“A little black dog and
a little white dog
And they stayed together
and played together
all day long.”
Words so simple and yet so lyrical, those are the words on the opening spread of Dahlov Ipcar’s stunning book about two dogs, two friends, two colors, and the adventures and imaginings surrounding them. Originally published at the height of the US civil rights movement in 1963, Flying Eye Books has remastered the original art and traditionally printed the book (on uncoated paper!) using the same bold spot color that made Ipcar known as a true master of color and organic form. I am thrilled to add this timeless and yet continually so poignant piece of work into my own library and I am delighted to share it with you. Come look at this breathtaking book, Black and White by Dahlov Ipcar, 1963 and now 2015.
The story opens with the opening lines of this post and follows the little black dog and the little white dog as they frolic around chasing things and interacting with nature. All around them, other things scamper that are white and in their play at one point the little white dog disappears in the very white snow. But he comes back, “So that was all right.” And then they chase things that are black and the little black dog vanishes in the darkening night. But he comes back again too, “so that was all right.”
When their play is over for the day, they return to their own homes which are perfectly suited to them, and each dream of wildly imaginative things in the world which also swirl with black or white, and black and white too.
The little black dog dreams of the jungle night and of all the varied creatures that would stir and move there. The little white dog dreams of an arctic storm and of all the things black and white who move there.
When they wake again to a new day, their play continues and they tell each other of their dreams. And most importantly they tell each other
“of all the animals black and white,
White as snow, black as night.”
When I think of animals, I must admit that I rarely would think to list and categorize them as black or white or even black and white. If I did, my mind would immediately go to a zebra, of course, for that is the animal most often associated with black and white. So I came to this book fascinated as page after page shows me marvelous and immense amounts of creatures who boast black or white or black and white colors. It almost seems too simple or mundane to detail animals as merely black and white when the animal kingdom is so colorfully arrayed; but the point Ipcar makes here is immensely wonderful. You need not always point to every color in existence in the world to show beauty and variety and harmony. Sometimes you only need to look at the two most basic of colors and even those will take your breath away in their vastness.
And then she takes it one step further and surrounds those beginning and end of the color spectrum colors with vivid spot colors of blues and greens, and pinks and reds, and purples and yellows. The depth of the photos lies in the black and white contrast and then is accented with strong punches of all the other colors of creation. It is magnificent to behold, just like the creatures it celebrates.
If you have been reading here long, you know that I groan at overly didactic books. Children are too smart for all that force-feeding and it simplifies things way too much to hold interest. So here, I think it very important that I announce enthusiastically that Ipcar’s book hasn’t a didactic tone anywhere to be seen. When I first read it, I had that faintest of notions that perhaps the point was racial harmony; but it never states it anywhere, or pushes the idea or even hints at it in the jacket flaps at all. I wasn’t even sure if I was just overly sensitive while reading it until I thought about the original publication date and looked at its new press release which mentions the civil rights movement occurring during its original print run. Herein lies more of the beauty and timelessness of Ipcar’s work. She took the beautiful concepts of contrasting colors and the variety of animals and wrote about it as if there should be no notion of the world needing to be one or the other of anything. She writes of the world as it should be, full of color and variety and celebrating it, fully expecting, anticipating, and hoping that the generations of readers will take it and see no problem in it either. Bravo Dahlov Ipcar. Thank you for the beautiful words and stunning pictures. And thanks to Flying Eye Books for making it anew for this next generation too.
Be sure to check out more of the books coming out in The Dahlov Ipcar Collection from Flying Eye Books. You don’t want to miss them.