Leo Politi, California Artist and Author
- Books by Leo Politi are offered below
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California was fortunate to have Leo Politi as a resident
during his wonderful career as an illustrator and author of
children's books. And perhaps Mr. Politi was also fortunate
to live in the Golden State, for he certainly drew much
inspiration from it. Politi wrote and illustrated two books
which were awarded Caldecott Honors: Pedro, The Angel of
Olvera Street in 1947 and Juanita in 1949.
Following this early success, Leo's beautiful Song of the
Swallows was awarded the 1950 Caldecott Medal, making
him the first California artist to win the award. Mr.
Politi's lovely stories, with their colorful California
settings, are considered modern classics and rank among the
best picture books for children from the last century.
But that is only a very small part of the story. Mr. Politi
endeared himself to Californians, both young and old alike.
Mention Leo's name to most booklovers in Los Angeles and
there is immediate recognition. In fact, along with a smile
of delight, you'll often get an anecdote. These usually
begin with "I met Politi once!" or "I knew Leo Politi!" or
"Mr. Politi autographed my son's book for him!" People
sought Leo out and he, being a generous and friendly soul,
made himself available on many occasions to autograph his
books and meet the children and adults who loved and
appreciated his work.
Several libraries in California cities have children's rooms
which are visually enriched with delightful murals painted
by Mr. Politi and his "Blessing of the Animals" mural is at
the entrance to the Eugene Biscailuz Building on Olvera
Street in downtown Los Angeles. A local elementary school
was named in Leo's honor. Los Angeles wholeheartedly
embraced Leo Politi and his joyful, gentle art and he, in
his turn, gave us back sensitive, warm portrayals of
Angelenos and other Californians.
Mr. Politi's Juanita played a big part in the history
of Appleby Books. In our early days as booksellers, we
acquired a beautiful first edition of this title. Our copy
was signed and inscribed with watercolor embellishments by
Leo Politi. We fell in love with Politi's beautiful story of
a Los Angeles child and the Blessing of the Animals and soon
after decided to specialize in children's literature and
illustrated books. We've been happy with our choice ever
since and feel we have Leo Politi to thank for it.
The Politi family put up a wonderful website to commemorate
2008 Centennial. 2008 was a year of
excitement in Los Angeles and all over California with many
celebrations honoring Leo Politi and his wonderful art.
Similar events took place in cities all over the country.
More events are scheduled for 2009 so be sure to visit the
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Hill, Los Angeles: Reminiscences of Bygone Days (signed)
Palm Desert: Desert-Southwest, 1964. First Edition. Folio.
Gilt decorated grey cloth. pp with 25 wonderful
illustrations from Leo Politi's paintings, each accompanied
by his stories of the residents and homes of Bunker Hill.
Leo Politi lived on Bunker Hill in the Thirties and loved
the neighborhood with its once stately houses. When he began
work on this book, he had to call on his memories and old
sketches to recreate homes that had already been removed.
Politi's book is an enduring portrait of a lovely and
gracious time and place in Los Angeles history. LA Times
clipping by Jack Smith about Leo Politi laid in. This copy
SIGNED AND DATED 1964 by Leo Politi and with his
beautiful watercolor flower embellishments. Fine in slightly
soiled, lightly frayed dustjacket. $260.00
New York: Scribner's (1960). First Edition. Quarto.
Decorated red cloth. pp with many beautiful full-color
and two color illustrations by Leo Politi. The story of
Chinese New Year as celebrated on Chanking Street in Los
Angeles with little Moy Moy, her brothers and her parents.
Moy Moy and her family are real people Leo Politi got to
know while working on this book. (I had the pleasure of
briefly meeting the charming grown-up Moy Moy and her tall
brothers in 2008 at one of the centennial celebrations for
Mr. Politi.) There's a fascinating story about Moy Moy which
Leo didn't include in his book but which you can read here:
Inscribed "with affection" by Leo Politi and with a
delightful watercolor painting on the ffep of little Moy Moy
holding her bee toy and reaching up to try to touch the
hanging wind chimes. Near Fine. Jacket edge worn with closed
tears, piece missing at spine head, small chips at upper
corners. A special copy. $600.00
the Angel of Olvera Street (signed)
Politi, Leo. New York:Charles Scribner's Sons, 1946. First
Edition. 8vo Blue decorated cloth. pp with color and
black & white illustrations throughout by the author.
Because he sings like an angel, Pedro is chosen to lead the
Posada on Olvera Street wearing a pair of little red wings.
