Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A very sad day

Today is a very sad day, I have been long afraid it would come but I still hoped it wouldn't.

I just received a message by Christian Bruel, owner and soul of Editions Etre, I had tried to give an alert a few months ago but, to my utter regret, Editions Etre couldn't make it: they will be closing at the end of the year.

I'm very sad because I was unable to do more than what I actually did. Amid their artists are some of the most important on the international scene, their books are precious gems, gems that will find a home on a few lucky shelves but will be precluded to the most.

A brilliant and inspired light, a free voice that has gifted us with its beautiful books will soon be no more. Once again titans are winning and little ones are loosing, but I will not surrender and, once again, let me cry out loud that

Monday, 22 November 2010

The winners of the Salon di Montreuil 2010

Here are the winners of the prizes for the 2010 edition of the Paris Salon de Montreuil!!!

Let's start with the prestigious

Baobab de l'Album

La Règle d'or du cache-cache
by Christophe Honoré, illustrations by Gwen Le Gac, Actes Sud junior, 2010.

Other important prize

Prix du 1er album

Monsieur cent têtes
by Ghislaine Herbéra, Éditions MeMo, 2010.

let's continue with the

Prix de la presse des jeunes

Des hommes dans la guerre d'Algérie
texts by Isabelle Bournier, illustrations by Jacques Ferrandez, Casterman, 2010.

Prix Terre en vue

Petites et grandes histoires des animaux disparus
by Hélène Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt, with the collaboration of Cécile Colin and Luc Vives from the National Museum of Natural History, Actes Sud Junior, 2010.

Prix À l'abord'art

La Petite Galerie de Andy Warhol
by Patricia Geis, coll. La petite galerie, Editions Palette, 2010

Prix Coup de cœur de l'équipe du Salon

Le Petit Gibert illustré
by Bruno Gibert, Albin Michel Jeunesse, 2010

This is it for now, talk soon for more news!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Autumn Rain

In these days of pouring rain, let me sweep you away with these drops of colour and wisdom. It’s all “must have” books: some more recent, others a bit older.

To start our parade it could be none else than her: Suzy Lee, with her last masterpiece that has been published (more or less) contemporarily in three countries: United States, Italy and France!

Shadow, by Suzy Lee, Chronicle Books, Septembrer 2010
Ombres, by Suzy Lee, Editions Kaleidoscope, Septembrer 2010
Ombra, by Suzy Lee, Edizioni Corraini, Septembrer 2010

The story is simple and brilliant, as this wonderful artist has accustomed us to: leave a child alone in an attic with a few common objects, old and dusty; the first instinct, it’s clear, is to explore the place and the best way to give way to exploration is playing, better if all alone. The most simple objects as well, when filtered by a fervent imagination, take up the most unimaginable appearances (Le Petit Nicolas by Sempé is a good example) even truer for their shade’s reflex that will inspire unexpected sceneries. Just like in Wave, and in Mirror, Lee enjoys marking the boundary between real and imagined amid the two adjoining pages. Just like in the books I’ve mentioned before, in Shadow as well imagination assumes, at one point, a more concrete aspect, at times a menacing one, bursting physically into the space of real, as if to make it visible how much, in the end, real and imagined nourish one another. Briefly: another masterpiece by the chorean illustrator, accurate and sensible interpretation of a childhood lived on the thread of fantastic.

In an interesting article, the New York Times uses Shadow by Suzy Lee as an example to proof that printed page, in a digital era such as ours (in constant acceleration also thanks to tools such as Ipad), is all the same vital and to some extent irreplaceable.

