Colouring in the kitschy past

Author looks at obscure world of Whitman colouring books




SaltWire Network


Nova Scotia author Jason Young is making a name for himself in the unique world of kitschy nostalgia. After all, not only has he published books dedicated to old, campy Halloween costumes, storybook records and the illustrated wrappers that were used to surround trading cards, but he has sold his run of each publication and continues to print new runs on demand. “All over the world people are trying to get their hands on these books and that’s what surprises me the most,” says the certified public accountant-turned-published author. “Honestly, when I did my first book, I had no idea (so) I took a shot in the dark and printed 150 books and hoped they wouldn’t sit on my basement floor for the rest of my life and then they sold out in a week.” That book, titled The Wonderful Artwork of Wax Wrappers, has now gone through five sold-out runs, remains a popular e-book on Amazon and will soon be getting a sequel. “Rather than doing a sixth run, I actually started doing a second series of all different wax wrappers,” says Young about his 80-page, full-colour digest commemorating classic trading card wrappers from the late 1950s up to the early 1990s. In the meantime, Young has just published a salute to another pop culture relic — this time, colouring books. Whitman’s World of Coloring Books is a comprehensive look at the company that was dedicated to putting out cheaply produced, but wildly popular, colouring books that specifically featured licensed characters such as The Amazing Spider-Man, The Lone Ranger and The Pink Panther. “My books all kind of have the same thing in common,” explains Young, noting that includes nostalgia for similar licensed characters. “So, you’ll have your superheroes and your TV shows — you kind of hit across different fan bases — and it is all something that I can relate back to in my childhood.” In the case of Whitman’s World of Coloring Books, it’s also a slice of pop culture that has hardly been explored in mainstream media. In fact, the dearth of information about the one-time book publishing company created a big challenge for Young. “It was like a spider’s web,” he laughs. “I think I dated it back to 1907, this company — it was two brothers that started it and the ownership changed hands repeatedly. They went different routes (but) believe it or not, Whitman is still around today.” While that may be the case, Whitman is no longer publishing colouring books. Instead, Young notes the company is involved in the world of coin collecting. Still, Whitman’s history remains surprisingly popular among a distinct group of people eager to revisit their youth. Just like Young’s previous tributes exploring such pop culture novelties, Whitman’s World of Coloring Books is poised to please many a nostalgia collector. “It has been wild,” he says, explaining the popularity of his work. “These are the types of books you can lay on your coffee table and pick up (and) just have a little moment and look back and remember a simpler time.” For more information on Whitman’s World of Coloring Books, visit