Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’

09 OCTOBER, 2012

Coppernickel Goes Mondrian: A Picture-Book Homage to the Iconic Artist

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A vibrant story of curiosity and optimism by Dutch illustrator Wouter van Reek.

Dutch painter Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) began as a landscape artist, but eventually arrived at the bleeding edge of abstraction. Shortly after his death, during the 1950s and 1960s, his work went on to influence everything from graphic design to architecture to fashion, and is even said to have inspired this classic 1934 dust jacket of Ulysses. And, now, it can shape the way little ones think about the future, life, and the boundless limits of the possible.

Coppernickel Goes Mondrian (public library) by Dutch artist Wouter van Reek is an absolute treasure from my friends at Enchanted Lion Books, who previously gave us Albertine’s Little Bird, Blexbolex’s gems, and the charming Bear Despair. The story introduces Van Reek’s famous Coppernickel character — a quirky and endearing flightless bird in a red cape — and his dog Tungsten to Mr. Quickstep and his dog Foxtrot. Together, they embark upon a quest for the future, navigating Mondrian’s signature grids of primary colors as they make sense of the portal from reality to abstraction and back again, teaching young readers — and reminding those of us who have grown out of believing — that the road between what we dream up to what we actually experience is paved with nothing more and nothing less than self-transformation.

The story of Van Reek’s creative journey is itself utterly fascinating, a case study of cross-disciplinary influence and combinatorial creativity at work:

As a kid Wouter loved Chinese landscape scrolls of mountains and lakes disappearing into the mist, which were sometimes as long as 50 feet. When he let his eye move slowly over them, he felt as though he was in those landscapes, and he wondered if the scrolls were the ancient Chinese way of making movies. When Wouter discovered that Mondrian had written a piece about modern art in the shape of a walk from the country to the city, he knew what he had to do. This book is his way of making an ancient Chinese-style movie about going into the future in the 1940s.

Coppernickel Goes Mondrian is the second in Enchanted Lion’s Coppernickel series, on the heels of the 2008 gem Coppernickel: The Invention, and the first in the Artist Tribute series, paying homage to iconic artists in picture-book form.

Images courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

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20 SEPTEMBER, 2012

The Frank Show: An Illustrated Homage to Grandparents and the Art of Looking Twice

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Because the most interesting stories sometimes come disguised in the least intriguing of packages.

As a lover of vintage and vintage-inspired children’s books, I was instantly enamored with The Frank Show (public library) by British illustrator and designer David Mackintosh — a charming homage to grandparents and the art of seeing beneath the grumpy exterior. Illustrated in a style that’s part Miroslav Šašek, part Paul Rand, it tells the story of a little boy forced to bring his Grandpa Frank — who’s always around and complains tirelessly about how things were better in the olden days — to school for show-and-tell. But, just as the young narrator is dreading total mortification at grandpa’s boringness, Frank rolls up his sleeve to reveal a curious tattoo and tells the wild story of how he got it, a tale of danger and heroism and, above all, a reminder that interestingness lurks beneath the surface of even the most insipid-seeming. Because, as artist Keri Smith wisely put it, “Aways be looking… Everything is interesting. Look closer.”.

Page illustrations courtesy Abrams Books

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18 SEPTEMBER, 2012

The Elements of the Periodic Table, Personified as Illustrated Heroes

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An irreverent take on chemistry from Japanese artist Bunpei Yorifuji.

As a lover of children’s books, especially illustrated science-inspired and nonfiction children’s books, I was instantly smitten with Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified (public library) by Japanese artist Bunpei Yorifuji, whose ingenious subway etiquette posters you might recall.

Lively and irreverent, this comic-inspired take on the Periodic Table gives each of the 118 known elements a distinctive character, with attitude and style reflective of the element’s respective chemical properties, era of discovery, and natural states. From Carbon’s ancient beard to the Nitrogen family’s rebellious mohawks to Hydrogen’s boastful might, the charming micro-vignettes nudge the young reader towards that ever-marvelous space where science and whimsy intersect.

Inside, there’s even a beautiful large-format poster of the entire personified Periodic Table:

Wonderful Life with the Elements comes from geek culture connoisseurs No Starch Press, who previously gave us The Cult of LEGO, and is the best thing since They Might Be Giants’ animated homage to the elements from their 2009 album, Here Comes Science.

It’s Okay To Be Smart

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