing traditional folktales. His name is frequently associated with the theologian, poet, and professional tutor Jørgen Engebretsen Moe (1813-1882), also a collector of Norwegian folklore. The two men, friends since the age of about thirteen or fourteen, worked together professionally publishing folk tale collections and the published work of two scholars are usually referred to collectively as Asbjørnsen and Moe. The first publication of their writings on folklore began in 1842 and their work was from its inception considered an important contribution both to comparative mythology and to literature. This edition of East of the Sun and West of the Moon is adapted by the Hagues from a story (Østenfor sol og vestenfor måne) taken from the Asbjørnsen and Moe collection of Norwegian folk tales collectively known as Norske Folkeeventyr (Norwegian Folktales) which was first published as one of their series (1841-1844) of four folk tale pamphlets later republished in book form as a single, expanded edition in 1851 that included a lengthy introduction by Moe as well as a one hundred and fifteen page appendix of comparative notes. The first English translation of this book was by George Webbe Dasent, published in 1859 as Popular Tales from the Norse and including a lengthy and highly influential introductory essay by the translator.

'Beauty and the Beast' by Apy Kohen illustrated by Michael Hague front coverBeauty and the Beast (August, 1980)
(by Apy Kohen, illustrated by Michael Hague)
Beauty and the Beast also known as La Belle et la Bête is a traditional French fairy tale. The first published version of this fairy tale was by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve published in 1740. The best-known version has been an abridgement of Villeneuve's work by Mme Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont that was published in 1756. The first English translation was published in 1757. Though this fairy tale is associated with the French folktale tradition, there are variants of the story found throughout Europe. The story is essentially about the youngest of three daughters of a rich merchant who is both beautiful and pure of heart. One day, her father picks rose to bring to her as a gift, but a horrible Beast appears and says that the theft of the rose means that that the father must now become his prisoner for the remainder of his life. When the father explains that he only took the rose as only a gift for one of his daughters, the Beast agrees to release if he will send her to live in the Beast's castle in his place. The dutiful daughter agrees to go live with the Beast. Once she is there, the Beast treats her well and she is surprised to find that she is happy there, but eventually she becomes homesick and asks to visit her family. Her sisters conspire to delay her return to the Beast but when she finally returns to the castle she finds the Beast dying of a broken heart. She begins to weep over him and tells him that she loves him. Her tears transform him into a handsome prince, reversing the curse that trapped him in the form of a Beast, a curse which could only be broken by true love. This edition of the fairytale by Apy Kohen includes nineteen full-page color plates by Hague.

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Michael Hague front coverThe Wizard of Oz (September, 1982)
(by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Michael Hague)Lyman Frank Baum (1856–1919), better known as L. Frank Baum, was an American author, actor, and independent filmmaker. He is best known now as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, frequently shortened to The Wizard of Oz. L. Frank Baum circa 1901 black and white photographHis fiction includes thirteen sequels to The Wizard of Oz as well as other fantasy novels, short stories, general novels, poetry, and screenplays. Baum began writing at an early age and by the age of seventeen had already been the publisher of two amateur periodicals. He also became interested in theater at this age and this interest continued throughout his lifetime. Though Baum was born in New York, in 1888 he moved with his wife to South Dakota and it is his experiences there that form the basis for his use of Kansas as the setting for the beginning of The Wizard of Oz.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, illustrated by Michael Hague front coverThe Velveteen Rabbit (January, 1983)
(by Margery Williams, illustrated by Michael Hague)
An allegorical story about the transformative power of love by Margery Williams and originally published in 1922. Margery Williams (1881-1944) was born in London and spent her life in London and the United States. She wrote several adult books but The Velveteen Rabbit was her first and best-known children's book. 'My Mother' i.e., Margery Williams, in Maine 1922 color painting by Pamela BiancoThe story is about a stuffed toy rabbit given as a Christmas gift to a little boy. This velveteen rabbit spends its time waiting in the nursery with all of the other toys for the Boy to play with him. The Velveteen Rabbit's relationship with the other toys develops over time. It is initially shy but eventually becomes fiends with a tattered skin horse, the wisest of the toys 'living' in the nursery. It is from the Skin Horse that the rabbit learns that all of the toys hope to be made "real" through the love of a human. Though very sentimental, this story has become a classic about toys having feelings has been continually in print since its initial publication.

