Imagine a Day by Rob Gonsalves and Sarah L. Thomson

 

“To Uncle Al, who imagined I could be an artist”
– RG

 

Rob Gonsalves is an artist of illusion, and in his ‘Imagine a…’ series serve to remind us of how important imagination is to childhood.

Reminiscent of Escher, Gonsalves’ paintings, begin wherever the eye falls and morphs into something completely different as the eye travels further into each painting. The very cover of the Imagine a Day is a self-fulfiling prophesy, as a family of young sand-castle builders seem to create a life-sized castle.

Gonsalves’ surrealist play on perspectives makes the step into fantasy seem effortless. Sarah L. Thompson textual accompaniment gives young readers a cue to the phantasmagorical possibilities of each work.

imagine a day…
… when the edge of the map
is only the beginning
of what we can explore.

On several pages, the characters seem to be travelling into the painting, or conversely leaping out of the pages. An inspired young reader can be prompted to follow along, curiously.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

PS: If you run out of pages, fear not, for you find several collections online, like here.

 

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Degas and the Little Dancer by Laurence Anholt

 

 

“If you walk into a certain room in a famous art museum, you will see a beautiful bronze sculpture of a little dancer. She stands with one foot forward, her hands clasped behind her back – and an expression on her face that seems tired and a little sad.”

Degas and the Little Dancer tells the story of Edgar Degas and his young muse Marie van Goethem. This is a particularly poignant episode in the illustrious Degas’ life, and Laurence Anholt retells it beautifully.

The story begins from the outside and works its way in. There is museum guard who is enamoured by a statue. Day in and day out, she is his immovable friend, and he, her bard. Children flock in and he tells her tale, “Her name is Marie…”. The children flock out, inspired.

The story itself is of a girl with a dream of dancing and a life of struggle, and an ageing man with a fraying temper and a masterful eye. When Marie was in dire need of money to continue with her ballet training, Degas asked her to sit for him.

The result of this human collection, and here we steer away from the book, was a statue that fleetingly became the heart of controversies. For Degas had made her from beeswax and real fabric, and not grand marble. For Degas picked a muse that wasn’t a goddess, but human and moreover an ‘opera rat’.

Anholt has incorporated Degas’ original compositions in his illustrations. A budding Degas’ aficionado can flip through the pages to find and name Degas’ masterpieces. With strong but gentle pencil strokes, the world behind the paintings is brought ahead. The reader is left with a bittersweet reminder of what living forever can look like.

Do you have a Degas painting that you really love? Tell us what it is and why.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

 

The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo

 

Imagine a world with no colour. No green grass, no blue skies, no colour at all! Well, Zot lived on a greyscale planet, and let me tell you, it was a sad place.

So who is Zot anyway? He is the main alien in Gabriel Alborozo’s The Colour Thief. Unlike his friends and brethren, Zot is a go-getter. Instead of wallowing in his monochromatic home, he sets off on an adventure to the shining blue and green planet that gleams across the galaxy. Any guesses on which planet is what? If you were paying close attention to the title of the story, you know what happens next.

Zot stole all the colours! He called out in his strange language ‘and all the red soared through the air and into his open bag.’ Sparkling with happiness, Zot raced across the planet collecting every single colour, until, he saw a boy with an orange balloon. Well, of course, he stole the orange too. But I won’t tell you what happened after that- you’ll just have to read the book.

Alborozo writes and illustrates his own books. In The Colour Thief, his illustrations are vibrant, when colourful and melancholic when bleached. Having worked as a cartoonist for many years, his characters leap off the page.

We often make use of The Colour Thief in sessions with children, to help them engage with the colours around them. As the story unfurls, and Zot progresses from wan to joy, they explore emotions if they were in a black-and-white world themselves. How would you feel if you were holding a bright orange balloon and suddenly, it’s grey?

 

Tell us what your favourite colour is. Can you imagine a world without it?

Likla
Writer at Art1st

Mischief in Tuscany by Nancy Shroyer Howard

 

In ~1338, Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted a large fresco entitled ‘The Effects of Good Government in the City and Countryside’. In 2008, Nancy Shroyer Howard, a museum editor at the time, published Mischief in Tuscany, an interesting take on the famous Italian masterpiece.

