Monday, June 12, 2017

Sonia Roetter ~ illustrator for Peter Pauper Press

Hi, everyone! I had bought this book a while ago on eBay. I had bought it primarily because one of the authors of the fairy tales was Lafcadio Hearn. Added bonus it was fairy tales and Japanese fairy tales at that.

When I received the book, I fell in love with the illustrations. I even brought the book to work with me so I could share it with a coworker. The illustrations reminded me of origami and I knew my coworker would like that as well since he is always folding an origami creation in his spare time.

Initially when I tried to find out about the illustrator, Sonia Roetter, I hit a dead end. The most I could find out was that she had worked on several books for Peter Pauper Press, the company who published the book I had bought. The Metropolitan Museum of Art had an entry for her Chinese Fairy Tales book in their catalog, but all they had under her name was 'American, 20th century'.

You know me, history nerd, lover of research, I had to find something out on her. One of the greatest resources you can use in my opinion is Ancestry. I know that sounds odd when you aren't working on genealogy, but trust me, it is a lifesaver when you are in the academic world, even when you are in the offshoots of that world like I am.

So off I went to see what I could find and here's what I found:

Sonia was born in Winnica, Russia (now Ukraine) on October 12, 1904. She and her family moved to the United States; they arrived in Baltimore, Maryland on December 20, 1913. 

At some point she had married a photographer named Frederick Roetter and lived in Chicago. She became an American citizen on December 29, 1941. She died at the age of 87 on September 15, 1992.

She was an illustrator who worked for Peter Pauper Press, a company founded in 1928 and which still exists today. She even entered exhibitions, such as the Chicago Artists Exhibition in 1957 and 1958. I would love to know what her actual style of art was. Did she use the same style she used for her illustrations? The same medium, silkscreen? Or was she a painter?

From what I could find, she had illustrated the following books for Peter Pauper Press:
1) Hickory, Dickory, Dock: And Other Poems of Childhood, 1950.
2) Mother Goose Book, 1946.
3) Japanese Fairy Tales, 1948.
4) Chinese Fairy Tales, 1946.

I hope some day to at least find a decent copy of the Chinese Fairy Tales book. From the images I have seen online of it, she illustrated the book in a similar style to that of the Japanese Fairy Tales book.


The Japanese Fairy Tales book contains 78 pages featuring twelve stories that are illustrated with silkscreen images using a repeated color scheme of pink, blue, and white. On each page of text, the midsection is illustrated with a long motif, such as a monkey, fish, willow branches, or a woman in a kimono.

On my searches, I noticed that Peter Pauper Press also published other fairy tale books using different illustrators....I think there was a Russian and even a Turkish fairy tale book.

I wonder if I could contact the company and see if they had records on the various fairy tale books that they published in the 1940s? Hmm........my bookworm brain never shuts down!! LOL

I hope you enjoyed learning about a forgotten artist. Who says you can't learn new things?

Until next time ^____^

Friday, June 9, 2017

National Best Friend Day Package ♡

Good afternoon! Two posts in one day? Why yes, yes indeed. It's been a crazy work week. We had meetings everyday with the longest being yesterday, which clocked in at 4 hours. With so many meetings, which took up my regular work day, I was feeling cranky, antsy, and drained.....even to the point that I was crying in one of the bathrooms! I was joking with my friend Amanda that the introvert in me wanted to go hide in one of the stairwells to avoid any meetings.

Needless to say, today couldn't come any faster for me. On Monday, I decided that I wanted today off. I didn't know that I would be facing a week's worth of meetings beforehand. It just happened that way.

So this morning, I slept in as long as my brain would allow, which wasn't too late.....around 7:30am or so. I got up, ate some oatmeal.....pumpkin spice by Quaker.....wasn't impressed with the supposed pumpkin spice 'flavor', put some laundry in, walked outside to see if we had gas for the lawn mower, came back inside for some sunscreen lotion, and mowed the lawn for about 2 hours. 

The weather was beautiful today. Warm with a cool breeze. An added motivation for mowing the lawn was that every time I passed the blueberry bushes, I could snag some berries ;) After mowing the lawn, I went back for seconds, but don't worry, I remembered to leave some for the birds. I would have picked some to freeze, but we didn't use last year's berries so it wasn't worth the extra time.

