When I was a small child, I could stare at Harry Linnell’s illustrations in The Did and Didn’t Book for what seemed like hours. The cover image, in particular, left me completely transfixed.
The book, written by Paul Wing and published in 1925 by C.E. Rock Co., NY, belonged to my mother, who would have been two at the time of its publication. It ended up on her shelf of children’s books for her own children many years later. It’s still under copyright, so I can’t publish the contents here (yet, anyway).
Suffice it to say, it is a short book containing a persuasive story as to why little children should bathe and brush their teeth. The main characters are David and Lorraine, Horace Bristle, a little white Teletubby-like creature called Igloo, a fellow with no teeth named ‘Didn’t’, and a mud-covered character (obviously not a regular bather!) called Frowzy Frump.
At the end of the book, a surprise awaited the children of the 1925 purchasers of the book: a ‘Does It Kit,’ containing a little cake of soap, a wash cloth, toothpaste, and a toothbrush resembling Horace Bristle. Mom has no memory of those inclusions; but no matter, they were destined to disappear quite quickly anyway. But the book–now in very worn condition–still sits on our shelves. And I still occasionally leaf through it, enjoying the illustrations more than anything. I don’t know how much of a rarity this book is, but like many other children’s books with captivating illustrations, it is a testament to the power of an illustrator’s paint brush and the lingering impact their images can have on a child’s imagination.
Some children who may well have been recipients of The Did and Didn’t Book appear in the photo below. I treasure this photo of my dad’s 1927 birthday party which was attended by my mother! For the moment, I’ll leave it to my family of regular readers to try to figure out which children they are.
How about you? Any favorite illustrated books from your childhood come to mind? (Frankly, I recall none devoted to the topic of bathing and tooth brushing!) As a child of the sixties, my personal favorites are The Adventures of Mr. Gilfump, many of the Dr. Seuss books, and of course, Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.
Note: Another children’s hygiene book from that era is 1913’s Yourself and Your Wonderful House. Full of all sorts of advice for parents on raising children, it is viewable online on the Open Library website. Some images from that book can be seen below.