Friday, August 30, 2013

Allyn Makes a Difference, The Artwork of Troy Howell in a Collection I Helped Create

When I was first starting out as a young editor at Little Simon in New York, I was co-editor for a wonderful book project that culminated in the publication of The Old-Fashioned Storybook.  Betty Schwartz and I were working together to come up with a great new book; and, I believe, that the idea for this book came about when we first saw some illustrations that were created by Troy Howell. After discussing some of our ideas with his agent, we were delighted to find out that he was interested in working with us on a collection of tales.  

The Old-Fashioned Storybook
Illustrated by Troy Allyn Howell
Selections by Betty Ann Schwartz and Leon Archibald
Little Simon, Published by Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, 1985

Betty and I selected and adapted the stories; and I remember being particularly excited by a version of The Three Little Pigs that I found. It was similar to the version we all know but has some clever differences. For instance, one of the pigs makes its home in a cabbage and a fox is the creature with a penchant for pork.  Troy Howell's illustration for this tale is wonderful, with the pig hidden away within a large cabbage and the fox at the "door".

from The Three Little Pigs, a Tale from England

There was once upon a time a pig who lived with her three children on a large, comfortable, old-fashioned farmyard. The eldest of the little pigs was called Browny, the second Whitey, and the youngest and best-looking Blacky. Now Browny was a very dirty little pig, and I am sorry to say he spent most of his time rolling and wallowing about in the mud.... 
Whitey was quite a clever little pig, but she was greedy. She was always thinking of her food and looking forward to her dinner. Whenever she saw the farmgirl carrying the pails across the yard, she would rise up on her hind legs and dance and caper with excitement. As soon as the food was poured into the trough, she jostled Blacky and Browny out of the way in her eagerness to get the best and biggest bits for herself. Her mother often scolded her for her selfishness, and she told her that some day she would suffer for being so greedy and grabbing.
Blacky was a good, nice little pig, neither dirty nor greedy. He had dainty ways (for a pig), and his skin was always as smooth and shining as black satin.
Now, the time came when the mother pig felt old and feeble and near her end. One day she called the three little pigs to her and said, "My children, I feel that I am growing old and weak, and that I shall not live long. Before I die I should like to build a house for each of you, as this dear old sty in which we have lived so happily will be given to a new family of pigs, and you will have to leave. Now Browny, what sort of a house would you like to have?" 
"A house of mud," replied Browny, looking longingly at a wet puddle in the corner of the yard. 
"And you, Whitey?" asked the mother pig.
"A house of cabbage," answered Whitey with a full mouth, scarcely raising her snout out of the trough in which she was grubbing for some potato parings. 
"Foolish, foolish children!" said the mother pig, looking quite distressed. "And you, Blacky?" she asked, turning to her youngest son. "What sort of house would you like to have?" 
"A house of brick please, Mother. This house will be warm in the winter, cool in summer, and safe all the year round." 
"That is a sensible little pig," replied his mother, looking fondly at him. "I will see that the three houses are made ready at once. And now one last piece of advice. You have heard me talk of our old enemy, the fox. When he hears that I am dead, he is sure to try and get hold of you, to carry you off to his den. He is very sly and will no doubt disguise himself and pretend to be a friend, but you must promise me not to let him enter your houses on any pretext whatever." 

Most of the stories in this collection had to be shortened. Our focus was to present a volume of tales each of which could be read to a child at bedtime in under 30 minutes. This is actually good news for parents who want to read a good story in a reasonable amount of time.  It was to them that we wanted to present this book. We believe that we ended up with a book that will delight parent and child, and not just at bedtime.

We definitely achieved variety with some classic stories in well-known versions, like Perrault's Cinderella, and some in unusual versions like the one with the pig in the cabbage, which is from England.   

We kept the girl out of the "hood" in our version of the familiar story. Instead, in this Grimm Brothers' telling, she is wearing a little red cap; and she, herself, would be very pleased by the ending of her story in this telling--especially by comparison to the Perrault version where she is eaten by the wolf and there's an end to it.  

We have also included some unusual tales from Russia and Poland, and some stories by Hans Christian Andersen, Rudyard Kipling and Oscar Wilde.  One of the stories that we included by Hans Christian Andersen, The Swineherd, has a little secret in the artwork--Troy Howell has pictured himself as the soiled hero of the tale.

Troy created an illustration for each of the tales; and included design elements from book illustrations of past eras--with word banners and story titles that are presented as part of the artwork.

Many of the lesser-known stories we found in Andrew Lang's collections known as The Coloured Fairy Books: The Blue Fairy Book, The Red Fairy Book, etc. This will help any who want to find the complete versions of these wonderful tales.

The only illustration I was able to see as original art was the painting for Puss in Boots. It was featured in an exhibition of children's book art in 1985 in New York City.  The painting was large and glorious with the impressive figure of the cat, his great boots, and a beautifully plumed hat.  The cat's master can be seen behind, washing in the river; and the Ogre's castle sits atop a mountain in the distance. The cat's pose is deferential, a slight bow and a doffing of the cap to the king and princess who are outside the painting but have just ridden up in a carriage; but his gaze is direct and unabashed--this is a cat to be taken seriously. Fortunately for the new Marquis, the ogre misses this point!

You will notice on the jacket cover for the book that the artist suggested that we include his middle name, Allyn. This is his real name. He thought that with the "old-fashioned" title he would present himself with his middle name and its archaic spelling. This could be a name out of one of the tales!

Troy Allyn Howell

Other work by Troy Howell:

Since they were very first published, the Redwall books have all had jacket art created by Troy Howell.

He has also illustrated some wonderful collections of mythology and many picture books, including Goliath, the Hero of the Great Baltimore Fire, a true story written by Claudia Friddell.

(If you are interested in finding a copy of The Old-Fashioned Storybook, then you want to try used-book sources in your area or online.  Today when I looked the title up on Better World Books, which is my favorite used-book source, there were several editions available at very reasonable prices.)

Here is the link to their website:  Better World Books


  1. Hello, Leon! I just now discovered this and was immediately transported to wonderful memories of my early career, thanks to editors like you.

    1. I was only in publishing for a short time and so I have always been grateful that I was able to help put this book together. I love the paintings you made for it. Thanks for writing, Troy! from Leon