Friday, April 8, 2011

Rascal Ephemera

Here is an obscure piece of Rascal ephemera, which used Dad’s frontispiece illustration from the book. I think it was a promotional print, sent out by the publisher sometime in the late 1960s, as it came with a flier titled, “Honors for Sterling North’s RASCAL, Winner of the Dutton Animal Book Award, 1963.” It notes:
The fame of the Raccoon from Wisconsin has spread throughout the world to capture the hearts of young and old. RASCAL has been distributed by the Book-of-the-Month Club and by two other book clubs. It will soon be made into a Walt Disney film. A nationwide bestseller for six months, RASCAL numbers more than 115,000 copies in print.
It was also a flat-fee job that netted all of $1000 for Dad. But the “Raccoon from Wisconsin” helped put him on the children’s book map.


  1. Ian,
    I've been racking my brain for years trying to remember the book I read in 5th grade(1967)of which I did my first illustrated book report cover. I kept saying it was Riki Tiki Tavi, but that wasn't a raccoon. And here it is, Rascal. I believe there is an illustration of the raccoon in a tire swing? Is that your father's work? I meticuously copied that drawing for my cover and it confirmed my love of drawing and of drawing animals which follows (or sometimes haunts me today). Other 5th graders paid me to put pictures on their covers for the price of an ice cream, until the teacher made me stop. I wish I had those clients today.

    Anyway, I'm really glad I found your blog. Now I must find that book!!

  2. Ian,
    I recently reread a childhood favorite of mine - Rascal. I loved the illustrations as a child and as an adult I became curious about the illustrator, so did an internet search and found your website. Thank you for all the info about your father. The illustrations in Rascal so perfectly capture the narrative and are an example of your father's great talent. They appear to me to be pen and ink, but from what information I could find, I discovered that possibly they were scratchboard. Could you enlighten me please? Thank you.

  3. You're right on both counts, Thor: they are pen and ink on scratchboard.

    Dad took white (i.e. un-inked) Ross scratchboard, lightly penciled in his sketch, then applied India ink with a pen and a brush, then scratched away lines and textures with old lithographer's scraping/scratching tools (sorry - I don't yet know their proper names).

    But Mr. Ross' special recipe for making the scratchboard died with him, apparently, so when Dad ran out of his stock sometime in the mid or late 1960s - and found that the then-available stuff wasn't very good - he had to develop new black and white techniques, like dry-brush ink on gessoed board or on watercolor paper.

  4. Thank you for your prompt and informative answer. Knowing how they were made gives me added respect for the talent behind the illustration.