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Jean Charlot's Technique in Children's Book Illustration

Peter Morse

Checklist of Children's books Illustrated by Charlot
About the Author

If Jean Charlot is not the greatest of all children's book illustrators, he is certainly the greatest artist ever to devote himself regularly to the field of children's books. Barbara Bader has made the same observation in her detailed chapter on Charlot's work. (1) It seems worthwhile to consider the particular artistic techniques he used to bring him to this eminence. There is also a checklist of his children's books at the end of this article.

Charlot considered this to be important work. He did not "coast" in his work for children; he did not talk down to his audience. Reviewers, in fact, have sometimes wondered whether his astringent pictures were too sophisticated for children. (2) But those same books, in the end, seem to have been the most popular with their young readers. "A painter accustomed to run the gauntlet of grown-up criticism," wrote Charlot, "should not expect an easing of the ordeal as he switches to children as his onlookers." He continued with a smile: "Artist and children are the only beings that picture books concern. Small children will read the book. If they are smaller ones, they will be read the book. If they are smaller still, they will try and eat the book." (3) Many images that he created originally for children's books later found their way into his "fine" art, such as the "Volador" in El Indio (p. 93 ) or the "Woman with Basket" in Martin de Porres, Hero (p. 94). He did nothing less than his best for his audience of children.

He has certainly been given ample adult recognition in the children's book field. Of the 27 books he illustrated there have been two winners and a runner-up of the Newbery Medal and two runners-up of the Caldecott Medal, among other awards. He was chosen unanimously as one of the half-century's ten best children's illustrators by a New York Times panel in 1950, when he had completed only ten of his books. (4) It is worth noting that nine of the 27 books are still in print in 1982.

Charlot's cardinal principle in book illustration was to have the printed picture approach his original idea as closely as possible. He knew reproduction processes intimately. This enabled him to select drawing t echniques that were designed for specific reproduction techniques. The multiplication of the image, he felt, should not dilute its impact on the viewer. For this reason, he associated book illustrations closely in his mind with original prints. "The United States," wrote in 1947, "witnesses a heartening revival of the use of hand-drawn prints pulled in unlimited editions . . . . They are illustrations for trade books, more often children's books." ( 5) Ann Carroll Moore especially noted the importance of technique in Charlot's work. Referring to A Hero By Mistake , she wrote: "I know of no living artist whose mastery of technique permits him to present such varied forms in harmonious relation and with such utter simplicity." (6)

Nowadays, if you go into a bookstore, you will see that almost all of the children's books are illustrated in four-color halftone process. Here the artist's color drawing, in whatever technique, is placed in a color separation camera. A series of filters breaks down the image into four primary colors: yellow, red, blue, and black. The color images are then passed through a halftone screen, which divides each picture into a regular pattern of tiny dots. The four screened color images are then transferred onto four printing plates. These are inked and printed successively in four standardized colors, called "process" colors, to imitate the color values of the artist's original. ( 7)

Charlot disliked four-color halftone process and never used it for any of his fifty-plus illustrated books. This antipathy applied to both aspects of the process: the halftone screen and the process colors. He avoided halftone screening for any purpose, including black-and-white work. (It is used in only one of his children's books, Martin de Porres, Hero, quite contrary to his intentions.) The pattern of dots, no matter how fine and well printed, turns a sharp drawing fuzzy. It places a gauze or scrim of printing technology between the artist and his audience. "Artist and child both agree," wrote Charlot, "that line-drawings read more easily than fuzzy renderings." (8) To avoid the halftone screen, Charlot drew for reproduction by line processes. In its simplest form, the term means a process that avoids the halftone screen. The printed picture, therefore, lacks the mechanical pattern of dots that makes a screened illustration so blurred. He avoided process colors for a more practical reason: they are difficult to use apart from the halftone screen for which they are designed. The palette is an extremely limited one for the artist to make his own choices from.

Back in the 1930s, when Charlot began to illustrate children's books, line reproduction techniques, allied with letterpress printing, were more limited than they later became. Then, they could reproduce mainly drawings with solid color areas, clear outlines, and no tonal values. Most of Charlot's first children's books (1931-1942) were drawn in this hard-edge, solid-color style (nos. 1 and 3- 7). A number of his later books were also done in this manner (nos. 9, 11, 14, 15, 19, 24, and 26). In pure line drawing, there are no areas of shading, no grays, no medium tones. The color is either present in full intensity or absent beyond a clearly defined edge. Charlot had learned to be comfortable with this technique in his youth, through his experience with the medium of woodcut. He made his first original woodcut in 1916, when he was 18 years old: a "Head of Christ." (9) By 1931, he had made 66 original woodcuts, several of them in more than one color. It is the nature of the woodcut medium to produce hard edges and solid colors. The same method of drawing translates easily into the line technique of book illustration.

The many line illustrations of Digging in Yucatan were drawn in black ink on paper. They could just as well have been cut on wood blocks. Charlot told an amusing story on himself, a young man newly arrived from Mexico, that shows his personal involvement with the whole printing process.

In 1931, I did end-papers for Digging in Yucatan , with my own color separations. I was not familiar with the way things were done in New York. I went to see the printer about some faults in the plates. 'That's easy,' I said. 'Give me a tool and I'll cut them out.' He put his hands up in the air and said, 'If you touch anything here, all my men would strike!' I realized I was not in Mexico. (10)

He used this knowledge of printing techniques to full advantage, even if he could not correct the plates with his own hand, and he always retained a sense of the artist's personal responsibility for the printing as well as the drawing of a picture.

