A writer, an illustrator, and a Peaceable Kingdom
Mill Valley, Calif.
AS the morning mist floats up off San Francisco Bay, Edith and Clement Hurd sit on their sunwashed deck, high above the town of Mill Valley, chatting about the many children's books she has written and he has illustrated.Skip to next paragraph
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A favorite story concerns ''Goodnight Moon,'' the late Margaret Wise Brown's bedtime classic, which was illustrated by Clement Hurd. ''One lady told us her 18-month-old son put one foot in the book and tried to get his other one inside too,'' says Edith Thacher Hurd. ''He was trying to crawl inside the picture!''
'' 'Goodnight Moon' creates a mood,'' says Clement Hurd who, like his wife, has recently retired from the children's book business. ''It creates a world you can walk right into,'' his wife adds.
About a year and a half ago, the Hurds' son, Thacher (also a children's author-illustrator), and Thacher's wife, Olivia, decided that the art from ''Goodnight Moon'' was too special to keep inside a book. In June 1983, they printed up 1,000 copies of a ''Goodnight Moon'' poster and began marketing them under the name Peaceable Kingdom Press. Last December, they offered a second poster adapted from ''Runaway Bunny,'' also illustrated by Clement Hurd, and by Christmas they were literally swamped with rush requests from frantic bookstores.
Today, they sell 2,000 posters a month, and their list includes posters of Maurice Sendak's wild rumpus in ''Where the Wild Things Are,'' a piglet-in-the-forest scene from William Steig's ''The Amazing Bone,'' and a whimsical glimpse into the world of Van Allsburg's ''The Wreck of the Zephyr.''
Offering fine art posters to children - especially as an alternative to the gimmicks and glitz on the market today - is quite appealing to the Hurds. ''To take beautiful artwork out of a book and put it on the wall so that it visually becomes part of a day is very exciting,'' says Thacher. The only surprising thing is that no one thought of it before. ''Publishers have made posters for specific artists,'' says Edith Hurd, ''but no one we know is doing anything like this.''
Peaceable Kingdom Press, named after the Hurd family farm in Vermont, is run from a jam-packed room behind Thacher and Olivia's kitchen in their Berkeley, Calif., home. Though Clement Hurd was very involved in the business in its inception, he leaves running it to his son and daughter-in-law, restricting his role to adviser. ''I am chairman of the board,'' he says with a sly smile.
The success of Peaceable Kingdom Press coincides with a current explosion of interest in children's literature. Over 2,000 children's books are published each year, and the authors and illustrators are being recognized as masters in their own right. It is a far cry from the days when, as Edith Hurd recalls, Bennett Cerf introduced the brilliant and dynamic Margaret Wise Brown as a writer of ''baby books.''
Both Edith and Clement Hurd, who between them have written and illustrated more than 100 books, were first published in 1938, the year they were married. ''When Margaret Wise Brown tapped me as a prospective illustrator to make
books, I jumped with joy,'' says Mr. Hurd, who studied art under Fernand Leger (father of the Effort moderne movement) in Paris in the early '30s. His first book, ''Bumble Bugs and Elephants,'' which featured simple, boldly colored illustrations, was written by Margaret Wise Brown. The following year, he illustrated Gertrude Stein's ''The World Is Round.'' ''It was never successful commercially,'' he says, ''but it was referred to as a classic, as a landmark in the children's book field.''