Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’

15 APRIL, 2013

Eggs of Things: Anne Sexton’s 1963 Children’s Book

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“These are all eggs of things. They will be our secret.”

Given my soft spot for lesser-known vintage children’s books by famous literary icons — most recently, Mark Twain’s wonderful Advice to Little Girl and Sylvia Plath’s The Bed Book and The It Doesn’t Mater Suit — I was thrilled to track down a surviving copy of Eggs of Things (public library), a 1963 out-of-print gem by beloved poet and academic trouble-maker Anne Sexton, co-written with Library of Congress poetry consultant Maxine Kumin and illustrated by Leonard Shortall.

It tells the story of an inventive foursome — Skippy, Buzz, Skippy’s younger sister nicknamed Pest (as proper brothers and sisters tend to do), and their dog Cowboy — who hatch the idea of saving their neighborhood vegetable garden from cutworms by fishing out some toad eggs from the nearby pond, incubating them in their tub, then releasing the toads into the garden to take are of the worms.

Eggs of Things was followed by More Eggs of Things in 1964, also sadly out-of-print but available in some public libraries.

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12 APRIL, 2013

My Father’s Arms Are a Boat: A Tender Norwegian Tale of Love and Loss

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Reconciling the yin-yang of existence in the snowy Scandinavian outdoors.

The finest children’s books have a way of exploring complex, universal themes through elegant simplicity and breathless beauty. From my friends at Enchanted Lion, collaborators on Mark Twain’s Advice to Little Girls and makers of some of the most extraordinary picture-books you’ll ever encounter, comes My Father’s Arms Are a Boat (public library) by writer Stein Erik Lunde and illustrator Øyvind Torseter, translated by Kari Dickson.

This tender and heartening Norwegian gem tells the story of an anxious young boy who climbs into his father’s arms seeking comfort on a cold sleepless night. The two step outside into the winter wonderland as the boy asks questions about the red birds in the spruce tree to be cut down the next morning, about the fox out hunting, about why his mother will never wake up again. With his warm and assuring answers, the father watches his son make sense of this strange world of ours where love and loss go hand in hand.

Lunde, who also writes lyrics and has translated Bob Dylan into Norwegian, is a masterful storyteller who unfolds incredible richness in few words. Meanwhile, Torseter’s exquisite 2D/3D style combining illustration and paper sculpture, reminiscent of Soyeon Kim’s wonderful You Are Stardust, envelops the story in a sheath of delicate whimsy.

Above all, My Father’s Arms Are a Boat is about the quiet way in which boundless love and unconditional assurance can lift even the most pensive of spirits from the sinkhole of existential anxiety.

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08 APRIL, 2013

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Made More Wonderful by Graphic Artist Michael Sieben

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“Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.”

As a lover of beautifully illustrated children’s books, especially fresh takes on works by literary legends, I was thrilled to come across a brand new edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (public library), L. Frank Baum’s indispensable addition to the best children’s books with timeless philosophy for grown-ups, featuring gorgeous illustrations by skateboard graphic artist Michael Sieben, co-owner and head deck designer of Roger Skateboards.

Sieben’s singular style — at once grotesque and charming, eerie and endearing, a refreshingly odd cross between Edward Gorey, anime, and Lynd Ward’s vintage woodcuts — comes through once again here as it did in his 2009 fine art monograph, There’s Nothing Wrong With You (Hopefully).

Thanks, Anique; images courtesy Michael Sieben

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