Tawnymore shows another aspect of line technique. Here it was used to produce coarse shading and tonal values without a halftone screen. The artist made crayon drawings on paper with a very rough-textured surface. These drawings were then photographed and the images transferred directly onto printing plates. (He even did it in multiple colors for endpapers and frontispiece.) In this case, the texture of the paper breaks up the crayon shading into separate dots of color. On the printing plate, these dots print individually as areas of solid colors. Combined with the white spaces between them, they give the printed picture the same granular tonal values as the original drawing. The important point is that the process does not impose a mechanical barrier -- the halftone screen between the artist and the viewer. Thus the artist's original idea comes through much more clearly. (11) The coarse grain of the shading was the best that could be produced by the letterpress methods in nearly universal use in the early 1930s. Later, as we shall see, much finer results could be attained with offset lithography.

Charlot's third children's book, The Sun, the Moon, and a Rabbit , uses still another variation of line technique. Here he made drawings in ink line, without shading and with few areas of solid color. In some cases, his lines were photographed directly, transferred to the plate, and printed as color lines. In other cases, a negative reversal was made before the images were placed on the printing plates. This resulted in a page of solid color with the drawing appearing in white line. (In either case, Charlot's original drawing was in black pen-and-ink on paper.) (12) Although five colors, including black, were used in the book, no more than two printed colors (black plus another) were used on any one page. Still, within these limited means -black plus one color plus white (by reversal) -- Charlot created a series of astonishing mythical designs. He brought to life the substance of Mexican Indian legends in a manner reminiscent of ancient Mayan murals, which he had studied at first hand. This book ought to be much better known than it is.

Tito's Hats is the first book in which Charlot makes color an integral part of the illustrations, not just an accent. (Its author, by the way, became much better known as an actor than as an author -- Mel Ferrer.) The budget apparently permitted the use of only two colors, including the text. Charlot chose brown and yellow. The bright yellow was reserved almost entirely for the straw hats that are the key feature of the story. All the rest -- people, landscapes, and text -- are in the soft brown of the Mexican earth. Charlot probably made his drawings (I have not seen the originals) in black ink on tracing paper. This would allow him to see through his second color to the first, so that the two remained in register with each other. Since there would have been no color "original," except in Charlot's mind, the printed picture represent the artist's idea exactly, without the intervention of any photomechanical process. This is the ideal towards which Charlot always strove in book illustrating. (Incidentally, this is the first of his books to be printed by offset, the process used for all the rest.)

El Indio and The Boy Who Could Do Anything are drawn and printed in the simpler line style of The Sun, the Moon, and a Rabbit. The second book, in particular has a strange and fantastic quality appropriate to legends.

The Story of Chan Yuc carries the color method one step further with the use of three colors. Again, there are broad areas of solid color: green, pink, and brown. But there are also areas where the green and pink are overprinted, creating a fourth color: olive. The brown remains without overprinting and is used for the text as well as in the illustrations.

Chan Yuc might seem only a cautious beginning in color overprinting if we did not know Charlot's history. He has told of having a neighbor, when he was a boy in France, who was a commercial printer. Sometimes the printer would visit, bringing a set of commercial color separations, a new thing at the time. The young Charlot was fascinated to see how the separate colors fit together to make a finished picture with an infinite range of colors. The experience made a lasting impression on him. (13)

Later, as a printmaker, he was remarkable for being able to make color separations entirely in his mind, with a clear idea of how the colors would combine in a complete printed picture. In the eight years before 1941, he made more than a hundred original color lithographs, most of them of remarkable complexity. For his famed Picture Book of 1933 he created 32 lithographs in six or seven colors each -- all the colors being hand-drawn on offset lithographic plates. (15) It is notable that no single plate of them carries a complete design. Only after all the colors had been locked together on the printed sheet did the whole picture emerge for the first time. This was followed by many more book illustrations (especially Characters of the Reformation and Carmen) (16 ) and single sheet prints as large as 26 x 18 inches, all in multicolor original lithography. He knew the effects of color printing and overprinting as well as any man alive.

All this experience was brought to bear on his next book: A Child's Good Night Book . Charlot felt strongly that this text, meant for the very young, ought to be illustrated in full color and with a full range of tonal values. It is a job, then as now, that would normally be done by four-color halftone process. Instead, since he was familiar with hand lithography, especially on offset plates, Charlot asked if he could make the Good Night Book illustrations as original lithographs. The publisher, William R. Scott, Inc., agreed.

Charlot received four large zinc offset plates (35" x 22") with a grained surface (also called "wipe-on" plates). He drew his designs directly on the plates with black lithographic crayon. One plate was used for each color: yellow, red, blue, and gray. All twelve pictures, including the cover and dust jacket, were on the same set of plates. The artist, as with his other original lithographs, made the color separations in his head and never saw the full-color pictures until the plates were printed. The result, however, is that the viewer sees the picture exactly as the artist intended it to appear. The illustrations are just as original, just as first-hand, as if the artist had hand-drawn them on the pages of the book. A Child's Good Night Book comes closer than any other of Charlot's children's books to achieving his ideal of a one-to- one communication between artist and child. There is no camera, no halftone screen, no commercial color separation placedbetween the two. (17)

The directness and impact of the illustrations undoubtedly contribute to the remarkable success of the book. Fifteen thousand copies were printed from the original plates before they were accidentally destroyed by the printer, and many more could have been. After that edition was exhausted, there was still a demand for the book. Scott asked Charlot to redo it in a new and larger format.

By this time, 1949, a new process had been developed, generally known as the acetate process. (18) The artist was given sheets of clear acetate with a grained or "mat" surface on one side. He then drew on the roughened acetate with crayon, pen, or even pencil. If he planned more than one color, he would draw separate acetates for each, laying them on top of each other so that the other colors would show through. The finished acetates were then laid onto a photosensitized offset printing plate and exposed to light. The image was thus transferred directly to the plate, without the intervention of a camera or a halftone screen. It is, of course, necessary for the artist to draw at the same size as the printed illustration, a procedure that Charlot preferred to follow in any case. The resulting pictures are very difficult to distinguish from original lithographs. Indeed, Charlot felt that his acetate process illustrations were just as "original" as his artistic prints.

