Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’

Dadu Shin

Published May 21, 2010 by Molly





We’re fatally enchanted by Dadu Shin’s sketchbook pages, each scanned and documented online for voyeuristic sketchbook-snoopers to page through. Delightful!

Espen Friberg

Published April 19, 2010 by Molly

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Norwegian-born and Brooklyn-based artist Espen Friberg is a wizard of various mediums. We like his collages and amazing collection of papercuts for the Helsinki Biennale, to start, but there’s also the captivatingly “primitive” animation piece, the tee-shirt designs, the incredible posters, the fanzines, the adorable children’s book published in collabration with Øystein Dolmen (too bad we can’t read it), and, last but not least, a tumblr called Pimple Zoo which collects various digital shots by Friberg, because why the heck not?

A nice selection of Friberg’s work is available here, and we especially love the limited-edition silkscreened tote bags. Perfect for toting your colored pencils around the city.

Aurelie Guillerey

Published January 25, 2010 by Molly



Holy cute! Aurelie Guillerey’s work invokes everything we remember fondly about children’s book illustrations: the costumes, the animals, the fanciful anthropomorphizing, the mischievous cats and eye-popping flowers and colorful balloons.

Aside from being a master (mistress?) of color, Guillerey is adept at capturing the energy and enthusiasm of young kids. She’s also skilled at summoning particular objects sure to stick firmly in the imagination: a plump yellow umbrella, a conical party hat, a straw boater and a blue thermos are a few examples that come to mind. Check out the latest on her Flickr page.

Destined for Dizziness!

Published December 30, 2009 by Molly


It’s a fact of nature that small children tend to enjoy professional illustrations that look like something they could have done. You know— illustrations that look as though they could have conceivably emerged from the crayon of an exceptionally talented youngster rather than a dude with a Masters in Fine Art. Harold and the Purple Crayon is an example we all know: its clean & simple images couldn’t have been the product of anyone but a genius, but the aesthetic is unmistakably a childlike one.

For a contemporary exemplar of the style, let us look no further than Souther Salazer, whose Destined for Dizziness is a kid’s book of maximum simplicity and maximum visual delight. Drawn up in a palate of black, cream, and mandarin-orange, the book blends a rhythmic story with a fondness for alliteration and a talent for expressive imagery. Topics covered include flying frogs, kangaroos munching on corndogs and a rat having a minor bike accident. We detect a distinct spirit of wildness here, too…

Edward Gorey

Published October 6, 2009 by Graham


If Maurice Sendak walks the line between mother-approved fantasy and unsettling human fears, Edward Gorey races past it, embracing everything gloomy, malicious, and nightmarish with unbridled glee. Naturally, the macabre situations and midnight-black humor of Gorey’s tomes for tots have upset more than a few mothers and librarians. His books, they claim, are for adults and shouldn’t be placed in the unsoiled hands of an innocent child.

But what kid wouldn’t appreciate the sinister rhyming alphabet in Gorey’s Grashlycrumb Tinies? “A is for Amy who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil assaulted by bears.” As Maurice Sendak once noted, “Ted Gorey is perfect for children; and that’s the saddest thing of all, that they [his books] weren’t allowed to be published that way.” Give your slightly strange nephew a Gorey book for Christmas and watch his face light up!


Talking Comics with Jordan Crane

Published September 29, 2009 by Graham

Jordan Crane at Comic Con

Have you bought a comic book in the past few years? Not a graphic novel or some fancy anthology—I’m talking about those olde thyme flimsy, staple-bound periodicals filled with illustrated narratives and costing less than a bag of movie theater popcorn. It wouldn’t be a shock if you said no, and cartoonist Jordan Crane wouldn’t blame you– but he’s not giving up on the medium without a fight.

After years of creating resplendent illustrations, designing floral wallpaper for our favorite bookstore, and intermittently revealing his narrative brilliance through one-off comics, Crane has recently focused his creative talents on an Ignatz-winning (that’s geek-speak for “good”) comic series called Uptight. Presenting melancholy tales of workaday worries and broken relationships right alongside whimsical, child-friendly fare, Uptight provides a fascinating peek inside Crane’s constantly shifting thoughts, and never fails to entertain.

Read on to discover this venerable artist’s love for Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear, the challenges of cartooning for kids, and his call to revolution for a post-superhero world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chris Van Allsburg

Published September 24, 2009 by Molly

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As a kid growing up in Grand Rapids, Chris Van Allsburg’s interests lay firmly in the math and science camp, though he sketched a bit in his spare time. When a college admissions officer noted that the University of Michigan had an Architecture and Design department during Van Allsburg’s interview, the younger decided to hoodwink his way into the program by claiming that his art skills were too advanced for high school art classes (of which he’d taken none.) The ploy was successful.

Van Allsburg’s first illustrated work was published in 1979, and since then he’s produced 18 books in total, including all-time classics  Jumanji and The Polar Express. Van Allsburg’s illustrations have a soft glow to them, as though each image were viewed through a damp mist. His manipulations of light and shadow are super-expressive, easily conveying wonder, coziness, danger, and a host of other moods. This ability to conjure the nuances of childhood emotion is what establishes Van Allsburg among the great illustrators of his generation.

Today the author lives in Providence, Rhode Island and enjoys tennis, biking, and hanging out with his children. He can also play the recorder with his nose.

