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Alice and Jerry – taught me to read

Friendly VillageThe gentle images in these books inspired an artist to bloom within my soul.

I didn’t learn to read from the books about Dick and Jane with their dog Spot though I enjoy them and have framed a page from one of the books.  Believe it or not, you can purchase individual pages.  Mine was a gift.  I’ve also purchased some reproductions of the original books enjoy reading them afresh.  I learned to read with the Alice and Jerry readers.  Only now do I know that Mabel O’Donnell wrote the books and that Florence and Margaret Hoopes illustrated these books, as well as many others.

Over the years I tried to find copies of the Alice and Jerry readers, but found no trace.  I couldn’t even find a person who had heard of them.  I thought perhaps the readers we used were a local thing, so when I had the opportunity, I searched antique shops in the area around my hometown.  Nothing.  The images were so similar that I decided long ago that I must have been wrong and the characters must have been the famous Dick and Jane.

A couple of weeks ago I had an “Aha!” moment and realized I could search for Alice and Jerry online.  Now I’m the proud owner of an Alice and Jerry reader.  Evidently it wasn’t just an Ohio thing.  The book I bought is from Bellevue Public School District No. 405.  Well, actually, the sign-out sheet from the front cover is from Bellevue.  This particular reader is called The New Friendly Village with “The New” smaller than “Friendly Village”.  I think the thing that I liked so much about the books were the familiar characters that lived in all of them.  Alice and Jerry, always present, were joined by other characters and became friends to us all.  The artist within me is intrigued and inspired by the illustrations.

10 comments on “Alice and Jerry – taught me to read

  1. I too am an Alice and Jerry enthusiast. I fell into and in love with the artwork starting with pre primer 1, Skip Along. When I was a young teacher in Iowa, the elementary school where I was the art teacher, was moving their library. Some books were being nixed and sent who-knows-where. This included stacks of A and J books, which I hadn’t seen since I was learning to read them. I asked if I could have some of the books, especially the 1st 4 books in the series because they had the most art. I was told no. I’ve always kicked myself for not just putting those books on the shelf in my room. I spent the next 25 years search in collectables shops, used book stores, libraries that were closing, etc. everyone in my family knew of my quest. So over the year I acquired many wonderful old reading books, including A&J. Finally one day my brother called. He said he thought he’d seen the books I wanted in Stillwater MN in an antique shop. I live fairly close so I dash over. Yes indeed, all four books were there and in good condition. That was in 1994. I paid $125.67 for the set which I treasure! I have an entire book shelf of these old books, but only 1 copy of each of these 4 pre primers. They are like old friends.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Its really nice to meet someone else who appreciates those wonderful books. I recently stumbled upon one here in my own area, at a store called KEEPIN IT LOCAL. I don’t know what grade the book is geared for. It doesn’t have as many pictures. Its called DAY IN AND DAY OUT. I paid $9 for it. The other three I have are IF I WERE GOING, NEIGHBORS ON THE HILL, and FRIENDLY VILLAGE. The last one is my favorite. All three of those were sent to me by someone who read my blog. I feel so fortunate to have them and keep them in a special case. I take them out often and share them with friends who visit my studio. I’m illustrating a children’s book right now and I keep FRIENDLY VILLAGE out to use as a reference and to keep me on track with what’s important in an illustration.

      Thank you again for sharing, Wendy.

  2. I learned to read from these books too. My great grandmother had been a school teacher and used these books in her classes in the 1930’s. I lived in a suburban neighborhood and longer with all my heart to live in a place like Friendly Village.

    • I know exactly what you mean. That longing is what kept me searching for a copy of the books all these years. Reading them and seeing those illustrations started me wanting to paint and started my passion for designing houses. I must have designed a thousand houses over the years and now live in one of those designs. I am indeed an illustrator and still hope to illustrate children’s books. Also still long to live in “Friendly Village”.

  3. I was so excited to come across your posting on these wonderful sister-artists. My childhood was greatly enhanced by the Alice and Jerry books. My sisters and I grew up in Florida, with 18 years between me and my eldest sister. I have copies of the books we all used in elementary school, and it is very interesting to compare the editions side by side. Some of the illustrations (as well as the text) were updated with each subsequent edition. The basic ideas were kept constant, but there was some ‘tweaking” done with each edition. It is so great to see the process! What wonderful illustrators they were! Alice and Jerry, as well as their family and friends were part of my childhood. We grew up together!

    • It’s a delight to look back on those books, isn’t it? I remember the illustrations far better than I remember the text and lessons that went with them. I still feel comforted by the artwork. For many years I thought I might have been wrong about the character names in the books. Everyone told me I must mean Dick and Jane. When I was about to concede they were right, I stumbled on one of the books. What a surprise. Thank you for taking time to visit my site and share a comment with me.

  4. Here is a comment emailed to me by Jim Connah. He is also a fan of the author and illustrators.

    Shelley, I accidentally tripped over your post about Florence and Margaret Hoopes and Alice & Jerry, the great reading series they illustrated, which was written by the immortal Mabel O’Donnell. I was doing some net surfing re: the sisters, who illustrated O’Donnell’s books for Row, Peterson, which became Harper & Row, a company I was a sales rep for in the 1970s. Back then, Harper’s Scranton, PA warehouse was getting rid of all sorts of stuff that piled up there. I ended up getting a lovely small watercolor originally done for Alice & Jerry. In it are Alice, Jerry, Jip, and their friend, May. I, too, grew up on Alice & Jerry, as did all my contemporaries in the Atlanta school system back in the mid-50s. I contend FRIENDLY VILLAGE is one of the greatest books ever published. Many times, I read from it to my own children, starting with the two pages pictured on your blog. I’m from the home of Margaret Mitchell. As far as I’m concerned, Mabel O’Donnell was at least her equal. And the Hoopes sisters made the writing meaningful to children like me who would have had a much tougher time learning how to read without seeing those lovely images. I will always associate my love for reading with Alice & Jerry.

    • Thanks so very much for your reply about the Alice and Jerry books illustrators and for including the one from Jim Connah regarding his watercolor of one of the illustrations. I’ll keep looking for info…BF

  5. Hi, re Alice and Jerry, what more do you know about the illustrators, Florence and Margaret Hoopes. I learned to read with Dick and Jane. Alice and Jerry were introduced a few years later to younger students in my grades 1-8 one room school. I’m 71. I’ve recently become interested in the Mabel O’Donnell books, ” Singing Wheels” and “”Engine Whistles” illustrated by Florence and Margaret Hoopes. which I used in grades 4 and 5. I love the illustrations and wonder what ias the history of textbook illlustrations. I know, today, illustrations for children’s books are given awards. Do you have any info about this topic? I’m from Wisconsin.

    • Hello! I am definitely not an expert on those love women. I have researched them a bit. I found some information at the following site – http://illusstation.blogspot.com/2008/03/florence-and-margaret-hoopes.html

      and also

      http://greatbutforgotten.blogspot.com/2011/02/alice-and-jerry-books.html

      I’ve corresponded with a gentlemen who knows quite a bit about them. I’ve asked if I can include some of the information he gave me. If he agrees, I’ll add it in my blog so you can see it.

      I treasure the Alice and Jerry books. I do have some reproductions of Dick and Jane books, but am a bit more fond of the Alice and Jerry series. The illustrations are kind of similar, but I like the backgrounds in the Alice and Jerry books. I’m an illustrator myself and am interested in incorporating a little of that style into a book series I’m working on now.

      Thank you for taking a moment to visit with me, fellow Alice and Jerry enthusiast.

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