I have always had the idea of multiplication about prints. It is associated also with commercial reproduction. The print is a means to an end, and the end is to multiply images . . . .The illustrations done on acetate, for instance, are for me just as 'original' as any other technique of multiplication.(19)

It is only a "split-hair" ruling -- that they were not personally drawn on the plates by the artist -- that excludes them from the catalog of his original prints. (20) The acetate method has had a regrettably short life span as an illustration technique. By the 1970s, it had already dropped low in the favor of artists and publishers. (21)

To introduce him to the new process, the publisher, Scott, asked Charlot to make a trial picture with it. He drew a Mexican "malinche," a young girl in festive costume, using four acetate sheers, one each for yellow, red, blue, and brown.(22) The resulting picture (which has never before been published) satisfied Charlot that the acetate process could approach hand-drawn lithography as an illustration technique. It was also an advantage to the artist that he was paid the fee for color separations in addition to that for his drawings.

The 1950s were Charlot's most productive period in children's books. During this decade, he did 16 of his 27 books in the field. It was an apt time in his own life for such work, for in 1950, his four children ranged in age from 4 to 10. There were many times when they were called upon to act as critics of their father's work.

Most of Charlot's subsequent children's books were done by the acetate process, using colors of his own choosing. First was the new version of A Child's Good Night Book. The enlarged size fit a new uniform format that Scott was developing for its children's picture books. (It is also possible that the small-sized first version was subject to shoplifting.) The new drawings have the same general subject matter, to fit the same text, but are quite different in detail. The major loss, it seems to me, is in the intimacy of the small original. (23)

A Child's Good Morning uses the larger format to much better advantage, blazing out with warm morning colors: brilliant yellow, orange, and green, contrasted with dark blue. If the book received less attention than it deserved, it is no fault of the illustrations. Rather, it is the simple fact that many more parents read to small children at bedtime than in the morning.

In the meantime, there came Two Little Trains, one of the best known books of both the artist and the author. Though the Illustrations are in a simple hard-edge line technique, they are highly sophisticated in their color overprinting. Indeed, Charlot uses his three basic colors (apart from black) to produce five additional colors. As Maurice Sendak noted, "His choice of colors is a breathing into life of the very color of Miss Brown's words." (24) Yet this chromatic range is all achieved with pink, blue, brown, and black.

Fox Eyes uses only two colors, and its impact depends on its bold forms rather than on color variety. Years later, the publisher asked Charlot if he would redo it in a more painterly technique, but he wasn't interested. He had already gotten just the result he wanted.

The single double-page illustration in Secret of the Andes undoubtedly contributed to its winning the Newbery Award for 1952, as the author graciously acknowledged. (25) Charlot's three sensitive portraits allow us to visualize the main protagonists of the story in a way no words can accomplish.

The next year, And Now Miguel was also a Newbery winner. The New York Herald Tribune reviewer gave credit to Charlot: "Fully half of our pleasure in the book lay in the superb Chariot drawings." (26)

When Will the World Be Mine? uses the same two colors as Fox Eyes, with an utterly different result. Here the forms are softly drawn in crayon on acetate, with great areas of white giving brilliance to the pages. There is little or no overprinting. The printing process faithfully preserves the tranquility of the rabbits' world.

Martin de Porres, Hero is clearly an aberration -- the fault being the publisher's, not Charlot's. The artist drew his 36 black-and-white illustrations with crayon and ink on acetate. Obviously, they were intended for direct transfer to the printing plates, as had been done with the illustrations for Scott and Viking. This time, however, the publisher had the drawings photographed and passed onto the plates with a halftone screen. It is instructive to place these pictures alongside those from Sneakers , done at the same time and In the same manner. The Martin de Porres illustrations, strong as the designs are, appear blurry and remote, whereas the Sneakers pictures seem to have been drawn right an the page by the artist's own hand.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is probably Charlot's masterpiece of children's book illustration. His publisher, for once, permitted him five separate colors for printing his illustrations. He chose four rich dark colors: yellow, red, green, and mauve, along with black. These are far from a standard palette and bear no relation to "process" colors. The acetate technique allowed Charlot to avoid the halftone screen and the separation camera. The book opens with a crayon line drawing in the full five colors on the title page. This is followed by a single-color vignette, a full-page crayon line drawing in three colors, leading up the first of six double-page pictures without text. These illustrations dominate the book like panels of a huge fresco mural. The analogy is apt, for Charlot's, fame as an artist today rests most securely on his 65 murals in Mexico and the United States. The technique of fresco, too, is analogous to that of the acetate process. In both the artist lays pure colors one at a time on his working surface, whether they be paints on wet plaster or inks printed on paper. There is no advance mixing of colors on a palette. The blends come entirely from the superimposed transparent colors. In Our Lady of Guadalupe, Charlot began with his four basic colors (yellow, green, red, mauve) and then created three more (purple, brown, orange) through overprinting. He planned his drawings carefully so that no more than two colors are blended together. He contrasts solidly inked areas of color with passages of light crayon shading, and he holds them all together with a network of black ink lines. Like a mural, these illustrations are monumental in scale. They read well at a considerable distance, and yet they have enough detail to satisfy a child's close inspection. It is also worth noting Charlot's strong personal interest in the miracle of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He had studied many accounts of it, both in Spanish and the original Nahuatl, which he spoke well. He gave the event considerable attention in his scholarly study, Mary in Art, which remained unpublished at his death. Thus, Charlot's personal interest, his experience with mural painting, and his deep knowledge of printing techniques all came together in this book to produce the best he could give.

