Tuesday, January 31, 2012

KING KOJO with Illustrations by Marge Part One

 Four years ago, I posted about this rare book. This is part one. Part two is here.

Way back in the back of a local hardware store is a small area with maybe 1000 used books. Most of these were Reader's Digest Condensed Books, various editions of the old Time Life series of books, romance fiction, Babysitters' Club books, and so on. But on a pile of library discards there was the hardcover, well worn book below, KING KOJO.

KING KOJO was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson with illustrations by Marge (Marjorie Henderson Buell). The book is copyright 1938 by the David McKay Company.

This edition was a discard from the Rochester (NH) Public Library, and is much read.

Ruth Plumly Thompson was a well known name. She wrote the WIZARD OF OZ series of books after Frank Baum passed away. She wrote an OZ book a year from 1921 to 1939.

Above: Ms. Thompson's generous dedication to all who helped create KOJO and all who read it.

Above: the warning label sewn into the binding by the Rochester Library reads:

DO NOT turn down the leaves of this book
— Use a bookmark

DO NOT mark or mutilate — Others want to read it

DO NOT stain with food

DO NOT expose this book to rain, snow or dust — Please wrap it

Of course, as you can see in these unretouched scans, the Trustees were ignored on all counts for 70 years.

The illustrations are by Marge, who just three years earlier, in 1935, created the character of Little Lulu for the Saturday Evening Post. Not only was Marge one of the rare female cartoonists of her time, she also retained all rights to Lulu — rarer still for the time. I can only think of one other cartoonist of the 1930s (the one and only Percy Crosby) who did the same.

The book is about the benevolent but slightly inept King Kojo who rules the Kingdom of Oh-Go-Wan. If puns make you groan, the book is a groanfest. The stories feature the King's jester Pogo, as well as the usual assortment of knights, wizards, robbers in the woods, ogres and so on.

Above: the color really helps make the illustrations. I had no idea that Marge had ever done anything beyond Little Lulu!

Above: looks like a proto-Tubby chasing "The Girl Who Came Out of the Sea."

I wish the book was still in print. Once you get used to the way it's written ("Between Big Enuf Mountain and the Rolantic Ocean lies the long lovely kingdom of Oh-Go-Wan ...," etc.), it's a lot of fun. Besides, one look at these stained, well worn pages and you can see it was pretty popular.

ADDENDUM: I found a good photo of what the book looked like before all those little Rochester Library patrons got their grubby hands on it. Below is a scan from the Oak Knoll Press:

Need part two now? More Kojo here.

This blog posting originally appeared on August 18, 2008.

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