This book is from 1984, and was produced by Marvel Books in conjunction with the Children's Television Workshop, producers of the "The Electric Company" and "Sesame Street" TV shows.
It is one of a series of four "Color and Learn" activity books for children. Each book is 8" x 10.85" with a color cardboard cover, staple-bound 48 pages. The pages are newsprint and are nearly all in black and white, except that some pages in this book have a some highlighting in red. This "single color" printing was a cheap compromise, as opposed to a more expensive full-color printing.
The puzzles and games in these books are similar in style and age-level to the puzzle and game content from The Electric Company Magazine. Spider-Man appeared in that magazine, as well as on the TV show. And he also appears in these Color & Learn books. In this case he is the star on the cover. But he also appears in four of the interior illustrations in "Celebrations".
The "Celebrations" of the title refers to special times of the year. Each page or double-page activity is based around a specific day or month in the year. Starting with January 1: Happy New Year and picking out holidays, national days of celebration, or anniversaries of the birth or death of famous people. My personal favorite is January 16: National Nothing Day.
Each day has it's own different puzzle. Draw a picture, find the matching images, decode the secret message, answer the riddles. Find the ghosts, join the dots. The variety and variation is truly impressive.
These days, creating a coloring book is a trivial matter. Open the "Marvel clip-art" folder on your computer, and cut-and-paste 244 images. Doesn't matter even if you repeat yourself, nobody will notice. Click "Save". Choose "Email". Subject "Print in China, 20,000 copies at 7c per unit."
But back then, each page was a loving work of art. The printing process was costly, and so it was worth investing extra time and effort to get a unique and interesting product. The economics of publishing was quite different back in the 1980's.
Of course, the 1980's were a very different era in other ways as well.
The LA Race Riots of 1992 were still in the future. Racial tensions were generally suppressed, and Martin Luther's Dream still seemed within easy reach. Columbus was "a brave explorer," and was not yet widely recognized for the rapist and genocidal sociopath that we now know him to be. Thanksgiving celebrated the kindness of the Native Americans, and turned a blind eye to the subsequent massacres and land-grabs perpetrated by the invading settlers.
This book lives in the Middle America world of Mister Rogers. Everywhere is clean, and everybody is happy. The children have candy and toys, and they dress-up and walk the streets at Halloween without fear.
Although, we do see the first glimpses of the darker future. The first cracks in the facade.
April 22: Earth Day - can you find these words in the letter-grid – "pollution", "coal", "erosion"?
Even the safe, perfect Electric Company world of playground slides and endless summer has clouds upon the horizon...
I love these old coloring books. This is one of the gems of my collection.
The naïve blindness to the reality of these events is part of the charm. This book could not be created today – we have moved on. The scales have fallen from our eyes. But even though we "know better" now the reality concerning Thanksgiving, Cristóbal Colón, and Black Lives, that doesn't mean that we can appreciate the well-meaning ignorance of an earlier age.
Five Webs. No question.