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahme, illustrated by Michael Hague front cover

The Reluctant Dragon (September, 1983)
(by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Michael Hague)
The boy who finds the dragon in the cave knows it is a kindly, harmless one, but how can he convince the frightened villagers and, especially, St. George the dragon killer that there is no cause for concern? When a dragon is discovered up on the Downs, the Boy is not in the least surprised. He's always known the cave there was a dragon cave, so it seems only right for a dragon to be living in it. The Boy decides to pay a visit to the cave, and he thinks he knows just what to expect.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, illustrated by Michael Hague front coverThe Hobbit (October, 1984)
(by J.R.R. Tolkien, illustrated by Michael Hague)
Tolkien's classic fantasy novel about the adventures of a group of dwarves, a wizard, and a hobbit when they set out to recover a great treasure guarded by a fearsome dragon. Illustrated with forty-eight full color paintings, five of them double page sized, by Michael Hague. J. R. R. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973), was a British professor of linguistics and author who is best known his fantasy novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien taught at Oxford as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon from 1925 to 1945 and Merton Professor of English language and literature from 1945 to 1959. It was at Oxford that he, along with his close friend C. S. Lewis belonged to an informal literary discussion group known as the 'Inklings', a group that provided him with important psychological support for his fiction writing. Tolkien is generally considered the father of modern fantasy literature because of the success and quality of his novels and the lasting influence they had as the inspiration of a resurgence of post-war fantasy writing in English. J. R. R. Tolkien black and white photographHe was born in South Africa and when he was three years old the family returned to England. Significantly, it was while was a child in South Africa that Tolkien was bitten by a baboon spider while playing in the family's garden. He recovered but his perception of spiders colored his fiction as an adult. In England, Tolkien grew up in a rural area of England, an experience that also affected his fiction settings.

As an adult, Tolkien was commissioned in the British Army during World War I and he saw service during the Battle of the Somme. His experiences at the front and the death of many of his closest friends in the war deeply affected Tolkien and his perspective about war and evil. 'The Hobbit' dust jacket from a design by J. R. R. TolkienTolkien's inspirations include early Germanic, especially Anglo-Saxon, literature, the area of professional expertise. The Saxon book Lays of Boethius was particularly significant. Norse sagas were also a major influence on his fiction. Tolkien was surprised at the success of his fantasy fiction. The Hobbit began as a book he had written for his own children. It was after a publisher's employee happened to read it in 1936 that Tolkien was persuaded to submit it for publication. It was the success of The Hobbit (1937) that prompted Tolkien to begin work on his The Lord of the Rings trilogy (1954-1955), a work of more than ten years. The Lord of the Rings is a significantly darker and more serious work of fiction than The Hobbit. It was originally seen as a single book by the author but paper and publishing costs in post-war England were so high that the book was split into a trilogy of novels.

Mother Goose, A Collection of Classic Nursery Rhymes selected and illustrated by Michael Hague front coverMichael Hague's Mother Goose (September, 1984)
A collection of forty-five Mother Goose rhymes chosen and illustrated with full-colored paintings and black and white drawings by Michael Hague. Hague's color illustrations are in a super-realistic style somewhat similar to the work of the seventeenth century English illustrator, Arthur Rackham. The color originals are in watercolor and feature medieval houses and street scenes. Hague also includes some silhouettes, apparently a nod of acknowledgment to the inspiration provided by Rackham, another illustrator noted for his creative use of silhouettes in children's books.

color frontispiece from Histoires ou Contes de demps passe by Charles PerraultThe earliest attributed association of children's rhymes to a 'Mother Goose' figure apparently is in the seventeenth century. In 1650 Jean Loret's book La Muse Historique (Historical Muse) was published, the first of three volumes under that title (1650, 1660, and 1665). This book was actually a republication in book form of poems written by Loret in doggerel meter and rhyme which were originally published in a weekly pamphlet containing news about Parisian society life, a publication he referred to as a 'gazette burlesque'. The line Comme un conte de la Mere Oye (like a Mother Goose story) appears in Lettre V., June 11th 1650.

