Thirty-six years ago this month, in September 1973, Marianne and Blouke Carus published the first issue of Cricket. They have said that they were regarded as hopelessly naïve lunatics for starting a literary and artistic magazine for children.
Well, here’s to naïve lunacy.
To quote Marianne: “Our magazine would include only stories, articles, poetry, and illustrations of the highest quality. The layout and design had to be excellent. We find it extremely important to present the young child with literary and artistic experiences that have integrity, beauty, and humor, because we believe that good taste can be developed and nurtured.”
And the highest quality is what they got. That first issue of Cricket included work by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Lloyd Alexander, Sid Fleischman, Astrid Lindgren, Arnold Lobel, Jean Craighead George, Julius Lester, and Nikki Giovanni, among others. And for the next thirty-six years, the Caruses have continued to seek out great stories and art for Cricket – and for all their magazines. Because after Cricket came Cicada, and Ladybug, and Babybug, and Spider, and Calliope, and many others. Not only were the magazines an artistic success – surprise! – they were a commercial success, too. Who’s crazy now?
My relationship with Cricket has been a very rewarding one. My first professional illustration job was painting a cover for Cricket Magazine. In the spring of my senior year at the Rhode Island School of Design, Trina Schart Hyman – then the art director for Cricket – was visiting the school and I showed her my portfolio. When Trina offered me the chance to create the cover art for an upcoming issue of Cricket, my path into the world of children’s books opened up before me.
I have told that story many times. But it’s not the whole story. For a year after I graduated, I lived at home with my parents – my studio was down in the basement. I’m sure they were wondering how I was going to earn a living. Frankly, so was I. Fortunately, after I sent in the art for the Cricket cover, I got a call from Open Court Publishing, the Caruses textbook division, asking me if I would like to do some more work. A lot more work, as it turned out. The Caruses were my main employer that first year. It made me feel great. It made my parents feel even better.
Ten years after that first Cricket cover, I was asked to do a second one. This time, I liked the image I had created so much that I decided to try to develop it into a book. That book turned out to be Tuesday. I wasn’t kidding when I said that my relationship with Cricket has been rewarding.
But the great thing is that my experience is not unique. Being published in Cricket, or Cicada, or any one of the other magazines is one of the pivotal and most exciting rites of passage for any writer or artist in our field. Marianne and Blouke Carus have constructed a wonderful canvas on which we all have been privileged to work. And I, for one, would like to say thank you.