THE STORY OF ROSE O'NEILL by Rose O'Neill

THE STORY OF ROSE O'NEILL

An Autobiography
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 This memoir by the creator of the once popular Kewpie figure lacks the literary strength to raise it above a mere curiosity. Until the advent of Mickey Mouse, the elfin Kewpies (`` `baby talk' for Cupid'') were, as one merchandiser told her, ``the greatest success . . . in the history of toys.'' Introduced by illustrator O'Neill in 1909, they appeared in magazines for decades, generating goodwill and spawning books, dolls, clubs, even leading one periodical to declare a need for a ``Religion of the Kewpies.'' Agreeably androgynous and unconventional, they reflected their creator's interests. A respected writer and artist, she often investigated the melding of male and female identities in her works--all the while maintaining her mainstream position as America's leading female illustrator. Such variety, plus two marriages, role-reversing parents, and a wayfaring life, could constitute a fascinating life story. However, in aiming, as the editor (a historian at the University of Missouri, Kansas City) says, ``to dissolve the boundaries between male and female form'' by fusing linear male narrative with personal female observations, O'Neill porduced an autobiography that makes for an interesting experiment but not an absorbing experience. There's not enough about family and artistic development here, and the text is burdened with too much antique reportage (``Booth and Louisa took Harry and me to Pierrefonds'' and the like). Wealthy and famous, O'Neill retired to the Ozarks in the 1930s. Florid writing and lack of drama rule out a popular readership, though as a record of the artistic concerns of a distinctive woman and shaper of popular sensibilities, it may be useful for historians. (15 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8262-1106-2
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997