Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1925. Octavo (21.8 × 16.5 cm). Original pictorial wrappers by Boris Kustodiev; 14 pp. Very good, save for small owner inscription to cover.
First edition. The preoccupation with the subject of America versus the Soviet Union as the land of progress is the focus of this NEP-era children’s book, illustrated by the master painter Boris Kustodiev. The theme of an American coming to the Soviet Union was popularized a year prior in Lev Kuleshov’s blockbuster comedy “Mr. West in the Land of Bolsheviks” (1924), with this children’s version exploring many of the same tropes. In this ‘fairytale’ an American boy’s wish to visit the Soviet Pioneers is so great that he sneaks into his father’s luggage in order to be taken along on the trip to the Soviet Union. Images tell much of the story in this book as American skyscrapers and airplanes serve as the backdrop to Jimmy Joy’s journey to the port from which his ship will sail. It is however the Soviet airplane that rescues Jimmy from the ocean and brings him safely to Leningrad.
The author, Lidiia Vladimirovna Lesnaia (1889-1972), was by turns a poet, playwright, comedic writer, actress and director of children’s theater. Lesnaia had her debut as a poet in 1907 in the journal "Mir iskusstva" (World of Art). In the 1920s, the poet turned to comedic writing, and to writing for children, publishing this book among others. The famous portrait painter, stage designer and graphic artist Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev (1878-1927), also associated with Mir iskusstva (World of Art), illustrated the text. Best remembered as a portrait painter, Kustodiev illustrated many children’s books in the 1920s and 1930s famously collaborating with the popular children’s writer Samuil Marshak. This is one of the most uncommonly encountered books illustrated by Boris Kustodiev, and a very well-preserved copy. Turchinskii p. 299. In North America, KVK, OCLC only show the copies at Amherst, Princeton, and Pennsylvania (Stanford holds a photocopy). Book ID: 50318