I collect vintage children’s picture books (mostly from 60’s and 70’s). There’s not a huge collectors base for them but this is definitely changing over time. There’s a charm to the illustrations and stories that isn’t often replicated in today’s book world. Some are classics, like anything by Dr Seuss which is always in print but there’s so many that have been forgotten and people with a sensibility for anything retro and vintage are starting to see this. These can often make great gifts to kids of friends and family as they are a true snap shot of the way the world was.
Which leads me to the next item from (one of my many collections) I’m posting about. This item is based around one of those lucky and very rare finds. An auction house in Sydney was having a sale of unsold lots from previous auctions. There were a lot of people milling around and looking at the regular stuff like furniture and home décor and among all that stuff was a largely ignored box of vintage children’s books.
We bought the box and fossicked through it at home. Some books were damaged with ripped pages, scribbles and mould spots; you can’t keep these with your other paper stuff due to the risk of damaging other things. Towards the bottom was a bright red book. Its title read ‘The Gremlin’s’ from the Walt Disney production, A Royal Air Force Story by Flight Lieutenant Roald Dahl.
It was Roald Dahl’s first children’s book. Could this even be a first edition? I did some research and sure enough, it was! A lucky find on a day where the next stop for this particular box could have simply been the tip.
Roald Dahl’s works have been enjoyed by generations of people young and old and are always finding new fans. He wrote for many audiences but Roald Dahl’s most famous works were the creations he made for Children. They include Charlie and Chocolate Factory, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda and James and the Giant Peach. Interestingly he also wrote screenplays for two Ian Fleming novels, James Bond in You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
In 1943 while in the Royal Air Force he wrote The Gremlins and was encouraged to submit it to Walt Disney productions, who loved it and planned to turn it into an animated movie. The movie never eventuated but the story was published as a book. The artwork was created by the in house Disney team.
The Gremlins were little creatures who were blamed for the problems pilots had when they crashed or other emergencies. The story centres on a pilot, Gus, who encounters the Gremlins after they begin sabotaging his plane due to their forest being flattened for people’s homes and factories. He has to find a way to make them work with him and the air force instead of being troublemakers.
The 1943 printings were the only time it was available (printed in the U.K in 1944) until a faithful reproduction was published in 2006, from Dark Horse.
Since their original appearance, the Gremlins (in various guises) have appeared in various places here’s a few:
1943 – Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘Falling Hare’ from Merrie Melodies.
1963 – an episode of The Twilight Zone, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” featuring a very young William Shatner from Star Trek.
2010 – the game Epic Mickey on Nintendo WII features the original Disney Gremlins as a main part of the story.