February 5, 2007

Jazzy Kids Book By Jim Flora: The Day The Cow Sneezed

james_flora_cow_sneezed.jpg

Jim Flora was a prolific artist and illustrator whose trippy post-war modernist album covers for RCA/Victor and Columbia jazz recordings have gained renewed appreciation in the eBay era. His style bridges early American modernists like Stuart Davis and Marie-Therese-era Picasso, with a quick stop in a Tiki lounge somewhere for a drink.

Not surprisingly, Flora also became a prolific children's book author, starting in 1955 with The Fabulous Fireworks Family. From the few images I've seen, most of his later books seem to show a mellowed, more straightforward illustrative style. But from the sound of artist/fan Ward Jenkins' enthusiastic description, Flora's second book, The Day The Cow Sneezed, is a rockin' masterpiece.

jim_flora_cow_sneezed_spread.jpg

It's one of these butterfly-flaps-its-wings-type stories of unintended consequences, and Jenkins' scans look awesome. The story sounds like a fun read, too; a bit like Richard McGuire's karmic chain reaction tale, What Goes Around Comes Around, which I thought the kid wouldn't get, but which she turns out to love. Who knew? And check out that spread above, it's like a Katamari Damacy prophecy in print.

Now that I got my copy off of Abebooks, I can post about it here [no hard feelings, k?] Check out more scans on Ward-o-Matic, and check out the wealth of gorgeous Flora-iana pulled together by his family and biographer/DJ Irwin Chusid. the vastly superior originals are more, but the 1994 reissues of The Fabulous Fireworks Family sell for a freakin' penny on Amazon.

update/review: The FFF is indeed beautiful, but it's also pretty wordy. Maybe it's all the jump cuts on the MTV, but I couldn't really sustain my own interest in reading it, and skimming through the story didn't help grab the kid's attention, either. She did like learning a few new Spanish words, though. All in all, a mixed reception.

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