Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The Quiet Book & The Loud Book!

The Quiet Book, by Deborah Underwood, illustrations by Renata Liwska, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (April 2010)

First of all I must say that I've been following Renata Liwska's work for quite some time now: since when, just for a fortunate chance, I bumped into her blog and fell in love with her illustrations. Her way of portraying animals has a certain nostalgic and retrò style, a soothed sweetness that recalls to mind the scent of long gone moments. Memories of precious instants, connected more to senses than to precise reminiscences, come to mind: like when you walk along a road and, suddenly, your nostrils open wide up, fatally attracted by that one smell, the one you hadn't been smelling for ages but that, in one second, brings back to your mind all you thought you had forgotten!

The author of this book started with a simply brilliant idea: how many sorts of silence do we know? True there are many kinds: there's a delicate one, a threatening one, a sweet and intimate one, one that makes you fall asleep...

Well, not only this fantastic book has reached position number five in the New York Times Children's Books Bests-selling List, but soon there will be a sequel titled


I can't wait to see it!

If you are curious now, here is a list of reviews on THE QUIET BOOK:

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - where you can as well take a look at some spreads from the book, a NOT TO BE MISSED one: as usual Jules is incomparable!

Bookie Woogie - real fun!

The Picture Book Junkies -

Kidoinfo -

Lesa's Book Critiques -

Fizzwhizzing Flushbunker -

Books for Kids -

Let me signal as well:

Renata Liwska's blog, the illustrator:
and Deborah Underwood's website, the author:

Boom by Mark Haddon

Today I shall shortly tell you about one of my favourite book writers: Mark Haddon. Yeah, the one of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time".

Though I shall not talk about that book, instead I will tell you about BOOM!

I know, I'm late: in fact the book came out at the end of 2009! Well, to be precise it was first published in 1992, as this is the revised edition of Gridzbi Spudvetch! that was published at the times by Walker Books Ltd.

The new edition of this book has been released by David Fickling Books (September 3rd, 2009) and it comprises 208 pages. The text has already been translated and published in Italy, by Giulio Einaudi Editore, at the end of 2009 in the Supercoralli collection. Here is the Italian cover:

Mark Haddon, if ever needed, reconfirms his talents: he's incredibly versatile and ironic, he can easily play with words and - in this specific case - he even invents a new language and surreal sceneries that take us to other dimensions. The book is really nice, well built, the main character well outlined. It's as well a text that is suitable for more than one reading key, it's therefore right for different ages... as well for those adults that have no prejudice regarding kids lit!

But who, better than its author, can tell you about this book? Let's listen to Mark Haddon:

You're not convinced yet? My alert is not enough? No problem, here is a series of reviews:

This is the author's website:

Hope you'll enjoy it!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Big Red Lollipop

Big Red Lollipop, by Rukhsana Khan, illustrations by Sophie Blackall, Viking Children's Books, March 2010.

I'm an only child, I therefore never experienced having a brother or a sister, though I know very well all the little bullying that kids make one another, this is why I've immediately loved this wonderful book by Rukhsana Khan.

Besides my personal life, the true reason why I decided to tell you about this book is dual: first of all the author has a very interesting personal story, cruel, always current and present in the books she writes; secondly because I particularly love the illustrator, Sophie Blackall, unluckily she is not as famous as she should be here in Italy.

Rukhsana Khan was born in Pakistan, in Lahore, but her family moved to England before and then to Canada. And it was in the country of Maple Syrup and Niagara Falls, that little Rukhsana and her family were forced to endure the worse humiliations due to their ethnical difference. This was as bad as the author tells she had no friends for a long time and, consequently, turned into reading. Kahn furthermore asserts that these difficulties made her a writer. For sure such events marked her life forever, though they seem to have left no trace of grudge in her, just like Rubina, the main character in Big Red Lollipop.