The book follows the adventures of Cinta, a white striped Sienese pig. Nancy found this pig on his way to town with his master in the fresco, and from there, her imagination sprung wild. She has carefully zoomed into details of the painting, as seen through the eyes of Cinta, as he runs wild across the Countryside and City creating chaos and scandal.

The original paintings are displayed alongside its counterpart ‘The Effects of Bad Governance’, like a visual 14th century Dos and Don’ts list. Mischief in Tuscany brings alive the hypothetical of a good governmental decision whilst drawing attention to the intricacies of the painting. The pig himself has a ball of a time- scaring brides, splattering eggs, stealing cheese and dancing with the horrified town girls. The narrative keeps young readers engrossed in the (600+-year-old, shhh) pictures, and makes its adult reader silently snigger at the cheeky cut-outs.

It is a pleasure to hold this wonderful painting in one’s hand and to see the details of a Mideaval Siena up close. This is the kind of book that can turn into a variety of activities from memory games to imaginative explorations of paintings during the next visit to the museum.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

PS. There’s very little about this book to be found about the book online (though there are volumes about the painting itself). If you’ve read the book and have a perspective to share, do let us know.

Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, illustrated by Charlotte Pardi

 

Like many children’s books, Cry, Heart, But Never Break began in reality. Glenn Ringtved takes on the difficult subject of death and loss. These were his mother’s words shortly before her passing, and these were the words with which he tempered the souls of his children.

The story begins bleakly, as grandmother lies sick with an inky cloaked Death her imminent visitor. The children recognize Death immediately and, (bless them!) in complete innocence, they offer him cup after cup of the strongest coffee they can make, to keep him away from their grandmother. But Glenn’s Death is kind. 

“Some people say Death’s heart is as dead and black as a piece of coal, but that is not true…”

Death drinks every cup offered as he tells them a story. It is a story of Grief and Sorrow personified, who find their counterparts in Delight and Joy. Compassionately, he shows them the duality of life and death, and darkness and light, and though the children don’t fully understand, they begin to see.

“”No,” Nels said. “Life is moving on. This is how it must be.””

This moving and extremely quotable Danish book is made complete by Charlotte Pardi‘s illustrations. In using watercolours and pencils, the paintings are soft but saturated with emotion. What captures the eye is the depth of character in each expression. On the outset, her Death is the typical European Grim Reaper, but one that leaves his scythe outside the door. She draws his face as a human face and not a skull. It is not a face of fear, but of compassion and sorrow in balance.

Death is unbearably difficult for an adult, so how does one go about explaining it to a child? When’s the right time? Instead of tackling the matter, some ignore it. Others turn it into a metaphor, and others yet, sugar-coat it, until sickly sweet, it remains undealt with. Glenn’s tale offers a way- for the heart to grieve and cry, but not break.

 

 

Likla
Writer at Art1st

PS. Our library is always growing. If you have any recommendations for gems like this one, do let us know!

#GrædBlotHjerte

 

eric by Shaun Tan

 

If you aren’t familiar with the works of Shaun Tan, then I’m glad you’ve chanced across this post! This Australian illustrator-writer-creator-imaginer has an uncanny knack to take the mundane, flip it around and present it back to the world in the form of breathtaking picture books.

eric is from Tales of Outer Suburbia, an anthology that deals with the concepts of ‘otherness’ and ‘belonging’. The story, whence read without the images, is that of a foreign exchange student with strange mannerisms that are simply chalked down to ‘it must be a cultural thing.’

eric, in form, is a thumb-sized alien-esque creature, lean, dark and absolutely adorable. His travelling bags are made of acorn shells and his prefered bedroom is the kitchen pantry. The eager young narrator seeks to show him the wonders of zirs* home and suburbia, and when there is a lack of understanding and communication, falls back to the comfort of ‘it must be a cultural thing.’

The narrative stays unassuming of eric’s opinion, as often is when faced with an unknown culture. The illustrations, on the other hand, make the reader fall more and more in love with the little curious creature. In unravelling the transparent metaphor, the reader can replace the figure of the shadowy alien, with a human from another culture and re-read this miniature eric-sized book of heartache.

Shaun Tan’s illustrations are intricate and detailed as always. Seemingly everyday objects are imbued with strange meanings and contexts; for example, a simple teacup turns into eric’s bed. An observant reader can spend hours poring over the pages and will always find a new and enthralling detail.

 

* Gender neutral narrators get their gender neutral pronouns too. Ze= he/she; zirs = hers/his, etc.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

PS. A starting point for discussion can be this question: Why is eric written small letters? How does this contribute to the ‘otherness’ of this book?

PPS. While looking through the illustrations, look out for repeated objects and different perspectives of the same thing. What do you learn about eric’s everyday life and his hosts’ world?

#ShaunTanFan!

Sylvia and Bird by Catherine Rayner

The story begins, as many stories do, in a faraway land with a singular dragon. But this dragon is a lonely one. She’d travelled far and wide but hadn’t found any dragons to make friends with. Instead, Sylvia makes friends with a Bird.

Rayner’s beautifully illustrated story shows that friendship transcends differences, in size, race and social circumstances. In charge of both the words and the pictures, Rayner weaves the story effortlessly through the gorgeous blue-green spreads.

Rayner’s books are primarily about animals, and she spends hours and hours watching them and making pencil sketches. Then, she goes into her colourful studio to create her illustrations. She mainly uses a liquid acrylic ink with a dip pen.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

PS: With all the new Art1st in production, we can’t help but admire the little publishing details, like the endearing copyright page design.

The Moon is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle

 

Idea Pearle creates magic!

Young Addy has a constant companion, a favourite playmate- the beautiful moon. As her family makes their way home one evening, Addy plays with her lunar friend as it seems to follow them back home.

A brilliant execution of a familiar idea, Pearle’s visual masterpiece uses the correct number of words to tell a simple story from the heart. Young readers are appropriately cued to look ‘up high’ and ‘down low’, as they play a game of celestial peek-a-boo. Older readers are pulled back into a childhood of fantasy, whimsy and effervescence.

The never-ending spreads are vibrant, as the figures seem to leap out and dance, almost like a film. Reminiscent of Ezra Jack Keats, Pearle makes use of a paper collage cut out style marrying classically proportioned figures with clean shapes, sweeping hues and hypnotic patterns.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

PS. On the subject of the moon, did you manage to get a glimpse of the eclipse last night?

I’m Bored by Black and Ohi

 

I’m bored!
I’m sooooooo bored!

Well, isn’t this a familiar situation? Our young protagonist says she’s bored, like many others her age. But what happens when boredom is confronted with… a talking potato?

Michael Ian Black picks up on the adorably annoying nuances of a bored child. They seek to understand what lies behind the ‘bored’ and confront it with the unexpected potato. With roles-reversed, the bored whippersnapper suddenly has something to prove.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s wonderful digital illustrations bring to life the expressive face of the young girl, as she journeys from boredom into adventure. The pictures and words are well-choreographed, making ‘I’m Bored’ a visual comedy for all ages.

The series continues as Black and Ohi tackle similarly recurrent themes in ‘I’m Sad’, featuring the flamingo from its cameo in ‘I’m Bored’, and ‘Naked!’.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

The Day I Became A Bird by Ingrid Chabbert, Guridi

 

Ahh! First love.

Ingrid Chabbert tells a sweet story of a boy who falls in love with a girl called Sylvia, a girl who loves birds. ‘The Day I Became A Bird’ captures the simple purity of unabashed puppy love. The story is so charming and innocent, that it is almost uncomfortable to sully it with an adult’s point of view.

“When I look at her, I forget everything else.” Raúl Nieto Guridi’s minimalist sketches evocatively focus on the two young ‘uns, while the out-lying blankness allows for endless stories and fantasies to be imagined in. The detailed sketches of Sylvia’s birds, as well as the science of building a bird costume add layers to fuel a young reader’s imagination.

The arrangement of the text and the illustrations isn’t parallel. Almost like a film, on a single page, two different segments of the narrative are offered, until the inherent suspense of a love-story is dismantled piece by puzzle piece.

Love, friendship and acceptance is often a difficult prospect in school (okay, okay, and otherwise too). This book considers the hurdles but moves sweetly beyond to the things that are important.

 

Do you have a fun story of childhood love? Share in the comments below.

Likla
Writer at Art1st