color illustration from Michael Hague’s 'Mother Goose'The subsequent book which reinforced Lore's original imagery for Mother Goose in the public mind was published in 1697. It was a collection of eight fairy tales by Charles Perrault published as Histoires ou contes du temps passé (Tales of Olden Times). The part that associated traditional children's rhymes with the Mother Goose image was the frontispiece chosen for this very popular book. It showed an old woman spinning thread while telling stories to a group of children and it was printed with the caption Contes de la Mere l'Oye (Tales of My Mother the Goose). Because of this an increasing number of French and English books of children's verse began to make reference to Mother Goose. The book that had the greatest influence on firmly establishing Mother Goose in the public mind as the originator of traditional children's rhymes was John Newbery's Mother Goose's Melody, or Sonnets for the Cradle (1765). This edition was widely pirated and reprinted in England and America.

Aesop’s Fables edited and illustrated by Michael Hague front coverAesop's Fables (March, 1985)
(edited and illustrated by Michael Hague)
An illustrated collection of thirteen tales from Aesop, selected and illustrated by Michael Hague.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Michael Hague front coverAlice's Adventures in Wonderland (1985)
(by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Michael Hague)

The Sectet Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Illustrated by Michael Hague front coverThe Secret Garden (May, 1987)
(by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Michael Hague)
Burnett's classic story of a disagreeable and self-centered little girl and her equally disagreeable invalid cousin. Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) grew up in England, but she began writing what was to become The Secret Garden in 1909, when she was creating a garden for a new home in Long Island, New York. Burnett was already established as a novelist for adults when she turned to writing for children. Little Lord Fauntleroy, written for her two young boys; the play A Little Princess, which became the basis for the novel of the same name; and The Secret Garden are the works for which she is most warmly remembered.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, illustrated by Michael Hauge paperback edition front coverThe Story of Doctor Dolittle (September, 1997)
(by Hugh Lofting, illustrated by Michael Hague)
Foreword by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack. Afterword by Peter Glassman. When a swallow arrives in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh with the news that the monkeys of Africa are ill and only the doctor who talks with animals can save them, Doctor Dolittle and such good friends as Jip, his loyal dog, and Dab-Dab, his housekeeper duck, face their greatest challenge. Together they must sail to Africa, battle a band of cutthroat pirates, flee across a gorge on a bridge made of acrobatic apes, and convince the king of the beasts that even he must help an animal in need. This ediion contains nearly fifty full-page pictures from Michael Hague.

Cinderella and Other Tales from Perrault by Michael Hauge paperback edition front coverCinderella and Other Tales from Perrault (October, 1989)
(by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Michael Hague)
A collection, illustrated by Michael Hague, of Perrault fairy tales, including Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, and Blue Beard. Charles Perrault (1628 to 1703) was a French author who laid the foundations for the modern fairy tale. At the time he was writing these, fairy tales were a new and distinctly modern literary genre. His best known original tales, modeled after the form and style of traditional folk tales, include Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood), La Belle au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty), Le Maître Chat ou le Chat Botté (Puss in Boots), Cendrillon ou la Petite Pantoufle de Verre (Cinderella), La Barbe Bleue (Bluebeard), Le Petit Poucet (Hop o' My Thumb), Les Fées (Diamonds and Toads), La Marquise de Salusses ou la Patience de Griselidis (Patient Griselda), Les Souhaits Ridicules (The Ridiculous Wishes), Peau d'Âne (Donkeyskin), and Riquet à la Houppe (Ricky of the Tuft). Perrault wrote his fairy tales in his late sixties after he had lost his government position. These stories were initially published under the name of his last son and their success made his name and style widely known. His notable literary contemporary was Madame d'Aulnoy. His notable literary successors in the fairy tale genre include The Brothers Grimm who retold many of Perrault's tales and Hans Christian Anderson.

Cinderella antique print illustrations
The Little Mermaid by Hans christian Anderson illustrated by Michael Hague front coverThe Little Mermaid (April, 1994)
(by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Michael Hague)
A little mermaid princess, longing to be human, trades her mermaid's tail for legs, hoping to win the love of a prince and earn an immortal soul for herself.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter illustrated by Michael Hague front coverThe Tale of Peter Rabbit (2001)
(by Beatrix Potter, illustrated by Michael Hague)
Peter disobeys his mother by going into Mr. McGregor's garden and almost gets caught. When Mrs. Rabbit begs her four furry children to stay away from Mr. McGregor's garden, the impish Peter Rabbit naturally takes this as an open invitation to create mischief. But when he is spotted by the farmer himself, the chase is on! A century after it was first published, Beatrix Potter's beloved tale of a certain naughty bunny with a taste for radishes continues to enchant readers. Using Potter's original text, popular illustrator Michael Hague has made Peter's world bigger and brighter than ever, bringing this cherished tale to a new generation of youngsters, in a larger format that will delight mischievous bunnies young and old.

