What a treasury! The world of Russian children’s illustrated books in the first twenty years or so of Soviet rule is almost incomparably rich. What were they doing, these commissars and party secretaries, to allow this wonderland of modern art to grow under their very noses? I expect the rule that applies to children’s books was just as deeply interiorised in the Soviet Union as it has been in the rest of the world: they don’t matter. They can be ignored. They’re not serious.
But if we didn’t know it already, we can see from the evidence so splendidly spread out in these pages that children’s books are capable of astonishing beauty and an almost unparalleled range of expressive design.
FROM THE FOREWORD BY PHILIP PULLMAN
INSIDE THE RAINBOW reprints for the first time in English a unique compendium of Soviet picture books from the 1920 and 1930s – a highpoint in the history of children’s literature. In the dark and dangerous world of revolutionary Petrograd, a group of Russian poets and artists, among the greatest of the century, came together to create a new kind of book for children about to enter a Brave New World. These artists and writers dreamed of endless possibilities in a new world where children and grown-ups alike would be free from the bitterness of ignorance. For a time, when children’s publications still escaped the scourge of state censorship, their books became a last haven for learning, poetic irony, burlesque and laughter.
In this book 250 brilliant examples of illustration and design are complemented by some wonderful translations of poems and stories as well as texts from the victims, criminals and witnesses to the Russian revolution.