Sheila Egoff Gives Us Some Context

Published September 23, 2009 by Graham


It’s hard to imagine the unease that adults felt about Where the Wild Things Are upon its release. While so much was changing across the spectrum of society in 1963, how could a now-beloved children’s book ruffle so many feathers? To understand the climate of that time, we must consider the popular children’s books that preceded Sendak’s revolutionary work.

“Significantly there were fewer child protagonists than child surrogates in the forms of animals and mechanical personalities,” wrote children’s librarian and scholar Sheila Egoff in 1981. “But when children did appear, there was no question as to the tone of security, affection, and familial comfort that surrounded them.” The mere fact that Max was a mischievous child, rather than a monkey or a duck, represented a subtle break with the prevailing order. Egoff paints us a picture in her fascinating collection of writings, Thursday’s Child:

The picture books of the first two-thirds of this century reveal a single vision of a secure childhood and an abiding social order. So sure did the society of the time feel about its values– safe, placid, and hopefully enriching– that creators of books for very young children could depict them implicity rather than explicitly. The picture books show a gentle control, usually played out with animals as exemplars. H. A. Rey’s monkey, Curious George (1941) ends up in a zoo because of his pranks, but it is pictured as a pleasant, happy playground where George can indulge in his monkeyshines. Marjorie Flack’s duck Ping in The Story about Ping (1933) receives a gentle spank on his tail for being late. Both animals have an order to return to after their escapades: George to “the man in the yellow hat” and Pink to “the wise one-eyed boat.” The concept of order in Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline (1939)–”twelve little girls in two straight lines”–gives a feeling of reassurance and security rather than regimentation.


Above all, children were to be protected, and writers and illustrators, however different their themes and styles, were unanimous on this point. That these protectors were sincere is unquestionable, but, even more importantly, their views were reinforced by the adult world in general. This consensus was shattered in 1963 with the appearance of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and it would appear today that not “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” could restore that phallanxed viewpoint.

While the illustrations disturbed those adults who saw the “Wild Things” as ferociously threatening rather than humorously subservient to Max’s will, the extreme reaction to Sendak’s work intimated that there was more at stake than a matter of interpretation of the pictures. As it turned out, this as yet unformulated anxiety was justified. Sendak’s underlying theme that a child has unconscious needs, frustrations, and fears unsettled society’s hitherto conceived ideals of early childhood and the book itself broke the stereotypic mold that had held for almost a hundred years.


What made Sendak an innovator was that he expressed this catharsis for the preschool children through their own medium, the picture book. He also caught, very early and creatively, a general trend of society which was to rise to the fore over the next two decades: an acceptance that the very young child matures more by sharing in the real and emotional world around it than by being protected from it.

Allen Say

Published September 23, 2009 by Molly

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All great children’s books contain a touch of melancholy. There’s a simple reason for this: greatness stems from honesty, and any adult looking back on his youth will always, if he is honest, experience a tinge of melancholy. If said adult happens to write a children’s book, this sadness will no doubt be expressed when he tells his story.

That said, Caldecott-winning author and illustrator Allen Say inhabits sadness more fully––and with more splendor––than any other children’s author that comes to mind. Say’s tales, which he realizes in detailed watercolors, are often filled with longing and loneliness. His characters are introspective and courageous: role models of a different sort than we are used to in our kid’s books.

Grandfather’s Journey tells the tale of Say’s elder male relative as he emigrates to America and struggles with an ever-present homesickness. Tea with Milk explores the story of a young girl who finds herself caught between two cultures. Both deal with the deepest emotions available to a human being, and it is to Say’s enormous credit that he entrusts his young readers with these particular feelings.

The Kiddie Table

Published August 28, 2009 by Graham


Miss Haviland: Is there any point that you would like to make, aside from the questions that have been brought up to you before and which you’ve answered again tonight?

Mr. Sendak: I love my work very much, it means everything to me. I would like to see a time when children’s books were not segregated from adult books, a time when people didn’t think of children’s books as a minor art form, a little Peterpanville, a cutsey-darling place where you could Have Fun, Laugh Your Head Off. I know so many adult writers whom I would happily chop into pieces, who say, “Well I think I’ll take a moment and sit down and knock off a kiddy book! It looks like so much fun, it’s obviously easy…” And, of course, they write a lousy book!

It would be so much better if everyone felt that children’s books are for everybody, that we simply write books, that we are a community of writers and artists, that we are all seriously involved in the business of writing. And if everyone felt that writing for children is a serious business, perhaps even more serious than a lot of other forms of writing, and if when such books are reviewed and discussed, they were discussed on this serious level, and that we would be taken seriously as artists.

I would like to do away with the division into age categories of children over here and adults over there, which is confusing to me and I think probably confusing to children. It’s very confusing to many people who don’t even know how to buy a children’s book. I think if I have any particular hope it’s this: that we all should simply be artists and just write books and stop pretending that there is such a thing as being able to sit down and write a book for a child: it is quite impossible. One simply writes books.

Questions to an Artist Who Is Also an Author: A Conversation between Maurice Sendak and Virginia Haviland (a public interview at the Library of Congress held in 1971)

(Photo of the Cerritos Millenium Library via Victorrjr’s Flickr.)