Here is a beautiful interview with Suzy Lee, it’s a bit old but it’s all the same very good:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast -

and also:
The DPI Magazine - don’t get scared by the writings in chorean, at the bottom there’s an English version of the interview

Reviews in English:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast -
You Know, For Kids -
Publishers Weekly -

Reviews in French:
La Citrouille -

Reviews in Italian:
Letto fra Noi -
Forkids -

Another great international artist, from the States, with one of his last productions:

Lulu and the Brontosaurus, by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith, Atheneum Books, September 2010

After It's a Book, an a solo project, the great Lane Smith delights us with this , an a solo project, the great Lane Smith delights us with this picture book with Judith Viorst. To be true, this picture book would have righteously had its place in the post I had titled Ugly, Dirty and Bad... guess why? Well, that's because Lulu, the main character of the book, ia a spoiled, a very spoiled kid who clearly recalls (at least to me) the character of Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl: Lulu always obtains what she wants. One nice morning she wakes up and decides she wants a Brontosaurus for a pet. No matter if her parents deny her the permission to get one, she stays on the piece and decides for action: you know, she can’t accept a no! This scene somehow reminds me of Veruca, when she decides she’ll get her own squirrel, for the fear of children and adults present on the scene. To end with my comparison, there is as well a sort of tribal/rhythmic song that somewhat recalls the Umpa Lumpa’s songs:

"I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna get
A bronto-bronto-bronto
Brontosaurus for a pet.
I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna get
A bronto-bronto-bronto
Brontosaurus for a pet."

As in Dahl’s best books, things won’t turn out so positively for Lulu either, in a cruel capsizing of events it’s
the Brontosaurus who will make of Lulu his pet.

Links to Lane Smith:
Interviews with Lane Smith:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - 
Adventures Underground -
Estrella's Revenge -
The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy -  (about It's a Book)
Housatonic Times - 
Reading Rockets - (video)
Carnegie Corporation of NY (Teachers for a new era) - (audio)
Just One More Book - (audio)
Interviews with Judith Viorst:
The Kennedy Center -
Book Page -
Dream Jam World - (audio)
ed un estratto da World Literature Today -

Dog Ear -
Proseandkahn -

Let’s stop in America for a while, with a change of atmosphere though, with Peter Sis and his last Madlenka’s picture book:
Madlenka Soccer Star, by Peter Sis, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)28th September 2010

Madlenka's Dog was the first book by Sis I ever bought, during one of my trips to NY, since then I usually never miss one. Peter Sis has a refined sensibility he transposes in his works through rarefied and dreamy atmospheres: his The Wall (that won the Caldecott Honour Book mention, and to whom is devoted this beautiful article from the New York Times), Tibet Through the Red Box (a wonderful autobiographical work where he discovers the contents of the mysterious red box, the one his father carried from a stay in Tibet), The Tree of Life (forerunner of the many books on Charles Darwin published more recently).

But let’s go back to our book: Madlenka is a girl who lives in the big town and, like all kids living in the big town, she’s looking for a place of her own, she looks for it among cars, in the street, under the shade of trees growing in the suffocating asphalt. Like all kids living in the big town, her playmates could be other kids or, eventually trees, or objects, or animals. Today Madlenka leaves her flat with her brand new soccer ball, and she is uncontrollable, wild, irrepressible! She plays, she plays everywhere. Her team mates are a letterbox, a few cats, a parking meter, a dog, all unfailingly involved in a neighbourhood cup, reflexion of the recent African World Cup. But, to be truth, Madlenka is secretly training for the Women’s World Cup of 2011, in Germany!

Here is Peter Sis website:

On the Job, Mystery Man -
School Library Journal - (video)
Reading Rockets - and (video)
NPR - (audio)

Books For Kids -

And now let’s travel to England with:
The Rabbit Problem, by Emily Gravett, Macmillan Children's Books7th August 2009 

