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February 19, 2012


The King Who Learned To Smile

by gordonmichaelsutton

Growing up in the early 60’s as an only child in the first instance,  and with television  also in it’s infancy, books played a big part in feeding my imagination. There’s one that I’d remembered really clearly but lost all trace of until it turned up on the internet .. The King Who Learned to Smile – by Seymour Reit.

This was the cover which is almost quite baroque in terms of it’s style. Think the warm, rich colours must have appealed. Lost count of the times I must have opened this book. It was strange how quickly the narrative came back all these years later.

The book’s appeal undoubtedly owed a lot to the superb illustrations by Gordon Laite. I’ve been reading posts by others who remembered this book and everyone seems to agree that the images have remained in their memories over the years. His style was highly illustrative but there was something curiously compelling and at times a little dark about it.

A quick look at some of his other work confirms this haunting, almost gothic style.

His black and white illustrations have an even more disturbing quality to them. Hard to believe they were drawn for children really.

Kids were clearly made of sterner stuff in those days!

Seymour Reit made sure that The King Who Learned to Smile had a happy ending. He, too, it turns out, had been an animator at one time and had even been co-created Caspar the Friendly Ghost. More interesting still is that he went on to write many pages for the hugely successful and zany ‘Mad‘ magazine – also to become a bit of a favourite of mine as I was growing up.I’d never put the two together though!

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Feb 19 2012

    The level of detail on these illustrations is fantastic! Love it!

  2. Feb 19 2012

    Me too, Chris. Sure it helped to make the book so memorable.

  3. Feb 20 2012

    Great memories here. I have been trying to think about my early books but am struggling to get past the Ladybird series!

    • Feb 20 2012

      Thanks, Andrew. Don’t knock the Ladybird books .. some of them were pretty good. Did you ever see the one where the two children get to fly to New York? Again, great illustrations. Must google it. So, if you had to choose one book, what would it be?

      • Feb 20 2012

        From my childhood it would have to be ‘Picture Stories From The Bible’ – I loved that book!

      • Feb 20 2012

        Have you still got it? Maybe you should write a post.

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