The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting illustrated by Michael Hague front coverThe Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (November, 2001)
(by Hugh Lofting, illustrated by Michael Hague)
When his colleague Long Arrow disappears, Dr. Dolittle sets off with his assistant, Tommy Stubbins, his dog, Jip, and Polynesia the parrot on an adventurous voyage over tropical seas to floating Spidermonkey Island. Doctor John Dolittle, the veterinarian who can actually talk to animals, sets sail on the high seas for new adventures! Accompanied by his young friend Tommy Stubbins and the beloved animals of his household -- Polynesia the parrot, Jip the dog, and Chee-Chee the monkey -- the good doctor is off to forbidding Spider Monkey Island to examine the rare jabizri beetle. But the mysterious island holds another, darker secret: The famous Indian naturalist, Long Arrow, has mysteriously disappeared -- and Doctor Dolittle urgently needs to speak with him. Doctor Dolittle and his friends brave a shipwreck, find the floating island, and meet the incredible Great Glass Sea Snail -- the keeper of the greatest mystery of all. This is the most popular of the twelve Doctor Dolittle novels. The next has been carefully edited for modern readers by renowned children's book authors Patricia and Fredrick McKissack. This new edition, featuring color illustrations by best-selling artist Michael Hague, is sure to bring a whole new generation under the spell of Doctor Dolittle and his animal friends. Hugh Lofting (1886-1947) began what became the Doctor Dolittle stories while writing letters to his children from the front during World War I. The Story of Doctor Dolittle, first published in 1920, was followed by The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, which was awarded the Newbery Medal, and ten more popular books in the series.

Old Mother West Wind by Thornton W. Burgess illustrated by Michael Hague front coverOld Mother West Wind (April, 2003)
(by Thornton W. Burgess, illustrated by Michael Hague)
A popular children's classic by Thornton Burgess. This book is a collection of sixteen short stories telling the adventures of some very anthropomorphic animals living in the 'Green Forest'. These stories introduce these recurring characters found in much of the author's other work: Thornton Waldo Burgess black and white photographPeter Rabbit, Jimmy Skunk, Sammy Jay, Bobby Raccoon, Joe Otter, Grandfather Frog, Billy Mink, Jerry Muskrat, Spotty the Turtle, and Old Mother West Wind. This edition is illustrated in the lush, super realistic fantasy style that has made Michael Hague famous.

Thornton Waldo Burgess (1874–1965) was a noted conservationist and author of children's fiction. He was born on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and was the descendant of a Mayflower family. Unfortunately, his father died the year he was born and his mother was left to raise him by herself. The two of them were dependant on relatives for support and so as a youth Burgess ended up needing to work year round. His work experiences were quite diverse and since they lived in a rural area, he developed a strong appreciation for the natural world. Walter Harrison Cady black and white self portraitOne of his most frequent employers during this period happened to live in a wildlife habitat and Burgess' experiences working in and around the area became the basis for the settings in his fiction, usually refered to as 'Smiling Pool' and 'Old Briar Patch'. He spent much of his adult life in Hampden, Massachusetts. Old Mother West Wind was originally published in 1910 and was his first book. Many of his humanized animal characters would recur in his later books and stories. Burgess went on to produce more than 170 books and 15,000 short stories. Throughout his professional life he worked with the illustrator Walter Harrison Cady (1877–1970), a highly prolific and popular illustrator and fellow native of Massachusetts.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame illustrated by Michael Hague front coverThe Wind in the Willows (September, 2003)
(by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Michael Hague)
The Wind in the Willows is essentially collection of linked stories about four animals, Mole, Ratty, Toad, and Badger. They all live in an idealized Edwardian England near a great river much like the Thames. The stories tell the adventures of four animal friends with the primary focus of the story line following Toad’s adventures as well the ongoing friendship of Rat and Mole. The setting of the story emphasizes an idealized and beautiful nature in an equally idealized and unspoiled England of the author's youth. The stories begin with Mole's encountering the river for the first time and making a friend of Ratty who lives there and loves life on the river. Mole also encounters and then becomes a friend of Toad, a wealthy aristocratic owner of Toad Hall. Kenneth Grahame black and white photographFurther adventures bring Badger into the circle of friends and they all become caught up in the repercussions of Toad's obsession with cars. Toad eventually ends up having to face a situation in which, because of his irresponsibility and obsession, his beloved family home, Toad Hall, becomes overrun with weasels, stoats, and ferrets. With the help of Mole, Ratty, and Badger the squatters are driven from the house.

Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932) is a British author best known for his book The Wind in the Willows (1908) and his short story The Reluctant Dragon (1898). Grahame was born the third of four children in Edinburgh, Scotland. When he was only five years old, his mother died of scarlet fever. Grahame also caught the disease and his maternal grandmother came up to look after the little boy until he could recover. 'View from Cookham Bridge' 1936 color painting by Stanley SpencerIn despair over his wife's death, Grahame's father, an abstaining former alcoholic, began drinking again and realized he could not properly care for the children. They were sent to live with their grandmother at her home, ‘The Mount’ (also known as Herries School) in Cookham Dean, a village in the north-easternmost corner of Berkshire county in southeast England lying along the River Thames. His years spent at 'The Mount' were apparently the happiest of Grahame's life and they provide the foundation for much of the idealized background and appreciation for nature that infuses The Wind in the Willows.

Grahame was unable to attend college because of the cost and instead became a clerk at the Bank of England in London in 1879. He began writing as a release from the boredom of work and began to have essays and short stories published in small literary periodicals. A collection of his essays was published as the book Pagan Papers in 1893. The Golden Age (1895) contained a collection of eighteen autobiographical short stories about a family of four orphaned children and their guardians. Dream Days (1898) contained another eight stories about the orphaned children as well as the short story The Reluctant Dragon. Grahame married in 1897 and the couple had only one child.

Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger at The River’s edge color illustration by E. H. ShepardThe stories that form the basis for The Wind in the Willows got their start as bedtime stories Grahame would tell his little boy when the child was about four years old. In fact, the willful and headstrong character of Toad is primarily based on Grahame’s little boy at that age. About the time Grahame began telling these stories, he went on a vacation by himself but continued wrote down additional stories about Toad, Mole, Ratty, and Badger that he put into letters to his son. Grahame took an early retirement in 1907 from his work job for health reasons. Early retirement provided Grahame with the time needed to rework his stories into the complete children’s novel that he named The Wind in the Willows. Initially he had trouble getting a publisher for the book, but it finally came out in 1908. Children were immediately attracted to the book but literary critics initially gave the book mixed or poor reviews. The book’s literary reputation and general popularity were both given a large boost in the late 1920s and early 1930s by two key events. Ernest Howard Shepard black and white photographFirst was A. A. Milne's (Winnie-the-Pooh) successful production of a stage version of Grahame’s novel titled Toad of Toad Hall, first shown in 1929. The other significant boost to the book’s literary reputation were the wonderful black and white illustrations for the 1931 edition of the book provided by Ernest Howard Shepard, also known as E. H. Shepard, best known for his illustrations for Milne’s wildly successful Winnie-the-Pooh (1926). Shepard colored his illustrations for the 1973 special edition of The Wind in the Willows. Children apparently found The Wind in the Willows much more appealing initially than adults and it is their enthusiasm that has made the book a modern classic of children's literature.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum illustrated by Michael Hague front coverThe Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (October, 2003)
(by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Michael Hague)
A human foundling child is adopted by a wood-nymph and raised by the creatures who inhabit a magical forest. He eventually grows up to be the immortal Santa Claus. Every child knows about Santa Claus, the jolly man who brings gifts to all on Christmas. This is a collection of rich and imaginatively detailed stories that collectively recount his life. This collection is illustrated with Michael Hague's ink drawings and watercolor paintings.

