If Apples Had Teeth: Shirley and Milton Glaser’s Lovely Vintage Children’s Book About Questioning the Way Things Are
An irreverent invitation to reconsider the world’s givens.
By Maria Popova
The lever by which the human imagination moves the world rests on one little word: if — that linchpin of possibility allowing us to question the way things are and imagine better, truer alternatives for how they might be. “‘What if… ?’ gives us change, a departure from our lives,” Neil Gaiman observed in extolling the power of cautionary questions. “What if there is something I do not yet know?” Tolstoy asked himself in contemplating what gives life meaning. Copernicus toppled God through the implied if of a universe in which we were no longer at the center of significance. Democracy began with the experimental if of a world in which every human being is granted equal opportunity at happiness.
In 1960, more than a decade before he created the iconic I♥NY logo, legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser (b. June 26, 1929) joined forces with his wife, Shirley Glaser, on a series of unusual children’s books composed by Shirley and illustrated by Milton, beginning with one that explores that supreme propulsive force of the human imagination.
Republished for the first time since its original debut more than half a century ago, If Apples Had Teeth (public library) is part poetry, part art, part jubilant nonsense, radiating a simple, playful, yet profound question: Why must things be the way they are, and what if they were otherwise? A century after Mark Twain penned his irreverent Advice to Little Girls, inviting young women to question social mores, the Glasers tug at life’s givens with a playful and pleasantly mischievous curiosity kindred to Twain’s.
If Apples Had Teeth comes from Brooklyn-based independent powerhouse Enchanted Lion, publisher of uncommonly imaginative treasures like Cry, Heart, But Never Break, The Lion and the Bird, The Paper-Flower Tree, and Bertolt. Complement it with Glaser, older and wiser by half a century, on art, education, and the kindness of the universe.
Illustrations courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books
Published January 23, 2018