Thanks to some wistful Maurice Sendak-inspired rambles around the web, I came across this blog, which has nothing to do with Sendak but is a “Compendium of Children’s Books by Twentieth Century “Adult” Authors Currently Out of Print.” There’s some great stuff in there, including The First Book of Jazz, written by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Cliff Roberts and a one called The Cat and the Devil, which has adorable drawings by Gerald Rose.
The First Book of Jazz is apparently the first kiddie book about music (it was published in 1954) and it’s the second or third from the First Book series that Hughes wrote. I think the first one was The First Book of Negroes and Hughes took on the assignment because he was cash-strapped. Clearly, good things can come of potential penury, because these First Books of his are fantastic.
As for The Cat and the Devil, James Joyce wrote this story in a letter to his grandson, Stevie (which I misread as Stewie and suddenly, Family Guy’s Stewie’s accent made perfect sense). Gerald Rose’s illustration of the cat is adorable, but the devil, who reads newspapers and speaks “bad French very well” when he’s angry, is my favourite.