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25 OCTOBER, 2011

The Phantom Tollbooth at 50: Celebrating Timeless Imagination

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What dumpster-diving in the 1960s has to do with timeless wisdom for the eternal kid.

The Phantom Tollbooth isn’t merely one of the most celebrated children’s books of all time, it’s also one of those rare children’s books with timeless philosophy for grown-ups, its map of The Kingdom of Wisdom a profound metaphor for curiosity and the human condition. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the beloved classic and there’s hardly a better celebration than The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition — a magnificent volume featuring brief essays from renowned authors, educators, and artists — including Philip Pullman, Suzanne Collins, Jeanne Birdsall, and Mo Willems — alongside the complete original text and illustrations of the book and the now-legendary 35th anniversary essay by Where The Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak.

Packaged in the classic original art, stamped and debossed on the case with a transparent acetate jacket, the book is an absolute treasure to touch and to hold, exuding in a tactile way the intangible magic that fueled a half-century of heart-warming enchantment.

Here’s a lovely short documentary about the book’s masterminds, author Norton Juster and illustrator Jules Feiffer, reminiscing about the unusual spark of their collaboration and the original creative process behind the work:

In another celebration of the 50th anniversary, a team of Brooklyn-based filmmakers is bringing to life a documentary about the beloved work of the imagination, currently raising funds on Kickstarter.

Juster’s new picture book, Neville, is also out today and looking absolutely delightful.

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24 OCTOBER, 2011

Eli, No! An Illustrated Antidote to Perfectionism

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What chasing squirrels has to do with reclaiming childhood from the grip of perfectionist parenting.

Children’s books are often among the finest feats of storytelling — beautifully designed, illustrated and art-directed, they use simple narratives and metaphors to convey complex ideas and lifelong lessons. That’s certainly the case with Eli, No! — a heart-stoppingly delightful new children’s book by Katie Kirk, one half of husband-and-wife illustration and design duo Eight Hour Day, telling the story of their lovable yet mischievous dog named Eli. Throughout Eli’s many adventures and misadventures, his quirks and imperfections, we find ourselves contemplating the gift of unconditional love which, of course, is what the story is really about.

With its minimalist, bold, mid-century-inspired graphics and its heart-warming message, Eli, No! is both an absolute treat for wee ones, a needed one in the age of overambitious parenting, and a charming reminder for the rest of us about cultivating unconditional acceptance of our loved ones’ idiosyncrasies and imperfections, a need one in the age of chronic perfectionism.

via Public School

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24 OCTOBER, 2011

All Nothing: Poetic 1978 Animated Allegory about Mankind’s Greed

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Frédéric Back’s beautiful short film about harmony and the tragic entitlement of our species.

French-born artist and activist-filmmaker Frédéric Back got his professional start in Canada in the 1950s, where he was asked to draw still images promoting moving pictures at Radio-Canada’s graphics department. In 1967, his giant stained glass mural entitled L’histoire de la musique à Montréal (“history of music in Montreal”) became the first work of art to be commissioned for the Montreal metro system. But most striking of all are his animated short films. In 1978, his Tout Rien (“All Nothing”), a delicate and pensive 11-minute animated allegory set to the music of Igor Stravinsky about how our human greed is stealing the happiness of our species, earned him an Oscar nomination. It tackles, with remarkable elegance and sensitivity, our tragic tendency towards anthropocentricity in a world we share with countless other creatures.

Possessions, like happiness, are always eluding our grasp. Instead of constantly wanting to have, wouldn’t it be better simply to be-to watch and let the natural environment exist in peace? A world whose true joys and riches, continually renewed and replenished, we have yet to fully appreciate?” Frédéric Back

The following year, while working on another film and applying a coat of fixative to a drawing, the fumes got into Back’s right eye. The film eventually won him his first Oscar, but his eye never recovered. Back, nonetheless, continued to produce breathtakingly beautiful work underpinned by a thoughtful environmental message through the early 1990s.

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