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 - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1410
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 - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2023
You Know, For Kids - http://youknowforkidsblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/new-books-shadow.html
Publishers Weekly - http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/new-titles/childrens-announcements/article/43866-wordless-wonders.html
Reviews in French:
La Citrouille - http://lsj.hautetfort.com/archive/2010/11/08/ombres.html
Reviews in Italian:
Letto fra Noi - http://www.lettofranoi.it/tag/suzy-lee/
Forkids - http://www.forkids.it/2010/07/09/ombra/
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
Brontosaurus for a pet.
I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, gonna get
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 - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1422
Adventures Underground - http://www.advunderground.com/interviews/smith1106.php
Estrella's Revenge - http://estellabooks.blogspot.com/2009/02/authorillustrator-interview-lane-smith.html
The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy - http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/08/31/its-a-book-author-lane-smith-on-kids-and-technology/ (about It's a Book)
Housatonic Times - http://www.housatonictimes.com/articles/2010/10/15/entertainment/doc4cb70c1946b1b665670407.txt
Reading Rockets - http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/smith (video)
Carnegie Corporation of NY (Teachers for a new era) - http://www.tne.uconn.edu/interviews/lane%20smith.mp3 (audio)
Just One More Book - http://www.justonemorebook.com/2008/08/25/interview-with-lane-smith/ (audio)
Interviews with Judith Viorst:
The Kennedy Center - http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/family/alexander/author.html
Book Page - http://www.bookpage.com/0711bp/judith_viorst.html
Dream Jam World - http://www.dreamjamworld.com/interview.html (audio)
ed un estratto da World Literature Today - http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-541123/An-interview-with-Judith-Viorst.html
Dog Ear - http://nicolepoliti.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/lulu-and-the-brontosaurus-by-judith-viorst-illustrated-by-lane-smith-2010/
Proseandkahn - http://proseandkahn.livejournal.com/131068.html?thread=28156
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: http://www.petersis.com/index2.html
On the Job, Mystery Man - http://www.zuzu.org/sisinterview.html
School Library Journal - http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6351977.html?q=under+cover+video (video)
Reading Rockets - http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/sis/transcript and http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/sis (video)
NPR - http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/sis (audio)
Books For Kids - http://booksforkidsblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/kick-off-madlenka-soccer-star-by-peter.html
And now let’s travel to England with:
The Rabbit Problem, by Emily Gravett, Macmillan Children's Books, 7th 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: www.emilygravett.com/Interviews:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1606
Booktrust Childrens Books http://www.booktrustchildrensbooks.org.uk/show/feature/Features%20Interviews/Interview-with-Emily-Gravett and http://www.booktrustchildrensbooks.org.uk/show/feature/Emily-Gravett-interview-2
The Telegraph UK - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/3664140/The-road-less-travelled.html
Reading Rockets - http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/gravett and http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/gravett/transcript
Kids Book Review - http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2010/09/interview-emily-gravett.html
B is For Books - http://www.thaolam.com/blog/?p=476
Henrietta - http://henriettamouse.blogspot.com/2010/02/rabbit-problem-by-emily-gravett.html
The Guardian - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/sep/19/rabbit-problem-emily-gravett-review
The Bookbag - http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Rabbit_Problem_by_Emily_Gravett
Kirkus Reviews - http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/childrens-books/emily-gravett/rabbit-problem/
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: http://www.peterbrownstudio.com/
And some Interviews:
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1920
Into the Wardrobe - http://peteredmundlucy7.blogspot.com/2009/07/authorillustrator-interview-peter-brown.html
Giggle - http://ali.blogs.giggle.com/2010/07/15/an-a-list-interview-peter-brown/
Sory Sleuths - http://www.storysleuths.com/2010/04/interview-with-peter-brown-curious.html
Embracing the Child - http://www.embracingthechild.org/abrown.html
And a Video-interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w2vC-9An0k
100 Scope Notes - http://100scopenotes.com/2010/11/04/review-children-make-terrible-pets-by-peter-brown/