After laundry and lunch, I wrote my first post on Lucile, went out to check the mail, and found a package from my friend Amanda. She had texted me earlier that I had a small package coming :)


She sent me an assortment of goodies: a beautiful Korean bookmark featuring a woman wearing traditional costume, a Starbucks card (YES!!! Feeding my addiction to their midnight mint mocha frappuccino), a roll of adorable bunny washi tape, some colored UV resin (can't wait to try them!), and two pairs of bunny socks (can't have too many cute socks....even if you are the only person who sees them!).


She sent me a long letter in reply to one I had sent earlier in addition to an absolutely beautiful handmade card. She knows I've been going through a rough 'patch' so this card is a reminder that nothing is as tough as it may seem and that there are people who care even though you may have forgotten it along that rough patch of life.

In December I had bought a journal, one of those question/answer types. One of the questions was what would you do if you won the lottery. I know I would definitely help out my friends for sure.

I always thought it would be lovely to have a bakery and next door Amanda could have a specialty stationery shop where she could sell her creations :) And next door to that my friend Kristina could have a cross stitch shop! LOL That would be amazing!

Thank you darling for this lovely 'Best Friend Day' package! It brighten my day :)

Until next time ^____^

Book Review ~ Lucile by Owen Meredith

Good morning, everyone! One of my goals this month was to pull books from my shelves that I hadn't read yet and actually read them. This week I pulled out Lucile by Owen Meredith. 

It was originally published in 1860 by Robert Bulwer-Lytton writing under the pseudonym, Owen Meredith. The book was published in England several times over the years while in the U.S. the book was published over 2,000 times from the date of its publication until 1938. The University of Iowa has an interesting website devoted to the publication of Lucile called the Lucile Project. It gives information on the book and is attempting to keep a record of various publications of the book since quite a few of the publications were not dated, like my own copy of the book.

The story of Lucile is a narrative poem written in anapest meter. It begins with a letter written by Comtesse Lucile de Nevers to Lord Alfred Vargrave. She congratulates Lord Alfred on his upcoming marriage to a young girl named Matilda and asks that he return any letters he might have of hers from their romantic affair years before.

Lord Alfred travels to France to return the letters, but after encountering Lucile again, he realizes that despite his supposed anger at Lucile for their breakup, he still cares for her. For her part, Lucile never forgot Alfred; over the years, she had been the belle of France and had many potential suitors, but she rejected everyone. 

Her current potential suitor is Eugene de Luvois, a young Frenchman, who is continuously gay and merry, flitting from one party to the next, spending money lasciviously with no care in the world for making something of himself. With Lucile at his side, he thinks he can make something of himself and achieve meaning in his life.

Alfred confesses his feelings to Lucile, but she asks that he wait for her reply. Eugene confesses as well, but is rejected. At that same time, Alfred receives her letter that says that they can never be together and he is heartbroken, but after reading it a second time again, he realizes that Lucile still loves him, but cannot be with him because he is 'not free'. 

On his way back to England to 'free' himself from Matilda, he meets Eugene on road, who despite being rejected, gives Alfred a triumphal grin as if he had won Lucile's heart. Alfred took that grin as triumph, not jealously; he returns to England and marries Matilda.

The second part of the story sees all four characters at the same town and inn in France. Eugene's life has continued to be one of dispensation. But seeing Alfred and Lucile speaking once again, he decides to cause havoc by revealing to Matilda that Lucile was Alfred's previous lover.

Matilda had always loved Alfred and assumed she was loved as well, but with Eugene's words, she doubts everything. Fortunately, Lucile comes to the rescue and tells Matilda that Alfred loves her and no other. She reprimands Eugene strongly and refuses him once again. She tells him that she will always be his guide if he needs her in the future. She tells him to make something of himself and forget the past.

Years later, we see Alfred and Matilda, now poor (due to a dubious uncle who squandered the family's money), but happy because of their only son. Their son is in the army fighting during the Crimean War. He has been injured, but is nursed back to health by a nun named Sister Seraphine. Despite her care of his injury, he is dying from a broken heart. He has fallen in love with a girl named Constance, but cannot be with her because of her uncle's refusal.

Sister Seraphine goes to the general of the army to ask for his help with the boy. It is revealed that the general is Eugene de Luvois. No longer a layabout, but an upstanding man who has devoted his life to helping others. When he realizes that Seraphine is Lucile, he is astonished, but all of his anger comes back when she mentions who the boy is, his rival's child. At first he refuses to give his consent for his niece Constance to marry, but in the end he relents. 