Hester and the Gnomes, also from 1955, uses the line method in an entirely different way. For the first and only time, Charlot created areas of tone and shading, not by fine crayon work, but by spatter technique, probably originated by Toulouse-Lautrec in the 1890s. The artist would put ink on a stiff paintbrush (or a toothbrush) and then make a fine spray of ink on his paper by running his finger or a piece of window screen across the bristles. It is a difficult method to control, but it is eminently suited to reproduction in black-and-white line. It also was most appropriate to the dark world of Miss Hunt's gnomes. The dots of ink in this technique might almost be considered a hand-made halftone screen.

A Hero By Mistake, Poppy Seeds, and Dumb Juan and the Bandits continue Charlot's practice of using broad areas of solid color and hard-edged lines to depict children's stories of Mexico. ( Julio, with similar subject matter, is done in black-and-white process, using crayon on acetate.) Poppy Seeds is perhaps the most successful because the publisher allowed four colors for the illustrations instead of only tow. The Corn Grows Ripe, also a Mexican Indian story, might have been as striking as Our Lady of Guadalupe, if only the publisher had budgeted it for five colors instead of just two.

Kittens, Cubs, and Babies carries two-color printing to an extreme. Charlot divided his illustrations into two alternating color groups, one of cool blue and green, the other of warm yellow and red. The impact of the solid colors, undiluted by halftone or color separation, might have been too strong for the young audience for whom it was intended. Even Charlot considered it "somewhat heavy." (27) He was, however, annoyed that the publisher removed his final picture of a serene grandmother, in the cool blue-green color combination, intended to show that every baby ultimately grew old.

The Timid Ghost is the fourth in a series of Mexican folk tales written by Anita Brenner and illustrated by Charlot. Like the others, it has pictures drawn in strong lines and broad areas of color, without shading. Charlot's design for the book is unusual and striking. Some pages have an illustration at the center, surrounded by a frame line. Others have the text within the frame and pictures spreading around the margin to the edge of the paper.

Charlot insisted throughout on the importance of gold ink as one of his colors gold being the most important point in the story. There were numerous difficulties, and the publisher tried hard to get him to agree to yellow instead of gold. "I am enclosing the gold samples. . .as a discouraging prospect even if there were a possibility. Can you pick what you like least worse or argue further, but do it quickly." (28) It is tribute to both the artist and his editor, John McCullough, that gold was finally printed in all its splendor.

After The Timid Ghost, there was a long hiatus in Charlot's children's book illustrations. When I asked him one time why he had done no more, he shrugged and said: "No one asked me." A more important fact may have been the rapid changes in printing technology. Up through the 1950s, four-color halftone separation was as much an art as a mechanical process. It demanded much expensive time and personal judgment by the printer to achieve a color balance that mirrored the artist's original color drawing. Then in the 1960s, computers came into general use in the printing industry. Now, in effect, one needs only to insert an artist's drawing at the beginning of a computer-controlled process and receive four balance halftone color plates at the end. Furthermore, printers have become accustomed to running the same four "process" colors on their presses. They charge a great deal extra for cleaning out their color fountains for special inks selected by the artist, and they are then faced with balancing colors by eye instead of by computer. Today, acetate has disappeared entirely from use, as has nearly every sort of line printing technique and all artist-selected colors. Charlot had no particular interest in doing illustrations purely for mechanical reproduction by four-color halftone. He never once used the process, either for children's or adult books.

In his last years, he took up a new project: the illustration of a children's text by his wife, Zohmah Charlot. A First Book is a delightful narrative of two children discovering the uses to which a book may be put. He began sketching in 1976, hoping to do the book in original lithography, in the manner of A Child's Good Night Book . His old friend, Lynton R. Kistler, the lithographic printer, prepared some offset plates, and Charlot drew his outlines directly on them. He also drew color plates for four of the eighteen subjects. When these were printed, he tried to interest various publishers in the book, but none wanted it. (One publisher expressed interest in the text but not the illustrations, which were not "in the fashion." Charlot quickly assured them they were "most welcome to treat directly with the author," but nothing came of it.) The project was shelved for lack of a publisher. Interestingly, Charlot at one point decided to investigate the possibility of reproducing the illustration by four-color halftone process. The printer who was consulted declared that he could not make printing plates from Charlot's originals because the colors were too pale, and his computer-controlled machinery interpreted all the colors as yellow. Charlot was bemused by the fact that his lithographed illustrations intrinsically resisted process reproduction. Finally, a month before his death in 1979, he decided to complete A First Book and publish it himself in a limited edition. He set to work with great energy, despite his illness, but death overtook him before he had progressed far. In 1980, his son, Martin Charlot, a noted children's book illustrator in his own right, drew colors for the unfinished plates. He kept strictly to his father's directions, imposing none of his own style. Kistler did the printing. A First Book was finally published as a limited edition a most inappropriate form for its children's subject matter. (29) It is still available for any commercial publisher who might be interested.

"Somewhere along the road," wrote John Lewis in 1954, "the essential qualities of printing were lost or mislaid in the demand for speed, quantity and the seductive use of the process camera. The most pressing and immediate problem of the designer is to restore to modern commercial printing something of this lost quality." (30) Charlot, above all artists, was aware of quality in children's book illustrations. His techniques were important to him and vital to the success of his books. There are lessons here for publishers and artists both. Publishers should consider commissioning and paying for the printing of illustrations in line techniques, particularly the acetate process, and using artist-selected colors. Artists would be well advised to learn about printing processes in detail, in order to take full advantage of their inherent possibilities. Jean Charlot showed that there is a different way to illustrate books than our modern bland four-color halftone--if anyone cares to follow his example.

