A couple of years ago, I finished off a study abroad experience in Italy by doing a super-blitz tour of Western Europe. I wound up in London and couldn’t pass up one of the most touristy things to do there—making a trip to Harrod’s department store. Among all the glitz, a simple illustrated book jumped out at me. It was This is London, written and illustrated by Czech artist Miroslav Sasek. As I later found out, this children’s book was originally published in 1959 and what I saw was a reprint from 2004. I couldn’t seem to scrounge up any extra change to take the book home with me at the time, but thankfully I eventually found one wrapped up for me under the Christmas tree.
From This is New York
This is London was one of eighteen books by Sasek, published between the late 1950s and early 70s. The goal of the This Is series was to transport young readers to locations all over the globe, experiencing the culture of each place. Filling the pages of these books are lush, often humorous illustrations with bold color washes and textures in a style distinct to Sasek. These books certainly capture the feel of the 1960s, featuring figures dressed in slender mod clothing; however, stylistically the illustrations still don’t feel too out of place in the contemporary context.
From This is London
What’s so astounding about his work is that Sasek seemed to capture the most endearing parts of each city he chose to illustrate, even though he spent very little time in each place. Something else interesting to point out are the references to tobacco products and alcohol. Something tells me that probably wouldn’t be kosher for children’s books rolling off the presses today.
Piccadilly Circus at night from This is London
More information about Miroslav Sasek can be found here.