The story comes full circle with Alfred and Matilda together, their son and Constance together, and Eugene and Lucile still alone, but atoning for their 'supposed' sins by giving help to the world where they can.



I have a theory as to why the book resonated with American audiences. In any other story, Lucile would have been the catalyst that broke Alfred and Matilda's relationship apart, she would have been the villain. Instead, the author gives us a character who gives up her love for Alfred and becomes a nun. She transfers her love for Alfred to a love for everyone. She is a constant source of comfort and solace for those she encounters. With Eugene, she convinces him to become something, to do good in the world, when she could have left him to his own devices and let him destroy himself and others.

Considering America's ideals of women in the late 19th century and early 20th century, Lucile's character is one that women could see themselves in. Forgiving, noble, and loving throughout trials of life.

With the book's popularity, it was made into at least four plays in the early 20th century before 1910. It was also made into a film in 1912 by the Thanhouser Company, but sadly it did not survive. Perhaps it will come to light one day if a copy still exists in the world, but is buried in a storage somewhere. We can only hope.


While reading the book, I found some interesting ephemera that a previous owner had slipped in the book. The first was a receipt for Century Subscription Agency to extend a subscription for Biff Magazine. The receipt dates to 1913 and was signed by a woman who lived in Omro, Wisconsin.

The second item was a partial silver gelatin photograph. It shows a young boy wearing a black cap sitting beside a woman in a white blouse. I wonder who they were? Family of the owner of the book and receipt?

Don't you love finding notes and other items in used books? I know I do. Gives the book an addition life beyond the words on the page.

With the date of the receipt, I would hazard a guess that my copy of the book was published circa 1913. It was published by M.A. Donohue & Co. in Chicago. My version is one of their 'handy volume' editions of the book.

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings today. If you would like to read the book, Amazon has it for free on Kindle and you can also find it through Project Gutenberg, a great website for books in the public domain.

Until next time ^___^

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Saturday Book Hunting :)


Good afternoon. As you can see, Kristina and I didn't make it to Louisiana this weekend. The weather decided to conspire against us and the entire Gulf Coast for that matter. So she went on the hunt for yard sales this morning despite the rain and I went to the library (yes, I know I said I was going to read what I have at home....and I have...but I was looking for craft books.....I have excuses for everything!! LOL).

After spending some time at the library, I drove over to Springhill College to the Book Nook to browse. I wasn't expecting to find anything, but imagine my surprise when they had a small selection of books by Sidney McCall (real name Mary Fenollosa).

I ended up buying Truth Dexter, her first novel and The Breath of the Gods, her first book set in Japan. Both books are published by Little, Brown & Company. Truth Dexter was originally published in 1901; the book I bought was published in 1907. The Breath of the Gods was published in 1905 and I was lucky enough to buy a first edition of the book :) 110 and 112 year old books in decent condition!!

I absolutely LOVE the decorative covers on these books. I consider it a shame that you don't see that type of workmanship on modern books unless the company puts the effort into presentation of their books or a company is making a 'special' or anniversary editions of a book.

For those of you that don't know Mary McNeil Fenollosa was quite the character. She ended up getting married three times (first husband passed away, second husband divorced her, but kept their child, but the third and final time was true love). Her last husband was Ernest Fenollosa, who she worked with at Boston MFA. He was married at the time, but divorced and married Mary. It was quite the scandal....so much so that he was asked to leave Boston MFA!

They spent a few years in Japan and eventually came back to the United States. Fenollosa was quite influential in people's perceptions of Oriental art. He and his wife were friends with a circle of Western scholars in Japan, which included Lafcadio Hearn, Edward Morse, and others.

Mary began writing novels under the name Sidney McCall in 1901. Her first book Truth Dexter was about a southern woman whose marriage is threatened by a Boston socialite. (Interesting subject matter considering the origins of her marriage to Fenollosa). She would continue to write books until 1919. Several of her books were made into films or plays.

Not bad for a woman who grew up in Mobile, AL. Alabama Heritage magazine has a great article on Mary Fenollosa that they published recently.

Hope you liked learning a little literary history of Alabama.

Until next time >___<