Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Maira Kalman’

29 APRIL, 2011

7 Brilliant Book Trailers


How to connect haberdashery to Zach Galifianakis in under three minutes.

With a killer combination of animation, motion graphics and music, what’s not to love about book trailers? We couldn’t think of a thing, which is why we’ve rounded up seven of our favorites. As provocative, funny, and poignant as the books they represent, these videos prove that ideas are the ultimate teasers. And despite the publishing industry’s alarmist prophecies, these trailers bespeak the power of books to appeal to readers with their core, age-old value proposition: Compelling storytelling, creatively delivered.


Gorgeous production values and jaw-dropping papercraft animation earned the trailer for Going West by the New Zealand Book Council our top spot. Created 15 years after the book’s publication in 1994, the BBDO-produced spot perfectly captures the haunting tone of Maurice Gee’s hybrid mystery-travelogue.

The pages of Going West literally rise up to depict the world of mid-20th-century Auckland. It’s a show-stopping feat that left us totally intrigued about the story inside its pages.


We’re longtime admirers of Andrew Zuckerman’s ambitious projects, like the beautiful Bird series. With Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give to Another, Zuckerman asked 50 of our time’s greatest thinkers and doers — writers, artists, philosophers, politicians, designers, activists, musicians, religious and business leaders — all over 65 years of age to impart some knowledge for posterity. (Zuckerman subsequently divided the great tome into four smaller, more digestible sub-volumes, each with its own thematic DVD: Wisdom: Life, Wisdom: Love, Wisdom: Peace, and Wisdom: Ideas.) Clips of the accompanying film comprise this trailer, which for its sheer star power is tough to beat.

Love something. I think we’ve got to learn to love something deeply. I think it’s love. It sounds sentimental as hell, but I really think it is.” ~ Andrew Wyeth, artist


Speaking of stars, we love this LOL-worthy trailer for the novel Lowboy featuring funnyman Zach Galifianakis.

The actor trades identities with author John Wray, who plays an interviewer trying to find out about the book. The resulting improvised hijinks have the same slightly uncomfortable, dark comedy as Lowboy itself. Bonus points for the 9-to-5 movie reference and cutaways to Galifianakis using a binary typewriter.


We expect no less than wonderful from a collaboration between Lemony Snicket and Maira Kalman, and the trailer for their book 13 Words doesn’t disappoint.

It’s a clear winner in the cool-for-both-kids-and-parents genre, all in Kalman’s delightfully analog, decidedly non-Pixar style. Animated images from the book — which illustrates 13 essential English words — combined with Snicket’s narration results in a charming combination for all ages.


The title alone is promising: Worst Case Scenario Pocket Guide: Breakups aims to satisfy the person looking for a little post-heartbreak humor.

Smart motion graphics augment the trailer’s tongue-in-cheek narration about how to trick out your online dating profile when it’s time to get back on the market.

How could you go wrong with such solid advice as the following:

Use euphemisms: avoid the word unemployed by saying that you are currently enjoying a sweat-free lifestyle while you search for new challenges.


Naomi Klein’s 2008 book Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism enlisted the skills of Oscar-nominated director Alfonso Cuaron, and it shows. The trailer functions as both a teaser for the book and a mini-documentary for Klein’s argument: that economists and politicians take advantage of crises to push through social policy, often to the detriment of billions.

Whatever your view of Klein’s politics, the power of this trailer – as either advertising or propaganda – is undeniable.


The trailer for illustrator Lane Smith’s It’s A Book provides a rebuttal to the terminably app-addicted. A donkey asks his monkey pal whether the object he’s holding can scroll, text, or tweet, to which the latter invariably — and each time more exasperatedly — replies, “no, it’s a book.”

Smith provides a sweet reminder that the written word can still rock one’s world.

We hope these trailers have piqued your interest about the books they present. They suggest that, though a book’s main delivery mechanism may have moved online, readers themselves are still moved by curiosity.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA but still stubbornly identifies as a Brooklynite.

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14 JANUARY, 2011

Voyeurism Spotlight: Where and How Creators Create


Happiness, messiness and what unstaged photos have to do with setting the stage for genius.

