It's no secret I love old books. I love the way they smell, I love the yellowed pages and the black and white illustrations. I even love it that discovering them is like finding a lost treasure.
My most recent find is the first in a series of 11 children's books titled Billy and Blaze by C. W. Anderson (Clarence William Anderson).
As you might guess the Billy and Blaze books are about a young boy and his horse Blaze, which he receives as a surprise birthday gift in the first book, Billy and Blaze. The rest of the books in the series follow the adventures Billy and Blaze have together along with their dog-friend, Rex.
While most of the books in the series contain some key lesson along with lessons on the proper care for horses, Billy and Blaze is mainly the setting of the series. The book begins, "Billy was a little boy who loved horses more than anything else in the world..." and continues as his dreams begin to come true. The story is short, sweet, and simple with a happy ending for Billy and the reader.
But it wasn't just the story that caught my attention, it was also Anderson's pen and ink illustrations. Yes, they might be considered dated in nature (what boy today wears a tie and dress shoes while horseback riding?), but they are also beautiful works of art, I just loved looking at them.
Although intended as an early reader book, the writing style is simple enough and the illustrations are frequent and full-page in size, that I decided to read it aloud to my 23 month-old daughter. Apparently she liked the book well enough too as she sat and listened while I read, occasionally pointing to the animals in the illustrations (and making the appropriate animal sound).
Having enjoyed the book I became curious to learn more about C. W. Anderson. I Googled him, and found some details about his life. Like Will James, Anderson loved horses a great deal. He not only spent a great deal of time riding and caring for them, but would also spend hours drawing very detailed pictures, which eventually led him to writing his own books. Altogether Anderson wrote and illustrated over 40 books, including his best known Billy and Blaze series.
Anderson's first book, And So To Bed was published in 1935 and his last, The Blind Connemara in 1971. Readers may also stumble upon his work in other areas as he illustrated a great number of books for other authors as well as a couple covers of the Saturday Evening Post.
Have I pricked your curiosity? The good news is a few of his books, including Billy and Blaze are still available in print for less than $7. As for those that are out of print, I'd suggest checking your local library (you never know) or a used book seller (in person or online).