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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Tom Kerr's Barbara Lou

Something a little bizarre for you this week. Barbara Lou the Kinkajou by Bill Reading was published in 1946 by Golden Galley Press, a small press run by E. W. Galley and P. H. P. Perry. The latter also ran Perry Colour Books from the same address at 11 Buckingham Street, Adelphi, London W.C.2. P. H. Powell Perry was the driving force behind Perry Colour Books, founded in 1942 as Perry & Co. They published children's illustrated books, adaptations of everything from Swan Lake to Oscar Wilde. Amongst the early illustrators were Tom Kerr, Leslie Butler, Jeanette Summers and F. A. W. Barnett. Although never prolific, the company lasted at least twenty years, as their series of slim, illustrated "Do You Know" Books was still being published in 1962.

Golden Galley Press seems to have been a spin-off company, founded in 1944 but mainly active in 1946-48. I'll try to put together a little list of their known books.

And so to Barbara Lou...

Behind the rather dull covers is a delightful story of Goon-esque comic verse. I can do no better than quote John Rivers, who sent me the scans and who introduced the book thus: "The book itself details the adventure of Barbara Lou, a lemur/monkey-like creature, and her friend Sailor Man Joe, a rather effeminate-looking pirate. Through exotic lands to Forties London, the book is wonderfully nonsensical, like Edmund Lear or Dr Seuss, but does appear to have some adult overtones -- topless mermaids, politicians of the day (including Churchill) and Arsenal Football Club all make an appearance. Kerr's illustrations reflect the madness wonderfully."

Tom Kerr is someone we've mentioned here on Bear Alley before. He's an artist I've had something of an obsession about for years as almost nothing was known about him, yet he drew comic strips for thirty years, filling in on many adventure strips, although I suspect most people remember him for his slightly wacky humour style seen on strips like "Oddball Oates" and "Phil the Fluter" in Lion and "Crowther in Trouble" and "Doctor in Charge" in Look-In.

Sadly, I'm now reasonably certain that Tom Kerr died way back in 1984, aged around 69.

Bill Reading wrote only two books as far as I'm aware:

Barbara Lou the Kinkajou, illus. Tom Kerr. London, Golden Galley Press, 1946.
So You're a Father!, illus. Leslie Butler. London, Golden Galley Press, 1947.

On the evidence of Barbara Lou, I wish he'd written more.

(* A huge thanks to John Rivers for introducing me to this book... when he said he had scans, how could I resist! We'll have more from the story tomorrow.)


Chris Tolworthy said...

Not much to add, but your blog is what the Internet was invented for. (Apart from allowing military communications to survive a nuclear war of course) Keep up the good work.

Jim Medway said...

amazing find! Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I have searched high and low for this book for nearly 60 years. My Nan bought this for me when I was 10 in 1947. I had thought that the title was Mary Lou... this is why I couldn't find it. Thanks for scanning it.