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The following descriptions of Charlot's 27 children's books are largely self-explanatory. Data on printing techniques often come from the artist's own notes, which are, together with all the books except no. 1, in the Jean Charlot Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii. A large body of original working materials (sketches, acetates, paste-ups, proofs, etc.) is in the Kerlan Collection, Walter Library, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Others are in the de Grummond Collection, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Still other materials are in the May Massee Collection, William Allen White Library, Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas.

  1. DIGGING IN YUCATAN, by Ann Axtell Morris. Published by Doubleday, Doran & Co., Garden City, New York, 1931: xix and 279 pages, 22 x 15 cm., ages: 12-up. The story of the excavation of the Temple of the Warriors at the Mayan city of Chichen Itza, from an archeologist's viewpoint. (Charlot was also a member of the expedition.) Printed by letterpress: line plates from ink drawings on paper. Dust jacket: vignettes in blue, brown, and black. Endpapers: yellow, blue-green, and reddish brown, with overprinting. 37 illustrations in black of which 18 are half-page chapter headings and 21 are vignettes.
  2. TAWNEYMORE, by Monica Shannon. Published by Doubleday, Doran & Co. (Junior Books), Garden City, New York, 1931: ix and 254 pages, 20 x 14 cm., ages: 12-up. An adventure story of pirates in Baja California. Printed by letterpress at the Country Life Press, Garden City, New York: line plates from crayon drawings on textured paper. Dust jacket not seen. Endpapers: brown, red, and green, with overprinting. Frontispiece: red, blue, and black. 30 illustrations in black, of which 6 are full-page and 24 are vignettes. 6 pencil sketches, 26 black-and-white proofs on 16 sheets: Kerlan Collection.
  3. THE SUN, THE MOON, AND A RABBIT, by Amelia Martinez Del Rio. Published by Sheed & Ward, Inc., New York, 1935: 191 pages, 18 x 25 cm., ages: 9-12. A collection of Mexican folk-tales, legends, and historical stories. Printed by letterpress at Quinn & Boden Co., Inc.: line plates from pen or brush-and-ink drawings on paper. Dust jacket: red, green, and blacks. 49 illustrations, of which 18 are full-page in two colors (black plus another), 12 are full-page in one color only (blue, red, green, or orange), and 16 full-page and 3 vignettes are in black only. 45 ink illustrations and 3 ink sketches: Kerlan Collection.
  4. TITO'S HATS, Melchor G. Ferrer. Published by Garden City Publishing Co., New York, 1940: 28 pages, 23 x 23 cm., ages: 4- 7. The story of a Mexican boy who is promised a new hat by his father. Printed by offset at Bauer Lithograph Co., New York: line plates from brush-and-ink drawings on paper (tracing paper?). Dust jacket: yellow and brown (cover is identical). Endpapers: yellow only (hats). 25 illustrations, of which 2 double-page and 12 single-page are in yellow and brown, 10 single-page and one vignette in brown only. (Text is in brown.) 15 ink illustrations, 2 watercolor studies and 1 paste-up for dust jacket: Kerlan Collection.
  5. EL INDIO: NOVELA MEXICANA, by Gergorio Lopez y Fuentes. Published by W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1940: 251 pages, 19 x 13 cm., ages: 12-up. A school textbook: Spanish language reader for United states students. Printed by offset at Vail-Ballou Press: line plates from pen-and-ink drawings on paper. Dust jacket (if any) not seen. 6 full-page illustrations in black line.
  6. THE STORY OF CHAN YUC, by Dorothy Rhoads. Published by Doubleday, Doran & Co. (Junior Books), Garden City, New York, 1941: 45 pages, 22 x 22 cm., ages: 4-8. The story of a tiny deer found in Yucatan and brought to the National Zoo in Washington, D. C. Printed by offset at Bauer Lithograph Co., New York: line plates from pen-and-ink drawings on paper. Colors: pink, green, and brown. Dust jacket in three colors (cover identical). 21 illustrations, of which 2 double-page, 8 full- page, and 2 half-page are in three colors; 1 full-page and 8 half-page in brown only. (Text in brown.) Pink overprinted on green produces a fourth color: olive. 32 pencil sketches and 1 study for dust jacket in ink, pencil, and watercolor: Kerlan Collection.
  7. THE BOY WHO COULD DO ANYTHING, by Anita Brenner. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1942: 136 pages, 24 x 19 cm., ages: 10-14. A collection of Mexican folk tales. Printed by offset: line plates from pen-and-ink drawings on paper. Colors: green, red, orange, black. (Screened red and orange are sometimes used for backgrounds.) 57 illustrations, of which 20 are full-page (12 in one color, 6 in black, 2 in black on color), and 37 are part-page (14 in one color, 21 in black, 2 in black on color). 41 ink and pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection.
  8. A CHILD'S GOOD NIGHT BOOK, by Margaret Wise Brown. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1943: 24 pages, 16 x 14 cm., ages: 2-5. How many different creatures go to sleep. Printed by offset at Bauer Lithograph Co., New York: original hand-drawn lithographic plates. Colors: yellow, red, blue, gray. Dust jacket in four colors. Cover in four colors. 14 illustrations, of which 3 double-page and 8 full-page in four colors, and 4 pages with illustrations in gray only (photomechanically reproduced). Full-sheet progressive proofs: Jean Charlot Collection, University of Hawaii. Caldecott Medal runner-up, 1944.
  9. TWO LITTLE TRAINS, by Margaret Wise Brown. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1949: 32 pages, 24 x 20 cm., ages: 4-7. Two trains race from the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States. Printed by offset: line plates from pen- and-ink drawings on paper. Colors: yellow-brown, pink, dark blue, black. Overprinting gives dark brown (yellow-brown plus pink), purple (pink plus blue), mauve (pink plus screened blue), and dark green (yellow-brown plus blue). Dust jacket and end papers in four colors. 17 illustrations, of which 7 double-page and one full-page in four colors, and 4 double-page, 3 full-page, and 2 vignettes in black only. 1 ink sketch and 20-page publisher's dummy: Kerlan Collection. Japanese edition: Tokyo, 1977, 20 x 16 cm., with new separations, not by Charlot but closely following his.
