Art Interlude: Children’s book Art from 1940s and 1950s

I was wandering through the Internet today looking for some old book covers I remembered as a child.  While seeking them I found some stuff I wasn’t expecting to encounter, but am perfectly delighted by.  Children’s  illustrations featuring space travel and outer space adventures–some before there was even a solid space program!

So I thought I would share . . .


This first obscure cover is the one that caught my eye–and my excitement.  An old activity book from 1953, you can see that the cover depicts both a boy and girl in space suits.  And the text on the page reads “Things to do for boys & girls 8 to 12.”  Wait, what was that? Boys and girls included in the 1953 science of space travel?  That just has a place in awesome in my mind.




Space Witch by Don Freeman (Puffin, c1959)

I think I knew at some point that the creator of Corduroy also crafted this rather trippy tale of a witch and her cat who decide to take a trip through space. It’s  just such a strange little book from the 1950s that I wanted to include it here.


Rocket Away! by Frances Frost, Illustrated by Paul Galdone

Here’s a title I never knew Paul Galdone had illustrated!  I don’t know much about this obscure book, but check out the cover of this work: A boy and girl on the cover, clearly ready to go out into space  and explore.  It doesn’t seem like the 1950s space craze was expected to be limited to boys.







A 1950s activity book–it seems similar to the Busy Bee space book at the top with the same “for boys & girls 8 to 12”. I found this particular offering listed on a blogsite with a huge store of obscure fiction and nonfiction about space and space travel.  Dreams of Space on blogspot is a treasure trove of info on these kinds of books, and great fun to explore. I  feel like a dabbler in my knowledge by comparison.




Tom Corbett’s Wonder Book of Space by Marcia Martin, illustrated by Frank Vaughn

Johnny and Janie are going to bed one night when they encounter their space-faring hero Tom Corbett and his rocket ship The Polaris.  Tom offers to take the two on a trip to the moon.  This little jaunt has some actual facts and science to it, though the book is pre-space flight, so a lot was only imagined.  Still a delightfully science fictional trip for our two siblings!

Picture Book of Astronomy by Jerome S. Meyer, illustrated by Richard Floethe (Lothrop, Lee & Shepherd, c1945)

One of the earliest picture books exploring space and science with a science fantastical imagery. The surreal art is surprisingly lovely.  Again, there’s a common theme of a boy and girl on the cover.  It’s rather interesting to see this in the 1940s and repeated quite regularly in the 1950s. I’m rather sad that this trend didn’t continue over the next few decades.



I’ve got more images to explore in the future–but I’ll let this post end here.

Please do check out Dreams of Space.  Their sheer amount of old literature on science fictional space travel and nonfiction about space is astonishing.  I can’t wait to delve through the archives when I have the luxury of time!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on October 11, 2014, in Art Interlude, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I have the entire Busy Bee Spacebook. So many pages of awesomeness.

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