Yesterday, we took a rare peek inside the sketchbooks of 26 of the world’s hottest street artists. Today, we’re turning that same voyeuristic eye to the broader world of creative professionals — designers, illustrators, writers and other exceptional creators — whose workspaces and toolboxes are like miniature museums of their unique brand of creative curiosity.


Since the dawn of creative time, an artist’s studio has been a reflection of his or her creative process — a private, sacred and deeply personal temple of meaning and ideation. From Your Desks explores the contemporary incarnation of the artist’s studio — the creator’s desk — through candid, unstaged portraits of workspaces.

A Desk is where we work. Symbolic. Psychical. Present. A second home. A Desk is a platform. A hearth. Roots are planted. It’s where upon hours on hours pass.”

The project encompasses a wide range of creators and workspaces, from artists like Maureen Cavanaugh and John Baldessari, to writers and bloggers like P.D. Smith and Steven Heller, to business mavericks like Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, and even the multiple-person teams behind some of our favorite creative projects, from A Journey Round My Skull, creativity curator extraordinaire, to the lovely Poketo.

FYD is the brainchild of writer, photographer and blogger Kate Donnelly.


On My Desk is the slightly more promiscuous predecessor of From Your Desks. Since 2006, the site has served as a place for designers, artists, illustrators and other creative types to share their work and workspaces. It’s closer to a crowdsourcing project than a curatorial one, since just about anyone can apply for a blogger account to post to the site, but it’s fascinating and delightful nonetheless.

On My Desk is the brainchild of UK illustrator Linzie Hunter, whom you might remember from our Spam As Art omnibus.


design*sponge, one of our favorite design blogs, has lesser-known yet wonderful section entitled What’s Inside Your Toolbox, probing into the creative processes of prominent designers, illustrators and artists by way of the tools they can’t live without. From legendary tastemaker and Anthropologie buyer Ketih Johnson to Brain Pickings favorite Maira Kalman, the rubric covers a vibrant spectrum of creators.

The column always features the same fill-in-the-blank question — “When I am in my studio, I feel______” — which inevitably reveals one simple yet recurring truth: There’s an enormous and profound correlation between happiness and creativity.

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20 DECEMBER, 2010

The Best Children’s Books of 2010


Lost owls, found cats, and how contemporary art is helping sick children heal.

Last week, we spotlighted the year’s best books in Business, Life & Mind and Art, Design & Photography, as part of our end-of-year best-of series. Today, we’re back with the 10 most delightful literary and visual treats for young readers and their creatively sophisticated parents.


Between our massive culture-crush on the amazing Christoph Niemann and our soft spot for all things LEGO, I LEGO N.Y. was a natural swoon-maker. Though not necessarily a children’s book per se, this imaginative look at New York rendered entirely in LEGO embodies Niemann’s incredible penchant for taking something ordinary and transforming it into pure whimsy.

I LEGO N.Y. came out in March and is Niemann’s print publishing debut as a sole author. (Though he has illustrated and co-authored a number of other treats). We can’t wait to see what he imagines next.


We have a well-documented distaste for both exclamation points and the word “awesome” — mostly because they’re linguistic indulgences used far too often and indicative of actual merit far too rarely. But artist Dallas Clayton‘s An Awesome Book of Thanks! more than lives up to the linguistic promise of its title. A sequel to his 2008 An Awesome Book!, a lovely illustrated children’s book about dreaming big, this new treat is charmingly illustrated manifesto for gratitude and the art of being thankful. And as if this isn’t enough of a ray of light in the world, Clayton also gives one copy of the book to a child in need for every copy of it sold.

Sample this gem with a video introduction by Clayton and pages from the book in our full review.


13 Words is a meeting of two great talents: Iconic illustrator Maira Kalman and the one and only Lemony Snicket of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The beloved children’s author curates 13 of the most essential words of all time and pairs each with original illustrations in Kalman’s signature style of delectable, childlike simplicity.

Our full review, complete with a lovely animated trailer for the book illustrated by Kalman herself, can be found here.