This book, published in 2009, is based on the Fibonacci Sequence. Gulp! Well not really: Emily Gravett, as usual, is able to make fun and adventurous every story she tells. Who doesn’t remember Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears? Well, in this book as well, the British author sets all her imagination free, producing a real masterpiece for inventiveness: the text substantially reproduces the calendar’s format where, at each month, there is the count of the number of rabbits joining Lonely, the solitary protagonist of the first table. As in Shadow by Suzy Lee, in The Rabbit Problem as well you’ll have to flip the book to read it, as you would do with a real calendar. To each table, executed with a rigorously mixed-media technique mixing watercolors and collage, Gravett adds little details: envelopes, instructions on how to make a warm jumper, a little recipe booklet, many notes scattered here and there (as you would do on your own home calendar). A book for all those kids who suffer an irresistible attraction for discovery and who love reading books over and over again, always searching for new details. (Watch out for the surprise at the end!)
And for an on-line experience, here is Emily Gravett’s website:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - 
Booktrust Childrens Books and
The Telegraph UK -
Reading Rockets - and
Kids Book Review -

B is For Books -
Henrietta -
The Guardian -
The Bookbag -
Kirkus Reviews -
Let’s go back to the other side of the Ocean with the amazing Peter Brown, former author of  The Curious Garden, and his last work:

Children Make Terrible Pets, by Peter Brown, Little, Brown & Company, 7th September 2010

This is a really fun book! Little Rose finds a kid in the woods and decides to make him her pet. As he doesn’t speak but just squeaks, Rose will call it Squeaker. But, when she sees it, mother bear doesn’t agree with Rose as she explains very clearly because: "Children make terrible pets". As in Lulu and the Brontosaurus, in Children Make Terrible Pets as well there is a capsizing: the human becomes, despite his will, a pet while animals are portrayed as humans. With backgrounds reproducing wood’s grain and the images centered in warm colors screen-shaped, rounded at the corners, it seems as if the only things missing were knobs and here we would be in front of an old TV screen, ready to assist to the new adventures of those that (maybe because I’m just romantic, or maybe cos’ TV with knobs reminds me of when, kid, I used to look at them) recall so much Yogi Bear and Bubu, in their nice Yellowstone Park! Only intruders, as usual, men!

For more information about Peter Brown, here is his website:
And some Interviews:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast -
Into the Wardrobe -
Giggle -
Sory Sleuths -
Embracing the Child -
And a Video-interview:

100 Scope Notes -
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - (with many illustrations and sketches)
Children's Book Reviews -
Twenty by Jenny -
Kid's Book Buzz -
Let's stay in America, to then move to Holland, with

Knuffle Bunny Free, by Mo Willems, Balzer & Bray28th September 2010

Knuffle Bunny Free is a sequel as well, to be precise it's the picture book closing the trilogy started with Knuffle Bunny, a Cautionary Taleand followed by Knuffle Bunny, a Case of Mistaken Identity. Another book I had bought during a trip to NY, other case of love at first sight!

Trixie and Knuffle Bunny are inseparable, since Trixie was as big as this and Knuffle Bunny had just gotten out of his brand new box. For Trixie being at distance from Knuffle Bunny is unbearable (yesterday, the younger kid of my neighbour was desperately crying because he had temporarily lost his favourite game, how to blame him?). Though, if we think of it, from time to time it seems that Knuffle gets lost on purpose. And, to be completely honest, in his profound longing for exploration, he does have a weird taste when he chooses where to go: once he gets lost in the washing machine, then he lands in the arms of Trixie's worse enemy (leaving his double with Trixie)… and, least but not last, while he's on a trip to Holland with the whole family, he decides to make a detour in his own peculiar style (this is the starting point for Knuffle Bunny Free).
For all three books, Willems uses a mixed technique, with pictures (more or less urban) for the backgrounds, and linear drawings for the characters, mainly in pastel tones. All is played on a deliberate ambiguity: real/unreal in the backgrounds wisely in black and white, that make the setting almost universal and in any case knowingly suspended in time, modern interpretation of the old “once upon a time in a faraway land...”; real/unreal for the characters as well and their actions, always suspended amid concrete acts and imagined ones.

As you might read in some of the interviews here below, Mo Willems has a background in television, theatre and animation, during his career he has obtained: 3 Caldecott Honors, 2 Geisel Medals, 2 Carnegie Medals, 6 Emmys! Amid his many books: very famous is Don't Let the Pidgeon Drive the Bus, and the beautiful  series of the books for younger kids Elephant and Piggie, Cat the Cat and Big Frog, just to mention a few. What strikes me about his art is the extremely linear and simple characters, on which he inserts themes that are deeply rooted in childhood.