Leo Politi received his first Caldecott Honor in 1947 for
this lovely book. This copy has Politi's wonderful SIGNED
DRAWING of Pedro on the front endpaper. Jacket pieces
are pasted opposite the title page and on the rear endpaper.
Part of a jacket for Juanita is pasted on a blank
page. Stitching is pulled and the book is shaken thus Fair
to Good. Contents are clean. $150.00
Mission Bell (signed)
Politi, Leo. New York: Scribner's, 1953. First Edition.
Oblong 8vo. Decorated blue cloth. pp. A wonderful
picture book with Leo Politi's color illustrations
throughout. The story of Father Junipero Serra's travels in
the California wilderness, of his interest in the Indians
and of his building of the missions. This copy with the
artist's lovely watercolor embellished INSCRIPTION AND
SIGNATURE to the ffep: "With all best wishes, Leo
Politi, 1955". Near Fine in about Good dustjacket (edge worn
with several tears, chipped at spine ends and corners. The
original store sticker was taped to the verso of the upper
flap and left two small brown marks). $350.00
Coatsworth, Elizabeth. Illustrated by Leo Politi. New York:
Viking (1961). First Edition. 8vo. Pink cloth. 48pp with
lovely full and double-page color and black & white
illustrations by Leo Politi. Set in Mexico, this is the
story of an old woman fallen on hard times, the young girl
who loves her, and a very special and very old doll, the
beautiful Rosita, who helps to save this little family
during the Christmas season. Fine. Dustjacket with light
spotting to lower panel, tiny chips at spine head. $125.00
New York: Scribner's (1957). First Edition. Quarto. Yellow
cloth stamped with orange butterflies. pp with lovely
color illustrations by Leo Politi including two of his
wonderful double-page spreads. Lucia and Stephen live in
Monterey and this is Lucia's first year to see thousands of
monarch butterflies alight in the trees in Pacific Grove.
She and her brother will take part in the annual Butterfly
Festival which celebrates the beautiful butterflies and
their annual journey south from Canada. Tidy inscription to
ffep, upper corners bumped else Very Good in Good
dustjacket. Jacket lightly soiled and worn with a few closed
se habla espagnol
Lopez, Margarita and Brown, Esther. Illustrated by Leo
Politi. Boston: Heath (1942). 5''x7'' Decorated cloth.
188pp. Many double-page, full-page and smaller illustrations
by Leo Politi. Cloth lightly soiled, penciled words
throughout the text, upper corners a little bumped. Good. A
school book designed to teach the vocabulary necessary for
speaking Spanish, enhanced with Politi's delightful art.
Politi, Leo. (New York): Scribner's (1973). First Edition.
4to Pictorial cloth (publisher's reinforced binding).
pp. Color illustrations throughout by Politi, including
some of his wonderful double-page spreads. Carlito lives in
the East Los Angeles barrio with his father and mother and
his beloved dog, Blanco. On a trip to the mercado right
before Christmas, little Blanco vanishes in the crowd.
Slight darkening at endpaper gutters from paste action else
Fine. Dustjacket with several closed edge tears, a little
scuffing at edges of lower panel. [SOLD]
Politi, Leo. New York: Scribner's, 1965. First Edition. 4to
Decorated blue cloth. pp with wonderful color
illustrations by the author. This title was published
shortly before Bunker Hill's fine old gingerbread houses
were torn down, but Leo Politi preserved his beloved
neighborhood for the children who would read this story
about a mischievous monkey. Leo dedicated his book to the
woman who fed the little animals and birds on Bunker Hill
and she can be seen sitting on her porch in the dustjacket
illustration. Settlement House stamp to free endpaper and
small paper label indicating this book was "Presented by the
Children's Book Council." Very Good in dustjacket with
closed tear to lower panel, wear at folds. $125.00
Politi, Leo. Palm Desert: Best-West (1967). First Edition.
