Saturday, August 26, 2006
Caroline at the Ranch
I ended up at a thrift store today and bought a few books for my son. Most of them were 50 cents each, but there was one, "Caroline at the Ranch" (1961), which was $1.99. It was a large hard cover children's book and I really liked the art on the cover as well as inside. I waffled back and forth on whether I should buy this one, as it was a little more expensive than the rest. I ended up buying it. When I got home, I tossed all the other books into the book bin in Kaden's play room, but this one I decided to check out. Kaden came over to see what I had and asked me to read it to him, so we sat down and read it together. We loved it. The story was charming, and the artwork absolutely captivating. I was now very interested in finding some more of Pierre Probst's books. A few minutes online and I came up with very little about Mr. Probst, or the book. What I did find was a short bio of the author Pierre Probst, and a few sites with mentions of his books. Turns out that the English Caroline books fetch a hefty price on eBay, and if you look on Amazon, you can find 5 pages worth of Caroline books, all in French. I also found a site with a few other Caroline book covers and some comments from other readers regarding the Caroline books. Seems many of the original readers of these books are looking for them today.
Here is the info I could find on Mr. Probst: "Pierre Probst is a French gentleman that began writing and illustrating children's stories in the 1950s. According to a web page from Librarie Hachette, he was born in 1913, entered the art schools of Mulhouse, France, and began drawing paperboards for the silk trade before moving into the press and publicity business. In 1953 he proposed to Hachette a series of small animal characters: Youpi the cocker spaniel, Pipo, Bobi... They were soon joined by a little girl with fair hair named Caroline.
Later in the decade the books were deemed popular enough to be exported and translated. Several of these were translated into English and sold in both the United States and Britain. Some were also translated into German, and, according to the page, languages from Japanese to Swedish. He evidently now still lives in France and produces two new adventures per year. He has also done illustrations for other educational books in his home country.
The Caroline stories are rather straightforward, mostly following Caroline and her friends as they travel and have simple adventures. They are quite cute, and seem to have captured the fancy of many of those that own (or owned and are looking for more of) the books. This, along with an evident low volume of production, has resulted in the fact that on Ebay they garner extremely high bids and (the English versions) are at times among the most valued children's books up for auction. This was especially true during the "high times" between 1999 and 2001; the bid amounts have come down substantially since that time, but are still quite high for the most-desired versions."
I loved the artwork so much that I decided to share a few of the pages here on my blog. Shown here you will see the cover, the inside title page and the first 4 pages of the story. (Click pictures to make them larger)