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=2025 (with many illustrations and sketches)
Children's Book Reviews - http://wordsbymom.com/authors/peter-brown/children-make-terrible-pets/
Twenty by Jenny - http://www.twentybyjenny.com/47Books/review/children-make-terrible-pets/
Kid's Book Buzz - http://kidsbookbuzz.blogspot.com/2010/10/children-make-terrible-pets-by-peter.html
Let's stay in America, to then move to Holland, with
Knuffle Bunny Free, by Mo Willems, Balzer & Bray, 28th 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 Tale, and 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 - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=863 - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=841
Book Trust Children's Books - http://www.booktrustchildrensbooks.org.uk/show/feature/Features%20Interviews/Interview-with-Mo-Willems
Trap Door Sun - http://www.trapdoorsun.com/literature/mo-willems.aspx
Scholastic - http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=7518
At Home Dad - http://www.athomedad.org/node/605
Babble - http://www.babble.com/content/articles/columns/5minutetimeout/mo-willems-a-chat-with-the-creator-of-knuffle-bunny-too/
Reading Rockets - http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/willems/transcript and http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/willems/transcript
Just One More Book - http://www.justonemorebook.com/2007/05/14/interview-with-mo-willems/ (audio)
School Library Journal - http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6304810.html (video)
Publishers' Weekly - http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/44415-mo-willems-on-knuffle-bunny-free-.html
100 Scopenotes - http://100scopenotes.com/2010/09/07/review-knuffle-bunny-free/
The Seattle Times - http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/books/2013051230_kidsbooksmowilliems02.html?syndication=rss
Flying Giggles and Lollipops - http://www.flyinggigglesandlollipops.com/2010/10/knuffle-bunny-free-giveaway.html
Brimful Curiosities - http://www.brimfulcuriosities.com/2010/09/knuffle-bunny-free-by-mo-willems-book.html
Two Writing Teachers - http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/knuffle3/
Script PS News - http://www.scrippsnews.com/content/corner-mo-willems-knuffle-bunny-free-city-dog-country-frog
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:
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 http://www.lemonysnicket.com/
Maira Kalman - Site http://www.mairakalman.com/
Interviews with Lemony Snicket:
Parent Dish - http://www.parentdish.com/2010/10/05/lemony-snicket-gets-persnickety-with-pdish/
Browse Inside: http://browseinside.harpercollinschildrens.com/index.aspx?isbn13=9780061664656
About Creativity - http://about-creativity.com/2007/06/an-interview-with-daniel-handler-aka-lemony-snicket-part-1.php
About.com - http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/interviews/a/lemony.htm
The Telegraph UK - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/7157019/Lemony-Snicket-Interview.html
The Washington Post, Kids' Stuff - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/29/AR2006092901307.html
Book Browse - http://www.bookbrowse.com/author_interviews/full/index.cfm?author_number=500
Combustible Celluliod - http://www.combustiblecelluloid.com/interviews/danielhandler.shtml
Interviews with Maira Kalman:
Inspiration Boards - http://inspirationboards.blogspot.com/2008/03/maira-kalman.html
Design Sponge - http://www.designspongeonline.com/2010/10/whats-in-your-toolbox-maira-kalman.html
The Design Files - http://thedesignfiles.net/2008/03/maira-kalman/
Bygone Bureau - http://bygonebureau.com/2009/09/07/the-life-pursuit-an-interview-with-maira-kalman/
Nasheville Review - http://www.vanderbilt.edu/english/nashvillereview/archives/1305
10 Answers - http://10answers.net/2010/10/06/maira-kalman/
Flavorpill - http://flavorpill.com/sanfrancisco/events/2010/9/29/maira-kalman-and-lemony-snicket-13-words
SFGate.com - http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-09-26/books/24097018_1_trade-books-lemony-snicket-schwartz-wade
TimeOut Kids - http://newyorkkids.timeout.com/articles/books/89124/13-words-by-lemony-snicket-and-maira-kalman-book-review
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 http://www.philipstead.com/
Erin Stead - Blog http://blog.erinstead.com/
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1723
The New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/books/review/VonDrasek-t.html
A Fuse#8 Production - http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/afuse8production/2010/04/07/review-of-the-day-a-sick-day-for-amos-mcgee-by-philip-c-stead/
Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast - http://blaine.org/sevenimpossiblethings/?p=1950
Kids Lit - http://kidslit.menashalibrary.org/2010/05/07/sick-day-for-amos-mcgee/
SC Whiddon Art - http://scwhiddonart.blogspot.com/2010/06/illustrator-erin-e-stead.html
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: http://events.nytimes.com/gift-guide/holiday-2010/best-illustrated-childrens-books-2010/list.html.
This is it for now!