Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘children’s books’

18 JULY, 2012

Alligators All Around: A Maurice Sendak Alphabet Book from 1962

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Juggling jellybeans, keeping kangaroos, and other shockingly spoiled yackety-yacking.

As a lover of alphabet books and of all things Maurice Sendak, I was delighted to get my hands on an original 1962 edition of Sendak’s Alligators All Around: An Alphabet — a charming, tiny gem that tells the non-narrative story of an alligator family who go about their daily business as young readers explore the progression of the alphabet.

Even with so few words and such simple illustrations, Sendak’s signature wit and subtle irreverence shine with their familiar light.

Note that although the illustrations in the them are no less delightful, the copies currently on Amazon are, alas, regular-sized reprints from 1991 — but some public libraries still carry the wonderfully diminutive original.

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28 JUNE, 2012

Alice in Wonderland Pop-Up Book

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“Oh, I’ve had such a curious dream!”

As a lover of all things Alice in Wonderland and of extraordinary pop-up books (and neo-pop-up books), imagine my delight in stumbling upon Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-up Adaptation (public library) — a kind of “Victorian peep show” version of the Lewis Carroll classic by pop-up book artist and paper engineer Robert Sabuda, and a beautiful testament to the whimsy of paper books.

Then the Queen, quite out of breath, said to Alice, ‘Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?’

‘No,’ said Alice. ‘I don’t even know what a Mock Turtle is.’

‘It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from,’ said the Queen.

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04 JUNE, 2012

The Gnomes of Gnù: Umberto Eco Teaches Kids About Ecology Through Abstract Art

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A beautiful allegory about ecological collapse and salvation.

In the 1960s, celebrated novelist, list-lover, and philosopher Umberto Eco partnered with illustrator Emilio Carmi on an unusual children’s trilogy. First came The Bomb and the General, a primer on semiotics that used language as a malleable toy to comment on the nuclear age and deliver a message of peace. Then followed The Three Astronauts, employing recurring symbols in teaching kids to draw connections between text and image. Finally, nearly three decades after the original two, in 1992, Eco and Carmi produced the last installment: The Gnomes of Gnù (public library) — an abstract allegory about ecological collapse and the capacity for change, told through a Space Explorer (“SE”) who sets out to find a beautiful new habitable planet to which to port human civilization. But when he does find Gnù, the gnomes that inhabit it turn out to be less than interested in receiving civilization.

The Gnomes of Gnù is fairly hard to find, but Ariel S. Winter has kindly scanned it and made it available on Flickr in its entirety.

We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie

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