Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

23 DECEMBER, 2011

An Illustrated Visualization of What Can Happen in a Single Second

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What a whale’s song has to do with the Helios II satellite and the beat of the pigmy shrew’s heart.

We’ve previously explored time and the scale of the universe, but what about the scale of time? Do we fully understand the 2.5 billion seconds most of us will experience in an average lifetime? That’s precisely what prolific science author and illustrator Steve Jenkins playfully probes in Just a Second, a lovely and refreshing book for kids, doubling as a curious and enjoyable trivia compendium for grown-ups, and a fine addition to the year’s best children’s books. From the 5,085-foot water journey of a whale’s song to the 50 beats of a hummingbird’s wings to the 300-foot plunge of a peregrine falcon, the charmingly illustrated pages weave a kind of alternative metric system for telling time through the surprising things that happen in a single second — a measure that, as Jenkins points out, is a human invention.

The second doesn’t relate to any cycle in nature — it’s a human invention, and the shortest interval of time most of us use in our daily lives. The Babylonians came up with the idea of the second about 4,000 years ago, but they had no way to measure such a short interval of time.”

As with Jenkins’ other children’s books, there is a palpable environmental undercurrent propelled by profound awe for Earth’s creatures.

By the time you finished this book, Steve Jenkins had lived through 21,439 sunrises. If he’d been counting, he would have tallied more than two billion heartbeats.”

Charming and perspective-shifting, Just a Second is a worthy investment of a few hundred seconds in illumination that will last your entire 2.5 billion.

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20 DECEMBER, 2011

I Want My Hat Back: Charming Children’s Illustration by Jon Klassen

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“My hat is gone. Nobody has seen it.”

Somehow, I missed Jon Klassen’s lovely I Want My Hat Back in the omnibus of the year’s best children’s books.

But it’s here, and it’s wonderful — part Charlie Harper, part Oliver Jeffers, part Edward Gorey, part something charmingly, entirely its own — a delightful dark story, whose understated narrative and deadpan heroes read, somehow, incredibly expressive.

HT vintage kids’ books my kid loves; images courtesy of Jon Klassen

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15 DECEMBER, 2011

Maira Kalman + Daniel Handler Illustrate a Breakup Through Significant Objects

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What sugar and a pinhole camera have to do with the ephemeral ephemera of impossible love.

Few things can steer me towards fiction these days, but a collaboration between Daniel Handler (better-known to the world as Lemony Snicket) and the great Maira Kalman is positively among them. Such is the case of Why We Broke Up, which tells the poignant, bittersweet story of a teenage romance gone awry through objects of special significance, which make cameos in a letter Min is writing to break up with her boyfriend, Ed. These emotional ephemera, each imbued with a specific memory of their ephemeral but monumental love, are captured in Kalman’s signature childlike artwork, and bespeak a kind of truth at once more fluid and more infallible than fact.

And if you’ve ever found yourself in love, in impossible love, you’ll relate to the heroine’s objectified lament.

I stand entwined in fire on the inextinguishable bonfire of inconceivable love.”

The book’s companion Tumblr lets you voyeuristically read other people’s break-up stories and share your own. Stories are divided into amusingly titled categories, ranging from the petty (“I can’t believe how disgusting you were”) to the outraged (“I just can’t believe it”) to the vulnerable (“I’d take you back in a minute”).

The story, of course, exudes Handler’s unmistakable wit and intelligent humor, underpinned by a kind of self-consciously self-conscious humanity.

Why We Broke Up comes a little over a year after Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman’s first collaboration, the lovely children’s book 13 Words.

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