Sophie Blackall comes from Australia, she now lives and works in New York. We don't know much about her, except that on her Missed Connections* she enjoys giving us little Polaroids representing urban life, that she loves collecting a bit of everything and that her studio is quite messy. We know as well that, after working in a shoe-shop and in a robot company, she recently collaborated with pop star Mika for the making of the booklet that accompanies his Songs for Sorrow and for part of the illustrations for his last album, The Boy Who Knew Too Much. She furthermore illustrated the cover of the beautiful novel When you reach me, the last masterpiece by Rebecca Stead. As Betsy Bird, on her A Fuse #8 Production Blog*, rightly points out, the first spread of Big Red Lollipop seems to be recalling the cover of When you reach me.

How these two distant worlds could have met, giving birth to such a nice book, is a mystery I'm happy not to be able to reveal. After all, the most important new in this post is Big Red Lollipop: the story of two sisters and a birthday party. The story of Rubina - the elder - who loves to keep things to enjoy them only when the right moment comes, and Sana - the younger sister - who thunders around like an earthquake and tramples everything on her way, careless of what her actions will cause. It's as well a story about forgiveness, of understanding and Brotherhood, in the true meaning of the word.

Sophie Blackall's illustrations are delicious, as usual delicate and refined, standing out on a white background. In these images the artist's ability in capturing characters' expressions is central: Blackall seems to be able to have her characters express way beyond the text, underlining the unsaid, widening the thematic the author deals with.

In short, a book you shouldn't miss.

You can read some interesting reviews on the following pages:

The Planetesme Plan - Blog
Kids Lit - Blog
*A Fuse #8 Production - Blog

Here you can read two interesting interviews with the author, Rukhsana Khan:

Magazine CM by Manitoba University -
and Papertigers -

Here below her site and blog:

Site -
Blog -

and Sophie Blackall's site and blogs:

Site -
Blog -
*and Missed Connections Blog - (don't loose it if you love tiny metropolitan stories!!!!)

Amid the many books Sophie Blackall has illustrated, you can also find:


her first and only (SOB!) book that was published in Italy by Motta Junior, under the title Il Sogno di Rosso Ciliegia.

Monday, 26 July 2010

L'Herbier by Emile Vast


L'Herbier, by Émile Vast, MeMo Publishing House, July19th 2009

There are books I've been wanting to write about before, more in-depth, but a variety of circumstances didn't allow me to, at least until now. I therefore will take my time, in these last July's days, to post little updates that I hope you will find of interest.

This morning I would like to shortly tell you about this text, that was published about a year ago already, by  MeMo Publishers in Nantes, if you don't know them already I invite you to take a look at their amazing catalogue.

As the title already explains, this book is an Herbarium: a small compendium of medieval inspiration, even though it's not purely a scientific booklet, dedicated to European leaf trees. It's a little treasure of style, composition and graphics. On its double pages we can see: on the left the leaf's silhouette complete with its description, on the right a full page illustration showing the tree branch picturing the different stages from gem, to flower and fruit. The sober and elegant style recalls Japanese art, which reflects as well in the careful and delicate use of colour.

It's a picture book where we can rediscover, together with more practical notions such as the use of wood obtained by the various trees, mythological anecdotes. The stories told are extremely short, no more than three lines, and they make you want to start searching old books about legends and myths. It's tales that make you ponder about all we loose every day, by taking the distance from nature and roots, no matter if it's the trees' roots or ours as they are inextricably tied the ones with the others, as this beautiful books makes us understand.

It was not a case if L'Herbier has obtained, during the last edition of the Bologna Children's Book Fair, a very well deserved mention amid non-fiction books. Here below is the jury's motivation:

"Emilie Vast has created an authentic, scientific herbarium. Hers is a clear, almost stark, style infused with poetry. We are shown the leaves of European species and at the same time learn much about Art Nouveau. We see how Western culture was, and remains, imbued with Japanism and how blending the two can produce exquisitely spare illustrations. Each plate is a typographical pearl, uncluttered and austere. Yet the herbarium also alludes to the enormous complexity behind the art of classifying the natural world. As well as recognizing plant species, children here learn respect for the environment around them." (source the Book Fair official website:

What else can I tell you? The book has been published in Italian as well, last June, by Salani Publishing Company (if I'm not wrong). I have tried to find an English version but apparently there is none yet, please DO correct me if I'm wrong as I would be delighted to see it published in English as well. Same for Spanish!?!