L. Frank Baum circa 1901 black and white photographLyman Frank Baum (1856–1919), better known as L. Frank Baum, was an American author, actor, and independent filmmaker. He is best known now as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, frequently shortened to The Wizard of Oz. His fiction includes thirteen sequels to The Wizard of Oz as well as other fantasy novels, short stories, general novels, poetry, and screenplays. Baum began writing at an early age and by the age of seventeen had already been the publisher of two amateur periodicals. He also became interested in theater at this age and this interest continued throughout his lifetime. Though Baum was born in New York, in 1888 he moved with his wife to South Dakota and it is his experiences there that form the basis for his use of Kansas as the setting for the beginning of The Wizard of Oz.

W. W. Denslow circa 1900 black and white photographBaum's professional writing career began when he started editing a local newspaper, The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. In 1891, after the newspaper failed, Baum moved his family to Chicago where he worked as a reporter and in advertising. Eventually, his writing expanded to children's poetry. He began writing fiction and fantasy for children with his mother-in-law’s encouragement. She based this faith in his ability on her and the family’s appreciation of the fantasy stories he had been telling his four sons and their friends for years. In 1899 Baum produced Father Goose, His Book, illustrated by William Wallace Denslow who is best known as W. W. Denslow (1856-1915), and the book became a best seller that year. In 1900 Baum's book The Wizard of Oz, also illustrated by Denslow, was published and it also became a best seller, this time for two years in a row. With these successes Baum’s professional career as a writer became firmly established. Many of his subsequent books in the Oz series were popular but his writing was not consistently well received. His ongoing interest in the theater also lead to his founding of a film production company in Hollywood in 1914 though he never achieved anything like the success in theater or film that he had achieved as an author. It is important to note that Baum openly acknowledged the influence of both the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen on his work. Though the quality of Baum’s writing is inconsistent, his best works contain elements of such fantastic imagination that they have endured to become modern classics of American children’s fiction.

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie illustrated by Michael Hague front cover
Peter Pan, 100th Anniversary Edition
(October, 2003)
(by J. M. Barrie, illustrated by Michael Hague)Peter Pan is based on the work of J. M. Barrie's, particularly his famous play and the novel he later developed from it. The story is full of unforgettable characters including Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up; the fairy, Tinker Bell; the evil pirate, Captain Hook; and the three children Wendy, John, and Michael. The book tells of their adventures when they fly off with Peter Pan to Neverland, where they meet up with the Lost Boys, Indians, and pirates and have adventures involving all of them. The illustrations by Michael Hague for this edition bring the adventures of Peter Pan to vibrant and believable. Hague's illustrations are especially effective at capturing and portraying some of the wildness of Barrie's classic book and at the heart of Barrie’s conception of Peter Pan himself.

black and white photograph of J. M. BarrieJames Matthew Barrie (1860-1937), better known as J. M. Barrie, was a Scottish playwright, author, and British literary figure. Barrie was deeply marked as a child by his mother’s grief over the accidental drowning death of her favorite of her nine children on the eve of his fourteenth birthday. In fact, she herself expressed how she received comfort from the fact that her son would thus remain a boy forever. The theme of the ageless child recurs in Barrie’s work, not just appearing in Peter Pan. Barrie became a journalist in Nottingham, continued to work as one after moving to London where he eventually began writing novels and then plays. The first appearance of Peter Pan occurs in Barrie's novel The Little White Bird (1901). The play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up was first performed in 1904. Barrie had already become a very successful novelist and playwright when the success of Peter Pan made him a household name. 'Finding Neverland' region 2 DVD front coverIt was from this play that Barrie later developed the novel Peter and Wendy (1911), now a childhood classic. It is important to note that while Barrie's childhood experiences were important in shaping his vision of Peter Pan, the play and novel were heavily influenced by his friendship with the five boys of the Arthur Llewelyn Davies family. The excellent film Finding Neverland starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and Dustin Hoffman depicts the importance of this friendship on Barrie's Peter Pan. While some of Barrie's work has been criticized as being especially sentimental and nostalgic, he wrote a number of plays and novels that deal with serious social issues. After Peter Pan Barrie's success as a writer continued up to his death in 1937.

