Last week I acquired a box full of old Big Little Books, most of which are from the 1930s. They're in rough shape, clearly having been well-read and loved, but I still think they're a fantastic find. They present a sort of time capsule of children's interests from the '30s and '40s: space travel, cowboys, adventure, planes, cops & robbers, secret agents, superheroes.
As I browsed through the titles, I was surprised to see how much they still appeal, some 70 years after their publication dates. Escapism never grows old, I guess, and the opening paragraphs of each book were carefully crafted to catch and hold the reader's attention.
The excerpts below feature samples of some of the most evocative passages. Read on, and find yourself rocketing towards Mongo with Flash Gordon, riding along a creek bed with the Lone Ranger, piloting a plane through a fog bank above the Pacific Coast mountains, confonting an evil spy ringmaster in a dark castle, and taking down criminals with Detective Higgins of the Racket Squad...
Excerpt from Flash Gordon in the Water World of Mongo, Chapter One: The Sea of Mystery:
"High in the gaseous envelope which encloses the planet Mongo, a giant rocket ship sped through a murky fog. Within the craft were three strangers to Mongo -- three wayfarers from the distant planet known as Earth."
Excerpt from The Lone Ranger and the Black Shirt Highwayman:
"It was practically impossible for the two horsemen to see more than a couple of feet ahead in the intense darkness of an impending storm. They rode silently along the bank of Powder River; the only sound above the steady clump of horses' hoofs was the occasional rumble of thunder. The jagged flashes of lightning gave brief glimpses of the trail they followed."
" ' Ceiling zero. Visibility zero. Barometer twenty-eight point four two. Wind...' Ten thousand feet above the peaks of the Pacific Coast Range, a silver shape roared through the endlessly swirling wall of fog. Twin motors hammered their song of might, a faraway drone to the two men inside the great airplane's control cabin."
Excerpt from International Spy: Doctor Doom Faces Death at Dawn:
" ' Doctor Doom! So, he matches wits with us again, eh?' In the gloomy and forbidding chamber, Count Arnheim, the war minister of Merovia, sat hunched over his massive desk and pointed his stubby finger at the tall, cloaked figure before him. His beady eyes smouldered with rage."
Excerpt from Detective Higgins of the Racket Squad:
"Detective Higgins swung his two hundred pounds of muscle and bone into action. His arms, working like trip-hammers, pounded down the once sneering face of Tuffy Haynes...he sagged down like a pricked balloon before the merciless fists of Detective Sergeant Higgins, of the Racket Squad."
That's all for now; Flash just rescued the queen of Mongo's underwater city, and I have to see what happens next:
wow, what a great haul! So glad you scanned in so many images, too. Invisible Scarlet O'Neil looks like she stepped out of a Tijuana bible!ReplyDelete
Since you are a children's librarian, you can appreciate how these stories help to build a child's vocabulary. The same goes for the forward credits in the Saturday matinee serials. The child had to read for himself with no voice over narration. Did you also notice the pictures in the upper right corner of the pages. They moved when the pages were flipped. You got yourself quite a haul there.ReplyDelete
Thanks, glad you liked this post! It was really a thrill finding this stash of books, and discovering how much they clearly meant to their original young owner. You're totally right about the vocabulary: these are a big step up from the "Dick and Jane" readers!ReplyDelete
And yep, some of them have the flip picture pages...the books are so fragile, it's a bit difficult to do the flipping now, but it's still quite a neat feature.