by Danny Garrett, Austin, Texas
Here is the first example of a page where Letitia has the text sharing space equally with a prime illustration. And what Letitia chose to introduce in this highlighted manner is a portrait of Princess April’s nemesis, Fairy Misery.
As is typical of the day when portraying the “evil do-er,” the portrait’s background is rife with negative imagery – withered trees, dead grass, snake, spider, gloomy castle, and what appears to be fungal material – all rendered in black or dark gray.
The portrait itself, personifies this self-same gloom as name Fairy Misery implies: framed in translucent bat wings, is a late middle-aged figure with hard facial features and graying hair. She countenances the viewer while clothed mostly in black and its primary-color sibling, red. This is, of course, as it should be visually – dark, gloomy and evil would not be couched in bright or light colors.
It might seem to be the essence of obviousness to depict negativity thus, but this is a children’s book after all, and I think she handles such imagery adroitly. As an example, I offer up the
‘seeing eye’ on the castle’s banner. Shades of “Lord of the Rings”!
That Letitia was very cognizant of such conventions as can be seen in the illuminations on this page. Princess April’s name carries the usual illumination, but pay notice to the others. For instance, the bat and the way the black (fairy) star works above “Fairy” and the snake above “Misery”. Pay particular attention to the snake – again in black and red, it replicates the seeing eye in the snake’s head, while the red elements of crown, bat-wing, and rattle are evenly spaced across the image. Very thoughtfully designed. And as if to put us back on the correct path, she enhances the last word, “good” with stars and light rays.
Just another short note. Although Letitia’s hand is quite good, the calligraphy is in an ‘Old English’ stye of font, and can sometimes be tricky to decipher for the modern reader. The name of Fairy Misery’s castle offers up a good example. It reads as “Jet Castle.” Certainly the first letter of the first word can be construed as something other than “J”, though that is indeed what it is. I will try to explain other characters as they occur.