This book cover and related illustrations are from a wonderful old French series of tales and stories from around the world. I keep finding them at the flea market and second-hand bookshops. Each country or region represented has a stunning set of illustrations and I am trying to track them all down. For a sense of their creative diversity, see also Greek Myths and Legends and Russian Tales and Legends.
This one I find particularly dazzling, with many colourful images of fish and other marine animals, as if this is a storybook read around the Australian coast by fish, corals and octopii.
When I was a child, I was given a few books like this, including an anthology received from two Italian men (Alberto and Rienzo) and one Spanish woman (Angeles), who were charged with organising a 7th or 8th birthday party for me in my mother’s absence. I read the book hundreds of times and knew every picture and every story almost by heart. Even now, just looking at those images can transport me to the safe, timeless, adventurous place I lived in when reading the book.
And it was a great party. I remember the grandfatherly Rienzo sitting on the sofa allowing 7-8 children to queue up, climb on the coffee table and throw themselves into his arms.
Rienzo will also be featured elsewhere on WritingRedux when I can find an example of his extraordinarily beautiful, unique, and hieroglyphic hand-writing, in which he wrote densely covered pages of letters to my mother.
Source: Contes d’Australie et d’Océanie, told by Vladimir Reis, illus. Karel Teissig, trans. Yvette Joye (Paris: Gründ, 1976)