You can read some interesting reviews about this book, in French, on the following pages:

Lecture & Cie:

In case you wished to know better the book's author, these are her pages:

Site under construction -
Blog on Myspace - 

This is it for now!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

La Governante di Osmont

Regret or remorse, what's worse? An age-old problem and a very personal interpretation of life.

Not that Mr Tapinois had much choice as he got tangled, against his will, in a really big mess: he killed the housekeeper by mistake, while he was training for a duel.

Remorse therefore, and sense of guilt, get hold of the almost-young, almost-robust, almost-interesting and, above all, single Mr Tapinois!

This is the start of the new picture book, part of the collection Lampi, by Orecchio Acerbo.

La Governante*, by Edouard Osmont, illustrations by Sara Gavioli, Publisher Orecchio Acerbo, July 2010

Is this a detective story? Not really. A Thriller then? Almost... Maybe a Surreal story is a better description, with a touch of humour noir, a pinch of grotesque and much irony. If these ingredients whet your fantasy then, from tomorrow, you can go at your bookshop and buy it!

La Governante is a perfect picture book for these days of suffocating hot: it'll freeze blood in your veins for an absolutely moderate price.... Now why don't we analyse together this beautiful volume? For this I shall have to use a more convenient tone though!

First of all two words about the author, whose ghost seems to have haunted the poor publishers until they were finally forced to produce the book!

Edouard Osmont, a.k.a. Blaise Petitveau, has become a ghostwriter of French literature between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. About him we only know that he was a frequent visitor of Le Chat Noir, in Montmartre, together with a large group of artists and writers amid whom we find as well Alphonse Allais; we know as well that he contributed to magazines such as Le Rire, Le Sourire and Fantasio to which, amid others, were collaborating as well Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (another well-known habitué of Le Chat Noir) and Pierre Henri Cami (another incredible writer, not a renowned one neither, even if he's more known than Osmont. Years ago, the publisher Sellerio, had printed his irreverent  Avventure di Loufock Holmès**, a clear parody of Sherlock Holmes).

Osmont therefore remains an enigmatic character, wind up in a mysterious aura and, up to today in a thick web weft as well. Luckily enough for us, Fausta and Simone have decided to remove this last one.

His writing is refined, captivating, with a nice sense of rhythm and implacable time scansion:

the housekeeper is killed (Bang! The shot roars in our heads)

and for poor Mr Tapinois a nightmare starts, what to do? Confess? Maybe he would be better hiding the body in a trunk...

From a veiled hint to absurd, though maintaining an elegant balance with reality, Osmont reaches the most paradoxical and unrestrained tones of absurdity.

The corpse of the housekeeper disappears (Bang! another shot that echoes in our minds)

but she is not ready to abandon Mr Tapinois yet: the housekeeper will reappear in a fun windmill of broken objects and increasing fear. Horror! Poor Mr Tapinois finds shelter nowhere, the corpse reappears, a threatening, prevailing presence, up to when...

Well, I won't be the one who gives away the end of the book!

The illustrations, by Sara Gavioli, are beautiful: edited with extreme care, always fitting, with a taste for retrò that marries well the text they refer to, and though they're always relevant. The enormous research Sara has made to obtain such a result is clear: we can see it surfacing in details, in unusual framings, in the careful décor. I'm thinking for instance of the pendulum clock, of the playing cards where she hides little information, of the use of silhouettes and the skilful handling of shadows.
The chromatic choice of the tables is absolutely right and, should it still be necessary, reveals furthermore Sara's original and unique talent. If you want to know something more about her, you can read the interview I made her last month: you'll find almost everything you shall like to know, including the most horrifying details! I'm kidding, of course...

What else could I say? Once again an audacious choice made by Orecchio Acerbo, a cultured, singular one, that goes against the tide. Once again my personal thanks go to Fausta and Simone for the excellence they keep bringing to our attention.

* La Governante means the housekeeper.
** Avventure di Loufock Holmès means Adventures of Loufock Holmès.