The Taft Hotel loves vintage children’s books, but Waxie-Daxie is a bit different from the cute animal-related titles featured elsewhere on this site.
This book, written by Samuel Marshak and translated by Dorian Rottenberg, is really more of a pamphlet. It was produced by the Foreign Languages Publishing House in Moscow in 1960 and printed in (what was then) the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The binding style is definitely no-frills – 28 saddle-stitched pages, without a hardback or paperback cover. Despite these economies the story is printed in 4 colour throughout, and the illustrations by A Kanevsky still look pretty good after almost 60 years.
Waxie-Daxie is the story of a pet dachshund called Daxie, who belongs to schoolboys Ed and Ned. Despite his skills with a stick and a ball, Daxie gets into various scrapes and ends up being banned from the football field, along with all the other pooches.
He also gets into a fight with a pugnacious Angora cat called Tom.
Waxie eventually proves himself a true canine hero of the USSR, by ridding the household of marauding rats.
I’m not sure how Waxie-Daxie found its way into our house and I don’t have any memories of reading it as a child.
As an adult, I really love the illustrations, which are full of humour, character and lovely period detail – the cars, the uniforms worn by the kids and the streetscapes. The world of Waxie-Daxie has a Cold War austerity that marks it out from the cosy, colourful children’s adventures I read in the 1960s.
I can’t find any biographical detail about A Kanevsky, but there are other examples of his delightful illustrations online, including images from Tolstoy’s The Golden Key.
With the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia due to get under way next week, I’m sure Waxie-Daxie will be practising his footballing skills and hoping to sneak into one of the stadiums.