Storybook Parade

June 14 – September 6, 2014

An Exhibit

at the

Osborne Collection

Come and see “Storybook Parade” in which children’s literary characters leave the printed page to “come alive” in a variety of manufactured and hand-made goods.


[Porcelain figurine]: Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit. [Stoke-on-Trent], England: Beswick, [between 1955 and 1972]

Alice, Anne of Green Gables, Peter Pan, Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, Toad, Rat, Mole and Badger of The Wind in the Willows, Pinocchio, Curious George, the Little Prince, Max and the Wild Things—these figures and many others are cherished by generations. Character-based toys, dolls and games extend the child’s experience of story, providing comfort, companionship and entertainment. Beautiful decorative objects, such as fabrics, stationary, figurines, tins, dishes, vases and clothing invoke nostalgia in adults, and become treasured memorabilia.

The relationship between children’s books and merchandising is longstanding—pioneering children’s publisher John Newbery sold his Little Pretty Pocket Book (ca. 1744) accompanied by a ball or pincushion as an enticement to buyers. The run-away success of the children’s poem “The Butterfly’s Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast,” first published in 1806, led to numerous imitations and an early tie-in—a printed textile, with illustrations based on those of the first edition. Designs by popular Victorian children’s illustrator Kate Greenaway rapidly gave rise to buttons, tiles and other decorative items, while Beatrix Potter herself took an active interest in the merchandising potential of her creations. Today, with media tie-ins and licensing controlled by large corporations, children’s book “spin-offs” are big business. Many characters have become global brands, generating millions, if not billions, in annual revenues.

In addition to commercially-produced merchandise, a number of hand-crafted literary tie-ins will be shown: papier-mâché Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet figures, hand-painted Alice doilies, hand-sewn dolls and stuffed toys. These offer touching proof of their makers’ deep attachment to stories and characters.

Admission is free.

Exhibit prepared by Martha Scott.

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