Found: Land of Make Believe

This poster shuttles me right back smack into my childhood. I get that happy kid feeling every time I look at it, that combination of feeling the warm sun on the top of my head, the comfort of hearing my parents' voices at night in the car on a family vacation, the smell of library books or lilacs or mosquito repellent or buttered bread toasting in my grandma's oven. 

It shows the geography of the land of make believe, with all the fairy tales and nursery rhymes staking their own places on the map...some of them in the middle of the action (the three bears coming back to their cottage, Simple Simon meeting the pieman) and others just labeled and left to the imagination (here lives Peter Pan, with an arrow pointing to a grove of trees).


detail of my copy of The Land of Make Believe

My grandma had this poster. So did Mrs. Pollard, the local lady who made hand-dipped chocolates in her basement. I was always a fan; my wishes came true when I was given mine a few years ago. I adore it. I started wondering about it, trying to trace the artist and story behind it & even the copyright to see if I could reproduce it myself & spread the joyous word of The Land of Make Believe. Mine was published in 1930 by The Child's Wonderland Co. of Grand Rapids, Michigan, but that information didn't lead me anywhere.


Well {choir of angels} I found it! This week I located a reproduction company who has the rights (sigh. I'm a little sad I didn't get them. But congrats to RDI). Their version is a bit brighter than mine. I kind of like the old-fashioned feel of the subdued colors (probably due to fading) more than the newer one but I'm so thrilled to locate the poster and learn more about the artist.

Jaro Hess was born in Czechoslovakia. He eventually settled (the newspaper article is cut off so I don't know the whole story) in Michigan and became a landscape designer. He submitted his oil painting Adventure in Storyland (its original title) to the Children's Literature division of the Chicago World's Fair, where it won prizes.

You can click here if you're interested in getting one for yourself ($65).
Here are a few details of the poster from the RDI website:

Everyone needs a wonderful moo-moo bird in their life. Which fairy tale/nursery rhyme is that? A few other unknowns from the poster: grandfather know-it-all, the high tower where the little lame prince was locked, the city of brass. Anyone know these? Anyone? Anyone?