Folio. Decorated blue cloth. pp with many lovely
full-page and smaller color illustrations plus small black &
white vignettes by Leo Politi. Politi celebrates the beauty
and diversity of Los Angeles with his wonderful art,
depicting Olvera Street, the Bradbury Building, Japanese
Town, the Watts Towers, Alpine Hill, Grand Central Market
and other local landmarks. His text and images bring us
Hanukkah, Christmas on Main Street, an African-American
church choir and the Legend of the Poinsettia. This copy is
INSCRIBED AND SIGNED by Politi with his colorful
embellishments, dated 1967. Light wear to spine heel and a
small poinsettia illustration is meticulously painted with
watercolors else Very Good. Dustjacket is about Good -- very
worn and torn on edges and at folds with pieces missing at
spine ends. $225.00
All Things Bright and Beautiful
Alexander, Carl Frances. Illustrations by Leo Politi. New
York: Scribner's, 1966. Fourth printing. 4to Beige cloth.
pp. The words and music to this beautiful hymn are
accompanied by Politi's pictorial interpretation in lovely
color and black & white illustrations. Very Good. Jacket
worn with long closed tears and small chips. $35.00
Politi, Leo. New York: Scribner's, 1951. First Edition.
Quarto. Publisher's reinforced pictorial cloth. pp with
color illustrations throughout. A story based on Leo
Politi's own childhood. Little Leo loved watching the
Indians in the movies and one day his father bought him his
own wonderful Indian Chief suit. When little Leo and his
family traveled to his father's village in Italy, all the
children were enchanted with Leo's suit and wanted to be
Indians too! Minor wear to upper corner tips else Very Good.
A dustjacket from the 1967 printing has been married with
the book. Jacket with small chips at spine ends, wear to
Horn Book Magazine, April 1966, Number 2, Volume XLII
Viguers, Ruth Hill. Boston: The Horn Book, 1966. 8vo
Staple-bound pictorial wraps. pp. 117-260. Illustrated. Book
reviews, publishers' advertisements, regular features and
articles including "Poetry for Children" by Harry Behn, "The
People in Books" by Jean Little, "Boris Artzybasheff" by
Louise Seaman Bechtel and "To the Children With Love, From
Leo Politi" by Roberta Nichols wherein the Caldecott
Award-winning artist discusses painting Bunker Hill and
Angel's Flight for Piccolo's Prank. Covers darkened
at spine and edges, lightly soiled else Very Good. [SOLD]
Clark, Ann Nolan. Illustrated by Leo Politi. New York:
Viking, 1952. First Printing. 8vo. Turquoise cloth. 53pp
with black & white drawings and many beautiful double-page
color illustrations by Leo Politi. The story of a little
grey Ecuadorian burro who doesn't want to be just a stray
burro but wants to belong to someone. Very Good+ Jacket
chipped at spine ends and corners, showing wear at folds,
small pencil marks to edge of upper panel. [SOLD]
Politi, Leo. San Carlos: Golden Gate Junior Books (1969).
First Edition. 4to Illustrated Boards. pp with the
artist's wonderful color illustrations throughout, including
two magnificent double-page spreads. Mieko (Beautiful
Graceful Girl) dreams of becoming queen of the Ondo Parade
during the annual Nisei Week festival in Los Angeles' Little
Tokyo. Spine heel bumped else Very Good+ in lightly frayed
dustjacket. Inscribed and signed by Politi with
flower and butterfly embellishments, dated 1970. A lovely
copy of this beautiful book. [SOLD]
Stalks of Corn
Politi, Leo. (New York): Scribner's, 1975. First Printing.
4to Decorated blue cloth. pp. With Politi's charming
color illustrations throughout. Set in Pico Rivera,
California, this is the story of Angelica and her abuelita
(grandmother). It's also the story of corn and its place in
the history and legend of the Mexican people. At the end of
the story, Politi included two delicious recipes for the
enchiladas and tacos the children make in the book. Fine in
Very Good+ dustjacket, lightly frayed and worn. [SOLD]
Politi, Leo. (New York): Scribner's, 1948. First Edition.
8.5"x10" Cloth-backed boards. pp with wonderful full
color and two-color illustrations throughout by Leo Politi.
Little Juanita takes her dove to the Blessing of the Animals
on Olvera Street on the Saturday before Easter. Politi
inscribed and signed this copy to the ffep, dated Easter
1949, and embellished his signature with colorful decorative
flowers. A newspaper clipping affixed to the upper
paste-down from the Los Angeles Daily News, March 11, 1950,
announces that Mr. Politi is the first California artist to
win the Caldecott Medal for his book, "Song of the
Swallows." A 1949 Caldecott Honor book. Boards lightly
rubbed, spine ends show wear. Some offsetting to inscription
from clipping. Small repaired tear bottom of ffep else Good+
Dustjacket with chipping and edge wear. [SOLD]
Some of the Jack and Jill covers illustrated by Leo
Politi in the 1940's and 50's