To get to know Mo Willems a bit more:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - -
Book Trust Children's Books -
Trap Door Sun -
Scholastic -
At Home Dad -
Babble -
Reading Rockets - and
Just One More Book - (audio)
School Library Journal - (video)

Publishers' Weekly - 
100 Scopenotes - 
The Seattle Times -
Flying Giggles and Lollipops -
Brimful Curiosities - 
Two Writing Teachers -
Script PS News -
Let's stay in America with:

13 Words, by Lemony Snicket, illustrations by Maira Kalman, HarperCollins, 5th October 2010

13 Words is the newborn by Lemony Snicket, a.k.a Daniel Handler (author, scriptwriter and accordionist) and Maira Kalman (eminent illustrator and designer and cover-maker for the New Yorker)! Well, I guess it's already enough, isn't it? Are you wondering about the story? Which story? There's no story, there are just those thirteen words:

1. Bird
2. Despondent
3. Cake
4. Dog
5. Busy
6. Convertible
7. Goat
8. Hat
9. Haberdashery
10. Scarlet
11. Baby
12. Panache
13. Mezzo-Soprano

What do these words mean all together? I can't tell you, I'd otherwise reveal unmentionable secrets, and I would ruin the surprise!

The only treat I can grant is the book's trailer:

Wanna know more about author and illustrator?
Lemony Snicket - Site
Maira Kalman - Site
Interviews with Lemony Snicket:
Parent Dish -
Browse Inside: 
About Creativity - -
The Telegraph UK -
The Washington Post, Kids' Stuff -
Book Browse -
Combustible Celluliod -

Interviews with Maira Kalman:
Inspiration Boards -
Design Sponge -
The Design Files -
Bygone Bureau -
Nasheville Review -
10 Answers -

Flavorpill - -
TimeOut Kids -
Since we're here, let's end our imaginary trip in the States with:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead, illustrations by Erin E. Stead, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press, May 2010

Comedy of surreal the story of Amos McGee, guardian of the City Zoo, friend of the shy penguin, the elephant, the turtle, the rhino and the owl. Amos is a scrupulous guardian, every animal gets his attentions and care: he plays chess with the Elephant, makes races with the Turtle, sits close to the Penguin, blows the Rhino's nose and tells stories to the Owl when it's dark. Everything proceeds as established since, one morning, Amos gets up sick. And now? Well, the City Zoo animals decide to get the bus and go and see him, to take care of their friend. Comedy of surreal, true, but I shall say comedy on friendship as well, of that kind of friendship where you take care of one another without need to say much more. This reminds me of one personal episode: two years ago I fell and badly hurt my ankle, I couldn't walk for a while, and my friend Francesca came at my place, she set the table with care, she prepared a delicious meal (and who knows her well can see how exceptional this act was) and she kept me company happily twittering in the house. What else is friendship other than that?

The curious thing about this book is that author and illustrator are husband and wife, and they clearly share much more than a roof: fruit of two creativities and one clear empathy, this story is told with great harmony and sensibility, with a careful balancing between what is narrated and what is left unsaid. As Betsy Bird, in her A Fuse#8 Production Blog, righteously observes there is a wise balance in the script between the first and the second part of the book. Corollary of the main event, Erin Stead adds many little details in the background, almost invisible, that enrich the story on tiptoes. Erin E. Stead's illustrations are beautiful both for the persona's characterization and for the gentleness they communicate, sensible eye of a whole range of feelings that can't be told with words. A book you shouldn't loose!!!

