Weird and Wonderful - Welleran Poltarnees

Laughing Elephant


Weird and Wonderful: Discoveries from the Mysterious World of Forgotten Children's Books, edited by Welleran Poltarnees / ISBN 9781595833853 / 112-page paperback with flaps, 8 x 9 inches, published by Laughing Elephant 

It's hard to believe I hadn't seen this book until now. It was published in 2010, around the time I was featuring these types of books on A Journey Round My Skull (there's even a scan from Brainy Berries). And also when 50 Watts Books went live, one of the original categories was "Weird & Wonderful." Anyway, it's good!


Throughout his years of collecting and cataloging his vast library of classic children’s picture books, Welleran Poltarnees has singled out particularly unusual images and situations. He has compiled the best and rarest of these discoveries in this book.

Weird and Wonderful reveals an engaging and delightful world where imagination is given free rein. This compilation of excerpts and illustrations from 19th and early 20th-century picture books includes artists and authors like Frank Baum, Edward Lear, Gelett Burgess, Peter Newell, John R. Neill, and Charles Doyle. The book is full of rarities from the vault, often paired with an accompanying verse. Every page holds a surprise: Palmer Cox's Brownies make an appearance, as do offerings from Johnny Gruelle, Dorothy Kunhardt, a 1916 work by Hazel Frazee where a pair of elegant ladies plays dominoes, works from Ernst Kreidolf that depict the wonderful beings who inhabit the world of plants, and an anonymous 1884 illustration depicts a hive of winged capital letter Bs carrying signs. Poltarnees's brief, glowing commentary is largely superfluous, as the whimsical, bizarre, and sometimes nightmarish illustrations stand alone as fascinating relics of a bygone era in children's publishing.

These wonders and oddities are sure to captivate connoisseurs and curious young readers with an artistic bent. You will likely long for more of these beguiling images. Luckily, as Poltarnees notes in his introduction: "There are thousands more buried in our library."

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