Saul Bass (1920–1996), the celebrated graphic designer and filmmaker perhaps best known for his movie posters and title sequences, illustrated only one children’s book during his lifetime. Henri’s Walk to Paris, written by Leonore Klein, was published by Young Scott Books in 1962 and has been long out of print. This month, Rizzoli will release a facsimile edition of this picture book under its Universe Publishing imprint. The book features a boy who sets out from his small French town with the hope of reaching Paris, but gets turned around and instead ends up happily back at home.
Jessica Fuller, senior editor at Rizzoli New York, discovered Henri’s Walk to Paris quite serendipitously. "I read quite a few design blogs, and came across pictures from the book on Grain Edit.com in early 2008," she recalls. "I was completely floored, since I had no idea that Bass had done a children’s book. I tried to track down a copy and eventually found one, and got in touch with Bass’s estate. They were happy to have the book be brought back into print."
Though Fuller and her colleagues attempted to search out the original publisher, they were unable to locate the company. "Before I found a copy of the book, I’d only seen pictures from it online, and the illustrations—and the fact that they were done by Saul Bass—sold me on it," says Fuller of the appeal of Henri’s Walk to Paris. "But when I finally saw the book, I discovered that the story itself is a charming, lighthearted little parable." The editor notes that, since Bass’s cover art and his interior design and illustrations "all tie in together so perfectly, we all agreed wholeheartedly that we shouldn’t change anything and should reissue a facsimile edition of the original."
Rizzoli launched its picture-book reissue program a decade ago, with the release of Munro Leaf’s How to Behave and Why, first published in 1946. That title, whose sales Charles Miers, v-p and publisher of Rizzoli New York, estimates to be "in the high five figures," was followed by reissues of a number of other titles by Leaf, including How to Speak Politely and Why and Manners Can Be Fun. "These books sell well for us," Miers reports. "They were first published long enough ago to have a nostalgic quality and a vintage look, and they continue to have appeal."
Another staple of Rizzoli’s children’s list is the This Is… series of books showcasing various cities. Created by the Czech author and artist Miroslav Sasek in the late 1950s and 1960s, the books include This Is New York, This Is Paris, This Is London, and This Is Rome, among others. Miers, who says the reissue series, which now numbers 17, "is hugely successful and has sold close to one million copies." He recalls owning copies of the original Sasek books as a child growing up in London. This makes bringing them back into print for a new generation “very gratifying,” he says, adding, "In fact, when my sister came to visit, she saw the new Sasek editions, and she thought they were the originals, and that I’d held on to them for 50 years."
Miers is pleased to add Henri’s Walk to Paris to the Rizzoli list, calling it "a universal story of a little boy and his dreams. It’s a book for kids of all ages—it appeals to the child in adults as well." That is a chief criterion for the company’s children’s publishing program, notes the publisher. "We are not technically a children’s book publisher, so our books must appeal to adults as well," he says. "We will continue to expand our program, and are always looking for books with sophisticated graphics to bring back into print."
Henri’s Walk to Paris by Leonore Klein, illustrated and designed by Saul Bass. Rizzoli International, $19.95 Feb. ISBN 978-0-7893-2263-0