Stamp Design

 Stamp Design Children's Classics

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The next best thing is to collect stamps that feature these books, or rather the characters and scenes from them.

Although this theme can be traced back to 1938, when Denmark celebrated the centenary of Hans ChristianAndersen's Fairy Tales with a set of six which portrayed the author and featured the Ugly Ducking and the Little Mermaid, there has not been an overwhelming amount of material in the intervening 60-odd years so it's a subject which can be tackled without too much trouble of expense.

In 1975 Denmark marked the 170th anniversary of Andersen's birth with three stamps, one reproducing a photograph of the man himself and the others reproducing famous paintings based on the characters Numbskull Jack and The Marshking's Daughter. Edvard Eriksen's bronze statue of the Little Mermaid which is arguably Denmark's most famous landmark was depicted on a stamp of 1989 to celebrate the centenary of the Danish Tourist Association.

One of the best-known figures in British children's literature is Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn't grow up. He was the hero of the dramatic fantasy created by Sir J.M.

Barrie in 1904 and became such a hit that there was a rash of newborn babies the following year christened Peter or Wendy.

So much interest was generated in the play that Barrie took the unusual step of writing a book in 1911 entitled Peter and Wendy, recounting the story of how he came to write it. The following year, Sir George Frampton's statue of Peter Pan was unveiled in Kensington Gardens. A poll conducted by a weekly magazine in 1921 voted this the most popular statue in London.

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Both Peter Pan and the Little Mermaid have been the subject of recent composite sheets of 16 stamps which combine flowers and birds with scenes and characters. Shown here, for example, is the sheet from Burkina Faso.

The text at the foot reveals that Barrie first wrote about Peter Pan in 1902, when he devoted si chapters of the book Little White Bird to Peter's adventures, but later developed the story which was published separately under the title of Peter Pan of Kensington Gardens. Out of this developed the plot for the Christmas spectacle entitled originally The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, staged at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1904.

It was an immediate success and ever since has become a regular in the pantomime season.

The sheet shows Peter, Tinker Bell, Wendy and her brothers flying across the face of the moon, and of course, the dastardly villain of the piece, Captain Hook, with the alligator creeping up on him.

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The ninth of ten children born to a poor hand loom weaver in Kirriemuir, Barrie claimed that his literary success was due to the encouragement he got from his mother.

Scotsman Kenneth Grahame was born in Edinburgh and a year older than Barrie.

After the death of his mother he was brought up by his grandmother in Berkshire.

Although he went to school in Oxford Later in life, however, A.A. Milne turned to detective fiction but ironically his greatest success was the theatrical production ofToad ofToad Hall, a dramatisation of The Wind in the Willows, launched in 1929 and a standard of the pantomime repertoire ever since.

Most of us will always associate The Wizard of Oz with the Oscar-winning film of 1939 starring Judy Garland, shown with her dog Toto on an American 25 cent stamp of 1990, but this was actually the third film version of a children's book written by Lyman Frank Baum and first published in 1900.

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Born in New York in 1856, the son of a wealthy businessman, Baum had ambitions from childhood to be a writer. On leaving school he worked for various newspapers as a junior reporter and tried his hand at writing plays, but when that did not pan out he quit his job and set off to roam the length and breadth of America, taking a wide variety of temporary jobs, from crockery salesman to store clerk, along the way.

Like Kenneth Grahame and A.A. Milne, he began his literary career by telling stones to his children, and out of this came his first book, Mother Goose in Prose (1897).

The final chapter told the story of little Dorothy the Kansas farm-girl and from this he was inspired to write a full-length book about her, which emerged three years later as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

This was an immediate best seller and spawned a further 14 books in the same genre.

Like J.M. Barrie, Baum's most famous character led him to create a dramatic work, complete with lyrics, and this in turn became a very successful musical production on the stage and ultimately also on screen.

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Even after his death in 1919 Oz continued to inspire a number of writers (including Frank Baum Junior) who churned out a further 26 books set in the land of Oz, the last title appearing as recently as 1951.

It has been said that Baum's own books were never well written, but they have a certain charm, wit and vigour which, along with the cracking pace of the storyline, sustains the interest of even the youngest readers.

No matter how much the heroine suffers along the yellow brick road, goodness, truth and beauty will always prevail in the end. Robert Sauber has re-created the magic of Oz in a series of three sheedets of six stamps released recently by The Gambia to mark the centenary of this ever- popular children's classic.

Here we encounter the wicked witches of the East and West, the good witch of the North, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and, of course, the Munchkins, as Dorothy and Toto journey on to Oz itself.

    Stamp Design L Frank Baum's portrait appears in the sheet margins. he was denied the chance to go on to the University.

Instead he was forced to enter the Bank of England as a junior clerk and eventually rose through the ranks to become the Secretary of the Bank, but he never lost his secret ambition to become a writer. In his 30s he produced two volumes of essays which shed an interesting light on his rather peculiar childhood.

At the age of 40 he married. After his only son Alastair was born he began telling him bedtime stories and these were later continued in the form of letters to the boy. Out of these came The Wind in the Willows which he touted round a number of publishers before it was produced in 1908.

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Even then, it was largely ignored or dismissed by the critics, but children - and their parents were captivated by his tales of Rat, Mole, Badger, Toad and other creatures of the river bank.

The illustrations by Arthur Rackham and Ernest Shepard doubtless helped to gain popularity for this all-time classic and some of these are the inspiration for a new issue from Liberia consisting of three sheetlets of six with matching souvenir sheets entitled respectively 'The River Bank', 'The Open Road' and 'A Backwater Luncheon', the stamps in each sheet featuring animals, birds and insects. Grahame never followed up his initial success and following Alastair's suicide at the age of 19, Kenneth became a recluse and died in 1932.

Shepard's charming sketches also helped to establish another great children's classic - or rather a series of classics - by fellow Scotsman, Alan Alexander Milne who also had an English education.

After winning a scholarship to Westminster School he read maths at Cambridge but soon after leaving university he became an assistant editor on Punch.

In the 1920s he achieved a measure of success as a playwright, with a series of light comedies; but his undying fame is based on the books of verse and short stories which he wrote originally for his son Christopher Robin.

Shepard's sketch of Christopher Robin with Winnie the Pooh was reproduced on a British stamp of 1979 to mark International Year of the Child.

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The true story ofWinnie the Pooh was depicted in a block of four stamps issued by Canada in 1996 to mark Stamp Collecting Month.

The first stamp design showed Lieutenant Harry Coleburn of the Manitoba Light Horse bottle-feeding his bear cub Winnie (named after Winnipeg, the regimental headquarters).

When the regiment embarked in England for the Western front the regimental mascot had to be left behind and was entrusted to London Zoo where she became a great favourite with children, not the least being young Chris Milne who named his own teddy bear Winnie the Pooh (shown on the second stamp).

The third stamp shows Shepard's version of the bear while the fourth shows the Disney version of recent year. The last named has also been the subject of many Disney- related issue in recent years, such as the Hundred Acre Wood series from the Federated States of Micronesia.   

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