Chances are you are familiar with the Dick and Jane series of books for early readers. Even though they use sight words instead of phonics to teach children to read, they are still around, almost 90 years after they debuted in the 1930s!!


We recognize the characters Dick, Jane, Sally (sometimes Baby), Mother, Father, Spot the Dog and Puff the Cat, although Spot was originally a cat and reworked as a dog after the 1930s.

The artwork most of us recognize is not the original.  I had never before seen the original artwork:

Illustrations were done by Eleanor Campbell and Keith Ward. Robert Childress did the illustrations during the 1950s. Richard Wiley took over the illustrations in the 1960s, and was the first to include African American characters in the book series. 

Yes, you read that right, there are African American characters. I’m pretty sure none of the Dick and Jane books I have at school have these characters in them.

The good news is that the Thrift Store Score that inspired this post, has some of Mike, Penny and Pam’s stories in it. I love a good multicultural book!

I found this book in hardback in great condition, with a sewn binding instead of glue, for 75¢!! My first graders will be so excited – too bad the year is almost over for us.

These books are an iconic piece of American history. They, along with The Bobsy Twins were some of the first books many of us could read on our own.

They have inspired a few parodies too. I think our public library owns this one:

Depending on your humor, you could be laughing your butt off, stifling a giggle or feeling outraged. I’m stifling a giggle. Google “Dick and Jane funny” and you’ll see a lot of jokes where the original illustrations or words are altered and some that just point out the innuendos that seem to hide in the original words.

I totally get the humor that people find in these jokes, but I also appreciate the simple lessons these books offer to young children. The mid century illustrations are so fabulous, it’s hard not to smile when I look at them.

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