  10. A CHILD'S GOOD NIGHT BOOK (2nd version), by Margaret Wise Brown. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1950: 32 pages, 25 x 20 cm., ages: 2-5. A newly-drawn version of no. 8. Printed by offset: line plates from crayon drawings on acetate. Colors: light blue, pink, yellow-brown, gray-green. Dust jacket and cover in four colors. 18 illustrations, of which 2 double- page and 12 full-page are in four colors, and 4 pages with illustrations in gray-green only. 26-page dummy with holograph: Kerlan Collection. Two Japanese editions have been seen.
  11. FOX EYES, by Margaret Wise Brown. Published by Pantheon Books, New York, 1951: 32 pages, 21 x 14 cm., ages: 4-7. A fox explores the world around him. Printed by offset: line plates from brush-and-ink drawings on paper. Colors: green and brown. Overprinting gives dark blue. Dust jacket in two colors (cover identical). 25 illustrations, of which 1 double-page, 11 full-page, and 8 part- page are in two colors, and 1 double-page, 1 full-page, and 3 part-page in brown only. (Text in brown.)
  12. A CHILD'S GOOD MORNING, by Margaret Wise Brown. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1952: 32 pages, 24 x 20 cm., ages: 2-5. How different creatures wake up in the morning. Printed by offset: line plates from crayon or brush-and-ink drawings on acetate. Colors: yellow, orange, green, dark blue. Dust jacket and endpapers in four colors. 17 illustrations, of wich 3 double-page and 11 full-page in four colors, and 1 full- page and 2 vignettes in blue only. (Text in blue.) 27 page ink and pencil dummy, 40 page pencil dummy with typescript, 2 sketches for endpapers, and 4 pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection.
  13. SECRET OF THE ANDES, by Ann Nolan Clark. Published by the Viking Press, New York, 1952: 131 pages, 24 x 16 cm., ages: 9-13. The story of Cusi, an Inca Indian boy, and his travels in Peru. Printed by offset at Reehl Litho Company: line plates from ink and crayon drawings on acetate. Colors: red, blue, brown, black. Dust jacket, endpapers, and Title page (double-page) in four colors. 2 line vignettes in black. 3 color sketches, 4 drawings not used in the book, 4 drawings on acetate for endpapers, 5 drawings on acetate for dust jacket, 5 drawings on acetate for title page, 3 vignette drawings, of which 2 are on acetate: de Grummond Collection. Paperback edition has a cover in four-color process halftone, made from the original dust jacket. Newbery Medal winner, 1953.
  14. A HERO BY MISTAKE, by Anita Brenner. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1953: 44 pages, 22 x 16 cm., ages: 7- 10. The story of a Mexican boy who is always frightened and always ends up a hero. Printed by offset: line plates from pen- and-ink drawings on acetate. Colors: light blue and black. Dust jacket in blue (text in black). Endpapers in blue and black (the same subject also used for a double-page illustration). 30 illustrations, of which 8 full-page and 16 part-page in two colors, and 6 part-page in blue only. 21 ink and pencil sketches, 36-page pencil dummy, 1 pencil sketch: Kerlan Collection. Paperback edition in same colors, with new separations, not by Charlot but closely following his.
  15. AND NOW MIGUEL, by Joseph Krumgold. Published by Thomas Y. Crowell Co., New York, 1953: viii and 247 pages, 20 x 14 cm., ages: 11-up. The story of a New Mexico boy who wants to be a sheepherder like his father and brother. Printed in offset: line plates from pen-and-ink drawings on paper. Colors: (first edition) dark green and mauve (over-printed to give brown) and black, (later editions) dark yellow and reddish brown (overprinted to give orange) and black. Dust jacket and endpapers in three colors (all editions). 34 illustrations, of which 6 full-page in three colors (first edition) or black only (later editions), and 28 part-page in black only. 31 ink illustrations, 12 pencil sketches, 12 drawings for dust jacket and endpapers, 2 separations for jacket, and 2 separations for endpapers: Kerlan Collection. The book was translated into a number of foreign languages under the sponsorship of the United States Information Agency. Those seen (Spanish and Greek) are in the colors of the first edition. Newbery Medal winner, 1954.
  16. WHEN WILL THE WORLD BY MINE? by Miriam Schlein. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1953: 31 pages, 24 x 20 cm., ages: 5-8. The story of a young snowshoe rabbit, whose mother teaches him about the world around him. Printed by offset: line plates from ink and crayon drawings on acetate. Colors: green and reddish brown. Dust jacket, endpapers, 15 double-page and 2 single-page illustrations in two colors. Text in brown. 7 ink and pencil sketches, 9 pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection. Caldecott Medal runner-up, 1954.
  17. MARTIN DE PORRES, HERO, by Claire Huchet Bishop. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1954: viii and 120 pages, 23 x 15 cm., ages: 10-up. A biography of the Blessed Martin of Porres, who lived in 17th-century Peru. Printed in offset at the Riverside Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts: halftone plates from ink and crayon drawings on acetate. Dust jacket and endpapers in four colors: yellow-brown, pink, blue, and dark brown, with screened halftone plates but non-process colors, separations by Charlot. 36 illustrations in black, of which 12 are full-page and 24 part-page. 2 ink and pencil illustrations and 30 pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection.
  18. OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE, by Helen Rand Parish. Published by the Viking Press, New York, 1955: 48 pages, 25 x 17 cm., ages: 8- 12. A narrative of the miraculous appearance of the Virgin in Mexico in 1531. Printed by offset at Affiliated Lithographers: line plates from ink and crayon drawings on acetate. Colors: dark yellow, red, green, mauve, black. Overprinting gives purple (mauve plus green), brown (mauve plus yellow), and orange (red plus yellow). Dust jacket in five colors (cover identical). 16 illustrations, of which there are 6 double-page and 1 line vignette in five colors, 3 full-page and 1 part-page in three colors, and 5 vignettes in yellow only. 2 ink and pencil sketches, 6 pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection. 8 sets of six acetate drawings each, 4 sets of three acetate drawings, and 5 single acetate drawings: de Grummond Collection.
