Original illustration for Lois Lenski's 1954 book PROJECT BOY, based on the lives of the children living in a housing project and taught by Marie Ram — with inscribed dedication by Lenski to Ram.
Original Illustration for PROJECT BOY
Lois Lenski built the most productive part of her career around depicting the sometimes hardscrabble lives of different US communities in her "Regional" and "Roundabout America" series, of which her Newberry Award-winning novel STRAWBERRY GIRL was a part. It is this regional interest that drew Lenski and Buffalo teacher Marie Ram together in 1950. Ram, hard at work on her master's thesis on regional children's books, reached out to Lenski as part of her research; their professional correspondence became more friendly over the years, and eventually Lenski stayed with Ram to gather material about life in Buffalo.
She spoke to Ram's students, many of whom lived in the Buffalo Veterans Emergency Housing Project — this research would later become PROJECT BOY. Lenski "made sketches of the homes and the school" (THE BUFFALO NEWS), which she used as reference for the book's illustrations. The project was torn down shortly before PROJECT BOY's publication, reflecting the rapidly changing lives of Americans in the 50s.
Lenski and Ram continued their correspondence even after PROJECT BOY was published, with a number of their letters preserved in the University of Oklahoma Libraries. Ram also maintained a personal archive of Lenski material including "a publisher's display of PROJECT BOY from original sketches," which she exhibited at the Buffalo State Teachers College in 1955 (THE BUFFALO NEWS). This illustration, from page 34 of the novel and inscribed to Ram, was likely among the collection exhibited. Aside from illuminating Ram and Lenski's friendship, this illustration also shows Lenski's white-out line corrections and the publisher's formatting notes. A charming glimpse into Lenski's working methods.
Read more: "That Dog 'Went to School' in Buffalo: Teacher at P. S. 85 is Author's Friend," The Buffalo News, 4 August 1955.
n.p. n.p, 1954. 7.5'' x 9.5''. Original pen and ink drawing on stiff card. Inscribed "To / Marie Ram" to margin of drawing and signed by Lenski. Various pencil notations to margins and rear of card. Card with mild toning to center, a couple tiny areas of residue from removed tape. Clean.
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