This is a surprising little book all the way around. Part of the Children’s Illustrators series, it is only 24 pages (that’s right a strange number for this type of book, most such books have 32 due to the cutting of the pages in the printing process). However, it includes multiple chapters, a glossary, and an index. It would be nice to teach these parts of a book to a young audience. If I was still in an elementary school library I’d be purchasing this entire set for that reason alone. Besides, it truly focuses on Garth* as an illustrator, not an author which he also was. There are several children’s book series giving information about authors, but I can’t think of another one off the top of my head that looks at the illustrator perspective and I think it’s a very good idea.
What surprised and pleased me the most was the prominent role Laura Ingalls Wilder plays in this book. Although my primary interest in Garth comes from his Laura connection, I assumed most fans of his were either fans of the books he wrote himself or of his many other children’s books projects as well (Bedtime for Frances, Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, etc.). I was really surprised by the Little House focus and the photos that were included which were mostly Laura centric. Wheeler must be something of a Laura fan herself. Wheeler also wrote Laura Ingalls Wilder: Young at Heart a short biography about Laura (it’s a tan cover with a pink quill pen tucked in one corner over a photo of Laura in 1894). That must have gotten her connections, because all was made clear when I checked the photo acknowledgment page. Nine of the 13 photos credited in the book are credited to William T. Anderson. There isn’t much information here that anyone who has read Garth Williams entry in any reference book won’t already know, but the lovely, large, mostly color images are wonderful. Garth leaning again the bureau believed to be made by Pa in the Surveyors House, Garth by the trees at the Memorial site in De Smet, Garth by the house that was on the Ingalls Homestead in the 1940s, close up intimate shots of Garth and an exterior shot of his house in Mexico. Laura fans should buy this book just for the photos alone.
*Normally I don’t normally just call him Garth, but when I’m talking about a William and a Williams in the same piece I thought it would be clearer.