by Kelley Smoot Garrett, Austin, Texas
This is a good point to talk about some of the “Old School” stylings that Letitia built into the very fabric of “Princess April Morning-Glory” as both a book, and a piece of installation artwork: the hand-lettered calligraphy in which every word of our story is written.
Written in 1941, children were reared without the distractions of today’s modern world: no TV, a little radio, but obviously no internet and so families spent a lot more time together. It was common for parents to read to their children every night before going to sleep!
A book such as “Princess April Morning-Glory” would have been handled by families in the 1940s as a family-shared treasure-treat, and certainly not something sent off with a child to let them fend for themselves, because books were expensive and therefore to be treated with the utmost respect. If a book was ruined the entire family lost out on the endless nights of entertainment to be had in the communal reading. At this time, children (under the age of about 10) weren’t allowed to handle books without adult supervision. Clearly it was this social context that Letitia wrote and designed “Princess April Morning-Glory.”
For adults in the 1940s, the Old English type font used through-out “Princess April Morning-Glory” would have been much more familiar to them, as it was a font in common use on many documents, notices, book and movie titles.
Because of this much more common Old English font usage during the 1930s and 1940s, Letitia’s extensive utilization presented a lower threshold than for today’s modern readers, unaccustomed to such ornate script; We’ve become a society of san-serif readers. If it doesn’t come in Arial or Helvetica, then many people have a hard time finding the time to care. They’re too overwhelmed to recognize the invitation offered: take a step back in time, to a more gracious, ornate period, rich in symbolism and glamor – simply by reading a book!
Finally, in my reading of “Princess April Morning-Glory” to children around the world, from many cultures and not necessarily children who understood the historical context of “Princess April Morning-Glory,” most children readily accept and first enjoy then fall in love with the ornate script that honors each and every letter. Many times I’ve seen young children recognize the image above a word and surprise themselves in recognizing the Old English font letters that make up that word. Their joy in discovering that they (already) know how to read such script is infectious and delightful – and exactly the type of intellectual stretch with which Letitia loved to engage children.
Until next week dear readers.