Here the sites of Philip and Erin Stead:
Philip Setad - Sito
Erin Stead - Blog

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast -
The New York Times -
A Fuse#8 Production -
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast -
Kids Lit -
SC Whiddon Art -

In an interesting article titled Reading Dogs and Untrained Boys, from the columns of The New York Times, Lisa Von Drasek analyzes two of the picture books I just told you about: A Sick Day for Amos McGee and Children Make Terrible Pets, emphasising the ironic side, comedy of the absurd, with that touch of inconsistency that never gets old, not even after the nth reading.

Some of the books I have mentioned appear in the New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2010 selection:

This is it for now!

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Unexpected is this post, because I hadn't planned it in the least, but you know: love at first sight is always unexpected, and this was no exception.

As it always happens, because of ignorance, or for a cruel joke of fate or for others reasons I can’t think of right now, this time as well I am late. What really matters though is I am here, no matter if I got here following my shady and twisted paths or if I got lost in the seasonal (intellectual?) fogs, what matters is I’m here with my new discovery, which happens to be a MASTERPIECE

Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, illustrated by Tullio Pericoli, Edizioni Adelphi, 2007

The passages contained in the book have been selected by Anna Maria Lorusso.

The very first edition of this book was the idea of Olivetti, they had the habit to gift their most prestigious customers with limited book editions conceived and printed on purpose for them: it was the 80’s, between 1982 and 1984 and, as Tullio Pericoli himself explains in the foreword, he was having a difficult transition: divided between illustrations for papers and art galleries, between the illustrator and the painter. The story he tells is charming, mostly interesting the way he explains how much, illustrating this book, helped him regaining a final artistic unity: up to that moment in fact, the expressive dichotomy that had kept the illustrator apart from the painter, as if they had to be separated from the start, had precluded to him to find a unitary expression. As he tells, Robinson Crusoe somehow included the two expressive worlds that, back then, were the object of his artistic research: man, the subject for his works in the papers, and nature, his favourite topic in his paintings. In Robinson Crusoe those two elements merge and become almost confused, this aggregation process is very clear in the tables that illustrate the novel.

In this new version by Adelphi, we find a great number of illustrations that weren't published in the original printed by Olivetti, showing an extremely interesting research.

My only regret, if a fault has to be found, is the almost total absence of Friday that, in the novel, still has some importance: I would have greatly enjoyed to see his equal representation as Friday is part of the island as much as trees, fish, birds and green peaks. Friday is the wild Caliban from Shakespeare's The Tempest, he is the perfect point of collision and fusion between man and nature: he represents the archetype of the wild to which a whole literary genre is devoted and, to my opinion, it deserved more attention. It is true that Pericoli explains how much, to him, Robinson and the Island were the two absolute characters of the novel and the perfect mean to complete the merging process between paper and art gallery, illustrator and painter, man and nature, gifting the first with characteristics from the other and vice-versa he thus obtained his purpose. True as well that in Defoe's novel, though as I just said he has some importance, Friday has a minor role, much less important if compared with the one Michel Tournier gives him in his wonderful novel Vendredi ou les limbes du Pacifique, where he has a supporting role, if not that of Robinson's own conscience.

In all cases this absence doesn't actually irreparably alter the beauty of this book that, to me, remains a masterpiece of rare beauty.

* Though there is not much in English about Tullio Pericoli, you can find some information about him on the following pages:

Life of Guangzhou - -  (about his comics)

Also, publisher Corraini, has just published a brand new book tracing the evolution of his works devoted to landscapes, whose title is “L'Infinito Paesaggio”, you can find it here.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Walking in Macerata: interview with Eva Montanari

Dear readers, if you wish to read my interview with author/illustrator Eva Montanari, you can visit Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, right here.

You don't know Eva yet? Here's a sneak peek of her artwork...

Chasing Degas, Illustrations © 2009, Eva Montanari. Published by Abrams Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.

Chasing Degas, Illustrations © 2009, Eva Montanari. Published by Abrams Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.

A Very Full Morning, Eva Montanari, Houghton Mifflin Books 2006

Tempo d'Instabilità, Eva Montanari, Tricromia, 2010

Tempo d'Instabilità, Eva Montanari, Tricromia, 2010