  19. THE POPPY SEEDS, by Clyde Robert Bulla. Published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1955: 37 pages, 22 x 18 cm., ages: 5-8. The story of a Mexican farmer boy, Pablo, who plants some seeds in a time of drought. Printed by offset: line plates from brush-and-ink drawings on acetate. Colors: light blue, light green, brown, black. Overprinting gives dark green (light blue plus light green) and olive (green plus brown). Overprinting appears only on the endpapers; the four colors are quite separate in the other illustrations. Dust jacket and endpapers in four colors. 21 illustrations, of which 4 double- page, 4 single-page, and 3 part-page are in four colors, and 2 double-page, 2 single-page, and 6 part-page in black only. 22- page ink and pencil dummy with text proofs, 11 ink illustrations, and 16 pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection.
  20. SNEAKERS, by Margaret Wise Brown. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1955: 144 pages, 18 x 14 cm., ages: 5-8. Seven adventures of a small lively cat. Printed by offset: line plates from crayon drawings on acetate. Dust jacket and 79 illustrations in black, of which 11 are full-page and 68 vignettes. 9 sheets of pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection. 5 crayon drawings on acetate: Free Library of Philadelphi. (Most of the acetate originals were sold to individual collectors.)
  21. HESTER AND THE GNOMES, by Marigold Hunt. Published by McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1955: 125 pages, 20 x 14 cm., ages: 8-12. Adventures of a girl and a group of tiny benevolent gnomes. Printed by letterpess (dust jacket only) and offset (illustrations): line plates from pen-and-ink and spatter drawings on paper. Dust jacket in three colors: pink, light blue, and black. Endpapers in dark blue only. 18 full-page illustrations in black. 12 ink illustrations and 10 pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection.
  22. JULIO, by Loretta Marie Tyman. Published by Abelard- Schumar, Inc., New York, 1955: 176 pages, 21 x 14 cm., ages: 8- 12. The story of a Mexican village boy and his visit to the great city. Printed by offset: line plates from crayon drawings on acetate. Dust jacket in two colors: blue-green and black. 44 illustrations in black, of which 1 is double-page, 15 are single- page, and 28 part-page. 44 pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection.
  23. THE CORN GROWS RIPE, by Dorothy Rhoads. Published by the Viking Press, New York, 1956: 88 pages, 25 x 17 cm., ages: 9-up. A young Mayan boy grows up quickly after his father is injured in an accident. Printed by offset at Affiliasted Lithographers: line plates from brush and crayon drawings on acetate. Dust jacket in three colors: green, brown, and black. Endpapers in green and black. Title page (double) in green with black text. 35 illustrations, of which 9 full-page and 17 part-page are in green and black, and 9 vignettes in green only. 1 set of three pencil and brush drawings on acetate (for dust jacket), 27 sets of two pencil and brush drawings on acetate, and 9 single pencil and brush drawings on acetate: May Massee Collection. 6 pencil sketches, 2 ink and pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection. Newbery Medal runner-up, 1957.
  24. DUMB JUAN AND THE BANDITS, by Anita Brenner. Published by Young Scott Books, New York, 1957: 47 pages, 22 x 16 cm., ages: 7-10. A Mexican folk tale about a scatter-brained boy who wins a bag of gold by his mistakes. Printed by offset: line plates from brush-and-ink drawings on acetate. Dust jacket in green and black (cover identical). 40 illustrations, of which 6 double- page, 10 full-page, and 21 part-page are in green and black, and 3 part-page in black only.
  25. KITTENS, CUBS, AND BABIES, by Miriam Schlein. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1959: 47 pages, 25 x 22 cm., ages: 3-5. Examples of how baby children and animals grow up. Printed by offset: line plates from brush-and-ink drawings on acetate. Colors: Set A: yellow-green, light blue (overprinting to give orange) and black. Dust jacket (cover identical) and 11 double-page illustrations in Set A colors, alternating with 12 double-page illustrations in Set B colors. Title page in yellow- green only. 48 page blueprint dummy, 13 ink and pencil sketches, 3 pencil sketches: Kerlan Collection. Set of two acetate drawings for cover, 46 sets of two acetate drawings for pages 2- 19 and 21-48, 1 acetate drawing and 1 drawing on paper for page 20: de Grummond Collection.
  26. THE TIMID GHOST, by Anita Brenner. Published by William R. Scott, Inc., New York, 1966: 48 pages, 28 x 20 cm., ages: 9-12. The tale of a Mexican man and a ghost who between them find a sackful of gold. Printed by offset: line plates from brush-and- ink drawings on acetate. Colors: blue, gold, brown. Dust jacket (cover identical) and 40 illustrations, of which 19 are double- page border illustrations, 13 single-page illustrations within framelines, and 8 vignettes in three colors (a few with brown and gold only). 23 double-page pencil sketches, pencil sketch of title page, 8 part-up chapter headings, copyright page and dust jacket paste-ups, title page proof, cover drawing on 3 acetate sheets, 5 double-page drawings and 7 single-page drawings on three acetate sheets each, 9 single-page drawings on two acetate sheets each: de Grummond Collection. Winner: Junior Book Award, Boys Clubs of America, 1967.
  27. A FIRST BOOK, by Zohmah Charlot. Published by the author, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1980: 40 pages, 24 x 24 cm., ages: 4-6. Two children play with a book and accidentally discover its real purpose. Printed by offset by Lynton R. Kistler, Los Angeles, California: original hand-drawn lithographic plates. Colors: yellow, flesh, pink, blue, tan, black. 18 full-page illustrations in six colors. Sketches and trial proofs: Jean Charlot Collection, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii. A limited edition of 600, each copy signed by Zohmah Charlot, Martin Charlot, and Lynton R. Kistler. Rounce & Coffin Club Award of Merit, 1981.


