Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Platt & Munk's 1970s "A Child Guidance Book" Series

Sometime deep in the 1970s, Platt & Munk put out a series of oversize children's books that seemed very inspired by Richard Scarry's Busytown books and/or the general output of Golden Books. (They borrowed several illustrators from the Golden stable for the project as well.) There are lots of animals wearing clothes (moles toil underground, beavers handle all woodwork), and there is a ton of interesting vocabulary and information. I kind of love these books because, as a rule, they are very readable (not too much text, not too little), they are fun, and they are perfect for pulling out as a reference when a particular topic comes in conversation. Up top I have some scans, and down at the bottom of the post I have a clumsy bibliography. Kudos to whichever groovy editrix put this series together back in the 1970s. You done good.

How Do They Build It? - Tim and Greg Hildebrandt - Platt & Munk, 1974 - ISBN 0-8228-7610-8.

Topics: Houses, boats, cars, furniture, roads, skyscrapers, dams, bridges, planes, oil wells. 

Where Everyday Things Come From - Aldren Watson - Platt & Munk, 1974 - ISBN 0-8228-7611-6,

The technical watercolors in this book are extraordinary. This is an image from the section on steel. Other featured topics: Rubber, paper, books, coal, electricity, glass, steel, soap, plastic, paint, cotton, clothing, wool, fruits and vegetables, honey, sugar, chocolate, salt and breads.

Who Invented It and What Makes It Work? - Sarah Leslie, illustrated by Tom O'Sullivan - Platt & Munk, 1976. ISBN 0-8228-7612-4. For the record, I've seen a few things from O'Sullivan lately, and I think he was an absolutely unrated star illustrator with a very unique and lovely style!

Each two-page spread is split into a historical survey of the invention, and then a description of the technical workings of the item in question. Above, an easy-riding cat shows off the parts of a motorcycle. Other topics in the book: balloon, clock, dynamo, lightning rod, piano, telescope, airplane, camera, printing press, bifocals, electric light bulb, phonograph, motion pictures, animated cartoon movies, telegraph, typewriter, telephone, elevator, thermometer, motorcycle, zipper, escalator, matches, radio, refrigerator, sewing machine, television, cotton gin, vacuum cleaner.
The Big Farm Book - Annie Ingle, illustrated by Aurelius Battaglia - Platt & Munk, 1976 - ISBN 0-8228-7617-5. 

Whee, pesticides! By and large, The Big Farm Book depicts an idealized vision of rural American life that probably didn't even exist when this book was written, but this one page about crop dusting is (a) startling to the modern eye, and (b) charming on its own terms. (As my dad has pointed out, for most of the 20th century, there was no such thing as organic farming; everyone used chemicals.)



The Big City Book - Annie Ingle, illustrated by Tim and Greg Hildebrandt - Platt & Munk, 1975 - ISBN 0-8228-7616-7.

A sample page, on the topic of the police department. I will leave it to you to ponder the imagery of perhaps the perv cat and the innocent mouse-child, but overall this is a good example of what you'll see inside. Lots of useful details in here, using what is probably New York City or another major East Coast metropolis, as the source. (This is likely the only children's book in history to include the words "commissioner of weights and measures.") This and the Farm book have a slightly more "narrative" style than the other Child Guidance books I've looked at, which tend to take a survey approach.

How Come...? Easy Answers to Hard Questions - Joyce Richards, illustrated by Susan Perl - Platt & Munk, 1975 - ISBN 0-448-13031-9. I think I remember this book from when I was little, or at least I think I remember Susan Perl's spacey, uniquely-haired children from another one of her books.

"Why Is the Ocean Salty?" - This book is quite a mish-mash of topics. I think in both this and the Body book below, Perl's illustrations either overwhelm the weaker text or at least fail to show something the text can't tell. The illustrations are very interesting, but somehow these two don't feel as successful to me as the other Child Guidance books I've seen.

You: How Your Body Works - by Leslie McGuire, illustrated by Susan Perl - Platt & Munk, 1974 - ISBN 0-8228-7320-6. My copy of this book is smaller than the other volumes appearing under the Child Guidance imprint.

"Where do you do all your thinking?"

Baby brainiacs in Susan Perl's imagination, circa 1974.


How Come...? Easy Answers to Hard Questions
Joyce Richards & Susan Perl

More Easy Answers
Joyce Richards & Susan Perl

Who Invented It and What Makes It Work?
Sarah Leslie & Tom O’Sullivan

Where Everyday Things Come From
Aldren Watson

Letters, Sounds and Words: A Phonic Dictionary
Linda Hayward & Carol Nicklaus

Numbers, Signs and Pictures: A First Number Book
Shari Robinson & Sal Murdocca

The Big Farm Book
Annie Ingle & Aurelius Battaglia

The Big City Book
Annie Ingle & the Hildebrandts

The Curiosity Book: Answers to Questions That Every Child Is Most Curious About
Selma G. Lanes & Robert J. Lee

The Bible Story Picture Book: Stories from the Old and New Testaments
Louisa Britton & Victor Ramon Mojica

Mabel and the Rainbow
Carol Nicklaus

The Great Big Funny BookSue Lundgren
The Almost Anything You Might Ask Almanac {I didn't like this one at all and eventually left it at a Little Free Library.}
Pappy Klima 

Marvelous Creatures: A First Book About Animals
Bernard Garfinkle & Meryl Joseph

Are there other Child Guidance titles out there that I haven't found? I'd love to know about them if there are. Please post in the comments if you find any that aren't listed here, or if you'd like to see more scans from any of the titles above.

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