Monday, July 30, 2012

Make Believe Summer

Fred Cody 1980
illustrations by Arthur Boyd Houghton

I think this book was such a clever idea- I wish I had thought to do something like this! Fred Cody takes the beautiful black and white illustrations by Arthur Boyd Houghton (1836-1875) and crafts a story around them. These illustrations, quintessentially Victorian, show the life of children in the English countryside. Cody writes in the introduction:

The pictures are also notable for the way the artist has entered wholeheartedly into the world of childhood. The children are seen at play, but their activity is portrayed on their own terms; they are unselfconsciously absorbed in a realm apart. The pattern for such a separate state of childhood took form in the latter half of the nineteenth century, though only among families of means. It is the way, of course, that we are accustomed to seeing children in our own time.

The story Cody crafts is about a widowed young mother who returns with her three daughters to her family in England. Told through one daughter's eyes, the girls experience change and an unfamiliar life in a country house filled with boisterous cousins. They visit the seaside, explore the woods and make friends. Meanwhile their mother falls in love with an artist (the artist who has drawn these pictures, it is later explained) and the little family is set to embark on a new phase of their lives.

The book opens with this:

Often, now that I am older and have children of my own, I take up the pictures you will see here and talk of the story they tell. And always they carry me back to a long-ago summer, which my sister Beth and I came to call our make-believe summer. I suppose I think of it in that way because it was a time between the end of one chapter in our lives and the beginning of another. It was a summer so full of wonder, of fear and strangeness, that it seems to have been not quite real- a kind of dream of fantasy.


  1. This makes me teary, much like The Faun and the Woodcutter's Daughter.

  2. Hi Arthur Boyd Houghton was my maternal x3 Great Grandfather. Paul Hogarth's book on Houghton is tremendous, if his work appeals I recommend it. His wife died tragically young. I think his illustrations of children are special.

    Best wishes Mike Risbridger

  3. Wow- thanks for this information! I'll definitely look up Hogarth's book.

  4. Ok Katie. Some libraries may have copies.