  1. Barbara Bader: American Picturebooks from Noah's Ark to The Beast Within , New York, 1976, pp. 265-276.
  2. E. g. Library Journal , vol. 66 (December 1, 1941), p. 1049; Catholic World , vol. 156 (December 1942), p. 373; Library Journal , vol. 68 (November 15, 1943), p. 962; Kirkus Review , vol. 17 (August 1, 1949), p. 390.
  3. Jean Charlot: "Illustrating Children's Books," in An Artist on Art , Honolulu, 1972, vol. 1, pp. 363-368.
  4. New York Times Book Review , " A Half-Century's Best," November 12, 1950, p. 5.
  5. Jean Charlot, quoted in Peter Morse: Jean Charlot's Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne Honolulu, 1976, p. vii.
  6. Ann Carroll Moore: "The Three Owls' Notebook," Horn Book Magazine, June 1953, p. 191.
  7. This brief description is probably too much for those who already know reproduction processes and too little for those who do not. Further information may be found in many sources, e.g. Massimo Astrua: Manual of Colour Reproduction , London, 1973.
  8. Jean Charlot: An Artist on Art , op. cit., vol. 1, p. 366.
  9. Morse: Jean Charlot's Prints , op. cit., no. 1, p. 3.
  10. Jean Charlot, quoted in Morse: Jean Charlot's Prints , op.cit., p. vii.
  11. See, e.g. Harold Curwen, revised by Charles Mayon: Processes of Graphic Reproduction in Printing , 4th edition, London, 1966, pp. 83-84.
  12. See Curwen, op. cit., pp. 82-83.
  13. Jean Charlot, quoted in Morse: Jean Charlot's Prints, op. cit., p. 88.
  14. See "Color Preseparation" in Richard M. Schlemmer: Handbook of Advertising Art Production, 2nd edition, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1976, pp. 237-240.
  15. See Morse: Jean Charlot's Prints, op. cit., nos. 116-177, pp. 84-118.
  16. See Morse: ibid., nos. 279-316 and nos. 407-441, pp. 164- 181, 215-236.
  17. See Morse: ibid., nos. 465-476, pp. 248-249. Special attention to this book's lithography was given by Marcia Brown in Illustrators of Children's Books: 1946-1956 , compiled by Ruth Hill Viguers et al., Boston, 1958, p. 5.
  18. References on the acetate process include: Geoffrey Smith, "Autolithogrphic Progess and Plastic Film," Penrose Annual , vol. 43 (1949), pp. 71-73 (the earliest mention I know); John Norris Wood, "Plastocowell," in John Lewis, A Handbook of Type and Illustration , London, 1956, pp. 57-60; Felix Brunner, A Handbook of Graphic Reproduction Processes , New York, 1962, pp. 39-40, 272-273; Henry C. Ptiz, Illustrating Children's Books , New York, 1963, pp. 172-175.
  19. Jean Charlot, quoted in Morse: Jean Charlot's Prints , op. cit., p. vii.
  20. For further discussion, see Morse, ibid., "Process Work," p. xviii.
  21. See, e.g., Patricia Cianciolo: Illustrations in Children's Books , 2nd edition, Dubuque, Iowa, 1976, pp. 86- 87.
  22. "Malinche," acetate reproduction in four colors, oval, 130 x 185 mm. The only known example is in the Jean Charlot Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii.
  23. Several authors have stated their preference for the earlier edition in small format, notably Ann Carroll Moore, Horn Book Magazine , June 1953, p. 191, and Barbara Bader, American Picturebooks, op. cit., p. 270.
  24. Maurice Sendak, "Two Little Trains," Horn Book Magazine , August 1955, pp. 296-297.
  25. Ann Nolan Clark, "Newbery Award Acceptance," Horn Book Magazine , vol. 29 (August 1953), p. 257.
  26. New York Herald Tribune Book Review , November 15, 1953. Unlike Mrs. Clark, Krumgold failed to mention his illustrator in his Newbery acceptance speech, Horn Book Magazine , vol. 30 (August 1954), pp. 221-232.
  27. Jean Charlot to John McCullough, letter of January 15, 1965, copy in the Jean Charlot Collection, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii.
  28. John McCollough to Jean Charlot, letter of October 15, 1965, in the Jean Charlot Colleciton, Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii.
  29. A First Book is fully described in Peter Morse: Jean Charlot's Prints: Supplement, University Press of Hawaii, in press, nos. 755-772.

About the Author
Peter Morse [1936-1993] was a consultant to the Jean Charlot Collection, University of Hawaii, Associate Curator of Graphic Arts, Smithsonian Institution and Reseach Associate, Honolulu Academy of Arts. He authored Jean Charlot's Prints: A Catalog Raisonne, John Sloan's Prints, and numerous other writings on the graphic arts.

All images and texts by Jean Charlot copyright the Jean Charlot Estate
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