August 13, 2010

Visiting the Browns — Visuals from Early Days of Learning English

In the Class-Room

English Boys and Girls

In the Morning


Mary's Birthday

Going to Work
(What a beautiful, but dreaded image--really makes you want to hurry up and finish your studies and start work as an adult!)
In the Afternoon

In the Evening

Telling a Story

The illustrations are from "A Direct Method English Course, Book I" by E. V. Gatenby, which is the first of a series of English language books that were used in high school language courses at various schools in Turkey during the 60's (and as early as the 50's and into the 70's from what I can gather).

The visuals, illustrated by a Leslie Haywood, are ingrained in my mind, probably due to the many classroom and homework hours during four years of hazirlik and lise (secondary and high school, respectively) at Ankara Koleji.  The books seem to have the distinction of being more than just an ordinary textbook, as they have left an impression on many others, for one reason or another.

This post might have been titled "Gatenby", which is how we referred to the books colloquially; and for proper credit, it really should have been titled "Illustrations of Leslie Haywood" even though I doubt anyone had paid attention to the her name at all at that time (I certainly did not).

As I study the pictures now, I admire the innocent, safe and happy world represented in the pictures, whether it is truly reflective of a bygone era, or merely suggestive of an imagined one.  I also notice—whether intentional on the illustrator's part, or as an inherent attribute of being English—a style that depicts very "proper manners", again either imagined, or reflective of another period (it may just be me, that I have forgotten the innocence of childhood, or most probably it is the doing of the artist herself Ms. Haywood reflecting herself). 

Anyone who has had exposure to the books as a child cannot help remembering "Mr. and Mrs. Brown" as their first introduction to an "English family"; and as an adult, I presume one cannot help thinking about the cultural and social aspects, as well as the appropriateness of the books for the pupils of the young Republic of Turkey of those days.  Since the purpose of my post is just to reminisce a childhood influence from a graphical perspective (and pay proper respect to the illustrator Leslie Haywood, whose name I did not know up until now when I started to write this post), I will not delve deep into discussions regarding such characteristics of the Gatenby books, however Elif Şafak's article Grammatical Errors is one good example in that regard.  I do see her point from a story-telling perspective, and it may be generalized to be applicable to many Omers of those days, however I would not necessarily blame the books—after all, books are just one of the tools used in the process of teaching within an educational system, and it is the schools and the teachers who are directly responsible for patching the "holes punched here and there".  (As a rather amusing coincidence, I am obviously not the Ömer referenced in her article, but one can compare the humble writings of this Ömer to Elif Safak's own eloquent prose to prove the point of her article!)

For reference purposes, the publishing notices for the Gatenby book are as follows:
A Direct Method English Course, by E. V. Gatenby, M. A., Illustrated by Leslie Haywood, Book I;
French-American Bookstore, İstanbul by Arrangements with Longmans, Green and Co., Ltd., London;
Copyright 1949-1964, Derya Yayinevi, İstanbul;
Yeni Savaş Matbaası, İstanbul, 1964;
Longmans, Green and Co. Ltd. 6 & 7 Clifford Street, London W 1.

1 comment:

  1. I've always been drawn to simple drawings like these, whether generic clip art, or those in medical waiting room info pamphlets, even in Chick Jesus Freak comics. These look so idyllic that they almost beg for sardonic captions. I'd love to hear all the stories about the Brown family. My Spanish class texts were always about Tomas and his days at school, but they weren't illustrated.