Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Children of America Stories:
5 awesome vintage covers

A small collection of vintage children's books recently caught my eye at a book sale because the cover illustrations are so vibrant and well done.

The series was called The Children of America Stories and, to the best of my knowledge, there were a total of six volumes published during the 1930s and early 1940s:

  • Carmen of the Golden Coast, by Madeline Brandeis
  • Little Farmer of the Middle West, by Madeline Brandeis
  • Little John of New England, by Madeline Brandeis
  • Little Rose of the Mesa, by Madeline Brandeis
  • The Little Woodsman of the North, by Bernadine Bailey
  • Two Boys of the Ohio Valley, by Margaret Sutton

Madeline Brandeis (1897-1937) wrote four of the volumes and established the template for the series. Each fictional story about a different region of America contained photographs, taken by the author, showing scenes from the tale and featuring child actors. Brandeis also used that format with her earlier international series, Children of All Lands. (In her amazing and too-short life, she was also a pioneer filmmaker. You can read about those efforts at the Women Film Pioneers Project.)

As for the other two Children of America Stories authors, you can read about Bernadine Freeman Bailey (1901-1995) and her world travels at the Illinois Woman’s Press Association website, and Margaret Sutton (1903-2001) was a native Pennsylvanian1 who was best known as the author of the Judy Bolton detective series.

Brandeis, Bailey and Sutton were three amazing women of literature and the arts in the 20th century, for sure.

As for the book covers, which were the impetus for this post, I am sad to say that I cannot find any information about who the artist/illustrator was. A couple of the illustrations feature an "S" in the corner, but that's it. There's no information inside these Grosset & Dunlap books indicating who gets credit for the artwork. Any help on this matter would be appreciated!

So here are five of the covers. In each case, the same full-color illustration that appears on the dust jacket was pasted down on the hardcover front of the book. The dust jackets, when still present, served to protect the illustration beneath.

I am, by the way, far from the only fan of these books. They are still inspiring children well into the 21st century. On the Emmy's Book of the Day blog, Amy Pertl-Clark wrote earlier this year about her daughter's discovery of the series, through Little John of New England:
"Emmy enjoyed hearing the story of John who lived in Boston, but was left to live with his Aunt and Uncle in Maine while his parents went on a 'motor trip.' The story includes letters from John's mother telling of her New England adventures with his father. Emmy and I were both thrilled whenever she talked about a place where we have been. We both enjoyed John's relationship with the teacher at the one room country school. ...

"Whenever Emmy and I are in a second hand bookstore, we will look for Brandeis' books. It will be like a scavenger hunt to us and when we find one, we will celebrate! We hope that you, too, will look for her beautiful books especially if you are searching for interesting chapter books to read with your child."

Children's books. Reading. History. Bookstores. That excerpt is just Full of Win.

1. According to Wikipedia, Margaret Sutton was born Rachel Beebe in Odin, Pennsylvania. This was the first I discovered that we have a place named Odin in Pennsylvania! It's in an extremely rural area, a little bit southwest of Coudersport. I will have to find it on a future Keystone State road trip. I wonder if we have a Thor and Loki, too.


  1. Thank you, Chris! Emmy and I recently received your package of three of The Children of America Stories. EXCITING! The front covers and end papers on these books are gorgeous. Thank you for including us in your blog post about this interesting series.

  2. I have 6 of her books which were my mother in laws. I recently dug them out of her old trunk. Should I sell or hang onto? My kids are teenagers and too old now to enjoy.