Monday, December 9, 2013

Another Ghost of Christmas Past

Based on what I see at estate sales, people tend to keep the Christmas issue of magazines more than any other.  Perhaps it's because of the recipes or craft ideas, or (in the case of very old magazines) because of stories by the featured authors.

Such may have been the case when I came across a copy of the December 1960 issue of Everywomans [no apostrophe!] Family Circle magazine.

I don't know why someone saved this particular copy of the magazine, but it may have been because of the featured story, The Christmas Ghost by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated for the magazine by Gyo Fujikawa.

Pearl Sydenstricker Buck (1892-1973) needs no introduction to readers of 20th century literature.  Born in West Virginia, raised in China by missionary parents, she won 1932 Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Good Earth, the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature, and many other awards.  Buck's story The Christmas Ghost was published in book form in 1960, with illustrations by Anna Marie Magagna.  

I have great respect for authors who can successfully write for children as well as adults. Good juvenile literature has a clarity of expression, the read-aloud quality of "Once upon a time..." that can be difficult to write, and is lacking in so many so-called "grownup" books.

Even with great writing, the illustrations often "make" the story for the child, and the illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa may have been one of the reasons a family from 1960 saved this old magazine.  

Gyo Fujikawa (1908-1998) was not as well-known as Pearl S. Buck, but she made significant contributions to 20th century children's literature. Her obituary in The New York Times provides the highlights of her life:

Gyo Fujikawa, a prolific author and illustrator of children's books, including some of the first to feature children of many races, died on Nov. 26 at New York Hospital. She was 90 and lived in Manhattan.

The California-born daughter of a Japanese farmer and an aspiring Japanese social worker, Miss Fujikawa was among the first illustrators to command royalties rather than a flat fee.

Miss Fujikawa's father borrowed her first name from a Chinese emperor (the name rhymes with Leo).

She illustrated five books, including ''Mother Goose'' and ''The Night Before Christmas,'' and wrote and illustrated 45 others. She also designed six United States postage stamps, including the 32-cent yellow rose self-adhesive stamp issued last year and the United States-Japan Treaty centenary stamp of 1960.

Although she retired from writing and illustrating books in 1990, when her last two books were published, Barnes and Noble booksellers had recently approached her longtime literary agent about reprinting many of the ones that are out of print, said the agent, Bernard Kurman. The first two books she both wrote and illustrated, ''Babies'' and ''Baby Animals,'' have sold a combined 1.3 million copies and are still in print.

Fujikawa also created the design for the Eskimo Pie kid and for the baby on Beech-Nut Baby Food.  She is quoted as having said:

"In illustrating for children, what I relish most is trying to satisfy the constant question in the back of my mind--will this picture capture a child's imagination? What can I do to enhance it further? Does it help to tell a story? I am far from being successful (whatever that means), but I am ever so grateful to small readers who find 'something' in any book of mine."

Here's the story of The Christmas Ghost, with the artwork, scanned from the December 1960 issue of Everywoman's Family Circle.  Read it aloud to a child, or have the child read it to you.

1 comment:

  1. This post was so amazing to find! Thank you so much for scanning the magazine and posting these pages! I hadn't seen this version of the story and accompanying illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa in many years. When I was growing up, my family read this story from the original Family Circle magazine each Christmas. My dad had cut the pages out of the magazine and kept them in a special folder. After my dad passed away, we lost track of that original copy that we used to read.

    I had three older brothers, but I wasn't born until January 1961, the month after this article appeared, so I don't know how many years it was read before I can remember it being the tradition. But as I grew up, it became a much cherished tradition for me (and my next oldest brother), sitting in the living room with a fire blazing in our fireplace and the Christmas tree aglow with assorted lights (including bubble lights--my favorite). Last year, this brother sent me a used book with the story (somewhat edited from the magazine version) with different illustrations by Anna Marie Magagna. That was a great surprise gift! But now that I found the "original" version (for us anyway), I'll be sending the link to this article to my brother this Christmas!

    Thanks for a wonderful Christmas present to us!