Thursday, August 28, 2014

Beautiful Book #7

The Queen of Paradise's Garden, adapted by Andy Jones, illustrated by Darka Erdelji. Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides, 2009.

"Once upon a time and a very good time it was, not in your time, indeed not in my time, but in olden times, when quart bottles held half a gallon and houses were papered with pancakes and pigs run about with forks stuck in their backs seein who wanted a slice o' ham..."

It is not easy for a small press to make a beautiful book, as beautiful books tend to be pricey to produce and demand wide distribution to cover costs; and yet, Newfoundland's Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides is committed to great beauty bound in small, soft-cover form. Andy Jones, formerly of Codco fame, has spent the last several years adapting traditional Newfoundland folklore and has published three of these tales, Jack tales, with Running the Goat. A fourth one, Jack, The King of Ashes, will be released this fall. The tales are illustrated by Slovenian Darka Erdelji and the two of them together have performed puppet shows based on Newfoundland Folklore. 
Andy will be performing one of these puppet plays next summer as part of the Raddall Symposium at Acadia and I can hardly wait to see it. Maybe you might want to submit a paper proposal, if Atlantic Canadian Literature as it intersects with childhood interests you?

Here is a video trailer for the book narrated by Andy Jones.

And here is the FB page for Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Beautiful Book #6

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Inga Moore, Walker, 2007.

How does one take one of the best-loved children's novels, and historically one of the most beautifully illustrated, and make it a catch-your-breath-for-beauty classic? Igna Brown did just this with her 2007 take on The Secret Garden, an edition that doesn't try to compete with those illustrated by Charles Robinson, Tasha Tudor, Shirley Hughes, or any others. Every page is lush and detailed and you can't help but want to follow Mary and Colin on their journey of physical and spiritual healing.

I've posted some images here but someone has made a lovely YouTube tribute to the edition set to classical music should you want to see more. 

Now if only someone could put this limited-edition version by Lauren Child into my hot little hands, I'd be mighty grateful.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Beautiful Book #5

An Illustrated Comic Alphabet by Amelia Frances Howard Gibbon. 1859 manuscript. Toronto Public Library, 1966.

Considered Canada's first picture book, An Illustrated Comic Alphabet was drawn by Sarnia school teacher Amelia Frances Howard Gibbon in 1859 during her years in Canada West. Her manuscript predates the dawn of the coloured picture book in England by about 20 years and anticipates the work of Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott. The manuscript which is owned by The Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books at the Toronto Public Library was published for the first time in a facsimile edition in 1966. 

Its legacy is not only its own beautiful mark on the world but the establishment of the Canadian Library Association's Amelia Frances Howard Gibbon Award for excellence in illustration. A list of winners since its inception in 1971 can be found here:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Beautful Book #4

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan. Arthur A. Levine, 2006

When a book is so good and so influential, I always assume that the entire world must know about it. Often, I'm wrong, because truly influential books can be quiet about how they go about winning hearts and minds. So, if you have not seen or read Australian Shaun Tan's The Arrival, go out and do so immediately no matter what the cost. It is a wordless comics novel that depicts the alienating nature of emigration to a foreign land. His other books, such as The Lost Thing and The Red Tree are also damn fine, but The Arrival is monumental.

And here is Tan being interviewed by Bookslut in case you're interested.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beautiful Book #3

If the world keeps insisting on being this ugly, ugly place, I am going to keep posting these.

blues journey by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Christopher Myers. Holiday House, 2003.

An explanation and history of blues music brackets this book, but the contents comprise a series stunningly illustrated call and response blues lyrics. The book makes my list on the power of its blue, black and earth-tone illustrations. I am not as impressed with overall book design, particularly the placement of words on the page, but still, Christopher Myers' illustrations here and elsewhere are in a class of their own. 

His father and the book's author, the great Walter Dean Myers, passed away last month, but you can read one of the last things he wrote here, an opinion piece for the NYT on the paucity of children's books by people of colour and the societal implications that are borne from it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beautiful Book #2

FArTHER written and illustrated by Grahame Baker-Smith. Templar Publishing, 2010. Winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal for excellence in illustration, 2011.

The death of Robin Williams brought this book to the forefront of my memory for it is a tale of artistry, genius, depression and loss. The text of the book is metaphorical and lovely but it is the illustrations that stay with you always.

Now, if someone would like to buy for me The Folio Society edition of his illustrated Pinocchio, introduced by David Almond, that would be swell.

Monday, August 18, 2014

50 Beautiful Books by Christmas

I'm not sure I can pull this off, but after talking with a friend about King Arthur and Robin Hood this morning, I've decided to showcase some of my favourite, beautifully illustrated children's books. These books won't necessarily be easy to come by. Most won't be in print, but I am hoping that seeing them here will bring you joy and make you more tenacious at used book stores and more inquisitive at public libraries. 

First up: The Song of Robin Hood, selected and edited by Anne Malcomson, music arranged by Grace Castagnetta, designed and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton. Houghton Mifflin, 1947. Caldecott Honor Book, 1948.

This book is gorgeous in design and illustration and when you have a copy in your hands you just want to touch its pages and then run 10 feet back to see its lines, shapes and flow from a distance. It's stunning right down to its end papers and sheet music.
You can learn a bit about the book here:
And more about illustrator, Burton, here: