Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

Daytime Visions: A Tender and Unusual Illustrated Alphabet Celebrating the Whimsy of Words

“Words are a wonderful kind of glue.”

Daytime Visions: A Tender and Unusual Illustrated Alphabet Celebrating the Whimsy of Words

“We live in the word,” Elizabeth Alexander observed in contemplating writing and the self in language, “and the word is one of the ways we have to reach across to each other.” And it is often in learning to live in the word — that is, in those formative years of first understanding how sounds make shapes to make words — that we also begin mastering the art of human connection. That’s what lends imaginative alphabet books their magic and their singular place in the developmental journey, and among the most imaginative is Daytime Visions: An Alphabet (public library) by beloved Argentinian musician, artist, and children’s book author Isol.

isol_daytimevisions1

Instead of consciously considering the semantic aspect of the images and vignettes she drew for each of the letters, Isol let the shape of the letter lead her brush toward a spontaneous burst of visual meaning — a sort of creative game that produced something utterly magical, more dream than dictionary, populated by kiwis and caterpillars and otherworldly creatures animated by the most inescapable emotional dimensions of human life: loneliness, gladness, petulance, tenderness, joy.

isol_daytimevisions20

isol_daytimevisions27

isol_daytimevisions2

isol_daytimevisions22

isol_daytimevisions3

Isol reflects on how this playful exploration of shape and meaning guided her creative process:

I started by writing the letters the way I did in school: first printing them, then in cursive, uppercase, lowercase. After, I created images to put beside them. Finally I found the words to connect them. Words are a wonderful kind of glue.

[…]

When I look at these pages now I see that the letters have made friends with their images, as though they’ve known each other forever.

isol_daytimevisions4

isol_daytimevisions5

isol_daytimevisions25

isol_daytimevisions6

isol_daytimevisions24

isol_daytimevisions7

isol_daytimevisions21

Isol wrote the book in her native Spanish, then translated each of the words into English — “a kind of reinvention” that became its own creative project as the words and images “found new ways to live together.”

isol_daytimevisions8

Echoing E.B. White’s memorable assertion that children are “the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth,” Isol observes in her Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award acceptance speech:

What reader could be more demanding than a child? Children have a lot of things to discover and I’d better be on their high level in order to satisfy their huge capacity for curiosity. I get my inspiration from what’s wild, from what’s ridiculous, from that independence of culture that children enjoy. They are beyond our conventions, they keep asking themselves all sorts of things.

isol_daytimevisions26

isol_daytimevisions10

isol_daytimevisions28

isol_daytimevisions29

Daytime Visions follows Isol’s The Menino, one of the best children’s books of 2015, and comes from Brooklyn-based independent picture-book powerhouse Enchanted Lion, who have given us such tender, thoughtful treasures as Cry, Heart, But Never Break, Little Boy Brown, and The Lion and the Bird.

Complement it with other unusual and marvelous alphabet books by Gertrude Stein, Maira Kalman, Oliver Jeffers, Maurice Sendak, Edward Gorey, and Quentin Blake.

Illustrations © Isol courtesy of Enchanted Lion; photographs by Maria Popova


Published May 25, 2016

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/05/25/daytime-visions-isol/

BP

www.brainpickings.org

BP

PRINT ARTICLE

Filed Under

View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps support Brain Pickings by offsetting a fraction of what it takes to maintain the site, and is very much appreciated