Oliver Jeffers is one of the most prolific and whimsical children’s book authors and illustrators of our time, equal parts artist and storyteller. With modern classics like Lost and Found and The Incredible Book-Eating Boy, he has carved himself a special place in the hearts of creative parents and their offspring. This year, Jeffers returned with another slam-dunk: The Heart and the Bottle — the breathtakingly illustrated and touching story of a little girl who bottles up her pain when her grandfather passes away, with an underlying message about the importance of keeping curiosity alive.

I keep writing children’s books, I keep making children’s books, because I still have them inside of me.” ~ Oliver Jeffers

As of this month, The Heart and the Bottle is also available as a stunning iPad Picture Book app

via Swiss Miss


Nonprofit RxArt uses the power of art to aid healing by placing contemporary art in children’s hospitals and clinics in an effort to transform these sterile environments into comforting havens, inspiring healing and hope in kids, their families and the tireless medical staff that takes care of them. Between The Lines is a wonderful coloring book and fundraising tool for the RxArt program, featuring over 50 original line drawings by some of today’s most celebrated contemporary artists, including Takashi Murakami, Ed Ruscha and Cynthia Rowley, plus a series of delightfully vibrant stickers designed by Nate Lowman and Mickalene Thomas.

Take an exclusive peek inside the book’s beautiful artwork in our full review.


From author Deborah Underwood and illustrator Renata Liwska comes The Quiet Book, which may just be the new bedtime classic of our time. The stuffed-animal heroes of the story aren’t merely adorable, their body language and facial expressions harbor a level of emotional complexity that is simply astounding. The book is as much a soft-colored illustrated lullaby for tiny humans as it is a meditation on life’s peaceful moments for humans of all sizes.

Amazon has some exclusive sketches from Liwska’s drawing pad, very much worth a look.


On the surface, Louise Yates’ Dog Loves Books is the story of a little white dog who opens a bookstore and, after no customers come, occupies himself by reading. The story, of course, is really about the life of the mind and the importance of pursuing one’s own curiosity — something at the core of our philosophy here at Brain Pickings. Yates manages to deliver this message to young readers in charming, dreamy watercolor drawings and soft pastel pencil illustrations, a most delightful primer for a lifetime of bibliophilia and imaginative intellectual curiosity.

Dog Loves Books is the follow-up to Yates’ excellent 2009 bunny adventure, A Small Surprise.


Viviane Schwarz‘s There Are No Cats in This Book is a lie — there are cats in this book, plenty of them, each more delightfully mischievous than the next. The story takes a charming meta turn as Tiny, Moonpie and Andre, the three lead feline heroes, decide to escape the confines of the book and venture out into the world — a narrative technique whose analogy in theater and cinema is known as “breaking the fourth wall.”

Beautifully illustrated, brimming with bold colors, and wildly playful from cover to cover, There Are No Cats in This Book is a wonderful exercise in full-immersion storytelling for young readers.


Little Owl Lost is the kind of book that feels like a beautifully designed poster that somehow accidentally contorted and folded itself into a different format and, in the process of it, unfolded a captivating story. Despite — or perhaps precisely because of — the completely flat colors and plethora of negative space, Chris Haughton manages to deliver a potent dose of suspense and surprise for a dynamic narrative full of wide-eyed creatures and vibrant forest landscapes, designed and art-directed with a kind of craftsmanship and creative vision that make the turning of each page an absolute treat.

Little Owl Lost came out in August. 36Pages has a short but excellent interview with the author about his creative process.

via Swiss Miss


David Wiesner is one of the most prolific and beloved living picture book creators. Three of his books (Flotsam, Tuesday and The Three Pigs) are winners of the prestigious Caldecott Medal, making him one of only two three-time winners of the medal in the award’s 73-year history. This year, he bestowed his latest piece of creative genius upon the world: Art & Max, the charming and colorful story of two artist friends: Art, a collared lizard with a penchant for portraits, and Max, a smaller lizard armed with a restless paintbrush. The two embark upon a vibrant, eye-popping journey into art and color.

Amazon has some fascinating exclusive images showing the development of Wiesner’s illustration and named Art & Max their #1 picture book of the year.

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