Louis Darling (1916-1970) wrote many of his own books, but might be best known by modern audiences for his illustrations of the books in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona universe (most recent book published in 1999). While it’s hard to imagine, the Ramona books aren’t where the series started - they started in 1950 with a book called Henry Huggins.
The last Henry Huggings book was published in 1964, but Ramona was debuted in the 1950 original, and would become Cleary’s real star.
This series, being written over the course of 49 years, covers some issue that just don’t apply to modern childhood (I think there was a plot point in one of them about being forced to wear woolen tights in the winter because it was the only way for little girls to keep their legs warm).
The more moderns illustrations have a distinctly 70s feel to them (I’ll talk about Alan Tiegreen some other time) — but Louis Darling’s work is grounded firmly in the Rockwellian 1950s, and fabulously captures Ramona’s energy.
I think this one is my favorite. Tricycles and bicycles aren’t very easy to draw, but this, with the balancing and the weight being thrown around is especially great.
Back in the days before there was a wealth of literary and tv tomboys for little girls to relate to — or even any alternative to the little girl who just loved to be quiet and well-behaved, we all had Ramona.
Ramona got frustrated. She had meltdown. She hated people. Beverly Cleary wrote these situations with complete comprehension, and without apology. Ramona was a brat, and at the same time, you could only relate to her character.
And Darling drew it!
Little boys who might not have read the Ramona books, or even the Henry Huggins books might remember Darling’s work from The Enormous Egg or The Mouse and the Motorcycle.