The Nutcracker adapted and illustrated by Michael Hague front coverE. T. A. Hoffman antique black and white engravingThe Nutcracker (September, 2005)
(adapted from the Tchaikovsky libretto and illustrated by Michael Hague)
A retelling of Tchaikovsky's ballet, itself based on E. T. A. Hoffman's The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, that has become a modern Christmas classic. The story begins with the Christmas gift of a nutcracker doll to a young girl by her godfather. That night she has a dream in which she is transported into a magical kingdom where she helps to save a boy prince who has been put under an evil curse. This edition is illustrated with Michael Hague's lavish interpretations and is presented in a picture book format. Hague's sweeping scenes and rich detailing draw the reader into the imaginary world of the fairy tale. The original fairy tale that is the basis for The Nutcracker ballet, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, was actually written by Hoffman in 1816. E. T. A. Hoffman (1776-1822) is considered one of master novelists of the Romantic movement in Germany, but he was noted for writing somewhat gruesome and grotesque stories. Hoffman's story was rewritten and considerably sweetened by Alexander Dumas, père (aka Alexander Dumas, Sr., 1802-1870) in 1844 and it was this version, The Nutcracker of Nuremberg, that was used Tchaikovsky color drawingAlexandre Dumas, pere (aka Alexandre Dumas, Sr.) 1855 black and white photograph by Gaspar-Felix Tournachon aka Felix Nadaras the libretto or story for Tchaikovsky's ballet. The Nutcracker was Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's (1840-1893) final ballet, after Swan Lake in 1877 and Sleeping Beauty in 1889. The ballet was first performed in 1892. It survived early mixed and lukewarm reviews to become one of the most popular and most often performed ballet of all time. Most major ballet companies now present this ballet every Christmas season. Most importantly, it has now become the traditional forum for introducing small children to the classical ballet artform.

Lionel and the Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit illustrated by Michael Hague front coverLionel and the Book of Beasts (October, 2006)
(by E. Nesbit, retold and illustrated by Michael Hague)
A boy named Lionel becomes king. Within the king's library is a magical book, The Book of Beasts, but he is warned never to open it. The temptation is too much for Lionel to resist though. He subsequently discovers that when the book is opened and the pages turned, mythical creatures come to life right off of the paper. Unfortunately one page turns out to be the reason for the warnings about opening the book. Turning this page releases a dangerous dragon. Lionel learns what being a king is truly about when he has to set out with the aid of a Hippogriff on a quest to convince the dragon to return to its assigned page in The Book of Beasts. This edition is a significantly shortened version of Nesbit's The Book of Beasts (1900). E. Nesbit is actually the pseudonym of Edith Nesbit Bland (1858-1924). Edith Nesbit Bland aka E. Nesbit black and white photographNesbit wrote poetry, romantic novels, short stories, reviews, and also wrote as a journalist, but she is now best known for her children's books. She became a major children's author in the period before the First World War and eventually wrote or collaborated on more than sixty children's books. The reason her children's fiction has endured, besides the quality of her writing, is because she popularlized two enduring types of fiction writing for children. The first type is a fairly bleak but not overstated realism. Her best known books in this style are The Story of the Treasure Seekers (1898), The Wouldbegoods (1899), and The Railway Children (1906). These books are typical of her realistic approach. Most writing for children in her time was heavily influenced by authors such as Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-1898) and Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932) with the result that most popular children's books featured settings that were self-contained ficitonal worlds, frequently steeped in fantasy elements. Nesbit's realistically styled children's novels were set in the very real, contemporary world of Edwardian England and emphasized the lessons that children could learn about the real world how to their lives in it. 'The Railway Children' (1970) directed by Lionel Jeffries still black and white photograph.In contrast, the second style of children's writing popularized by Nesbit was a new variation on the children's fantasy in which realistic, contemporary children are placed in real-world settings involving magical objects and adventures. Her influence here can be traced to such well known later writers as P. L. Travers, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling. Her best known books in this style are Five Children and It (1902), The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904), The Story of the Amulet (1905), The Enchanted Castle (1907), and of course The Book of Beasts (1900). Michael Hague illustrates this edition of Lionel and the Book of Beasts with his style's unmistakable combination of broad imagination and detailed super-realism.

Newer Article: John Updike part 2, The Bech Books


Older Article: Aliter Lenticulam (Lentils Another Way aka Lentils with Coriander)

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Michael Hague, part 1: The Illustrated Children's Classics by Steven Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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