Daddies – written by Janet Frank, illustrated by Tibor Gergely
Simon & Schuster, 1953
Bedtime Stories: The Little Golden Book Library
Golden Press, 1969
In reading one of my favorite books to my grandchildren, illustrated by one of my favorite Golden Book artists, Tibor Gergely, I noticed the revealing disclaimer in the 2011 reprint: “Originally published in slightly different form…”. That slight difference is a euphemism for abridgement. One of the best qualities of this small but perfect work, both stunningly beautiful and emotionally reassuring, is the range of jobs that daddies perform. Not only are they doctors, airline pilots, and policemen, but they are also opera singers, artists, and, of course, children’s book creators. (Sometimes they smoke a pipe.)
I had a vague memory of perhaps owning another copy of this book, and I found it, in a Golden Book anthology of Bedtime Stories. In fact, the title is an excuse for collecting a terrific assortment of books, not all of which one would necessarily association for bedtime reading. This edition of Daddies still includes the above-mentioned jobs, as well as construction workers, bakers, and daddies who build planes. (That’s two different airplane-related careers in the book.) But it also includes four pages deleted from the later edition.
It doesn’t appear that censorship or irrelevance were reasons for omitting them. If that were the case, daddies who make clocks might have been the first to go. Thank goodness that we will have, in 2011, that incredible self-portrait of Gergely at a manual typewriter, surrounded by crumpled pages of rejected manuscripts. I would guess that space was an issue, and an editor made the decision which daddies would have to go somewhat capriciously. The unexpurgated Daddies portrays tailors, measuring a little girl for a dress while her younger brother waits his turn. Their mother is wearing a fur coat and gloves. This picture is followed by “Barber Daddies cut our hair.” Both of these jobs are still one hundred percent relevant.
On the more antique side is a daddy who fixes broken toys. He is attentively hunched over his workbench, wearing a green eyeshade. Although some of these toys might be recycled today, there are still professionals who run “doll hospitals” and would be glad to repair some of the sadly fragmented toys in the picture.
Plenty of daddies are teachers, so it is awfully disappointed that this profoundly important job has disappeared from the reprint. True, the teacher here is writing on a chalkboard and there are inkwells on the students’ desks, but that seems immaterial. The fact is, daddies “teach little girls and boys,” and this one looks very happy to be performing this task. No, Frank and Gergely could not possibly include every child’s father in their book. If you are disappointed that there are no postal workers, Gergely has an entire book on this subject, as well as many other classics which include a variety of professions. Of course, it would take decades before Golden Books routinely published books about mommies and their range of jobs; the classic Golden Books are almost all centered on mommies fulfilling the one role which their title indicates. Those books are wonderful, even if they do imply that mothers routinely wore high heels and pearls when caring for infants. More on them later, and on Golden Books’ updated approach to the subject of parenting. Meanwhile, Leonard Marcus’s classic Golden Legacy: The Story of Golden Books is the definitive illustrated history of these treasures.