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

 

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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!

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

“This is Not My Hat” by Jon Klassen

My emotional response to this book: Hug the book! Hug the beeg feesh!

Klassen tackles the much-disdained children’s book genre of horror with minimalism, grace and humour. This is a tale of caution that is told in the illustrations rather than the words, when a little fish finds a perfectly-sized blue bowler hat on the head of a big fish, and makes an awkward choice.

As an adult, I definitely enjoy the parallel protagonists, but am curious as to whether children ‘get it’. When it comes to any discussions on morality, there are always counterpoints. Is the book too (invisibly) violent? Do children absorb the skewed message, not of the black-and-white ‘stealing is bad’, but ‘stealing is bad if you can’t get away with it’? But are these just the worried moralistic musings of adult readers that are certain they know EXACTLY what children think when they’re reading.

Moving on to a fast-becoming peeve: why don’t the Children’s Illustrated Books share information about the illustrative style? With so many artist videos floating around, I seem to find the beauty in their process as much as their works. Well, Klassen’s wonderful colours and textures are handmade with water-colours and then digitally combined into the simple, yet dramatic visual narrative. (Thank you, dear Google!)

Have you read the book? How would you deal with the concept of stealing? Start a conversation in the comments section below.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

‘Colour Zoo’ by Lois Ehlert

Did you know that all it takes is a circle, a square and a triangle to make a tiger?

Lois Ehlert, is (without surprise) one of our favourite authors, here at Art1st. She has a unique ability to take a simple concept, sprinkle it with creativity and convert it into a magical book. In the ‘Colour Zoo’, Ehlert effortlessly combines three basic shapes together, as page by page the animals transform.

This board book is bright and colourful. Each page has a shape cut out, and as you peer through it, you’ll find an unexpected animal. This is a great book to learn about shapes and what you can do with them. But if you’re an older reader (spoiler alert) you’re going to be pretty impressed by the simplistic ingenuity of each segment.

Entertain this whimsy if you will. The combinations when reduced to mathematical formulas can be quite fun. Tiger – Circle = Mouse or Deer + Oval + Rectangle = Ox. Now try and make up some of your own.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’ by Crockett Johnson

Okay. We’ll admit it. We love books about crayons.
(mostly because they’re so colourful and fun)

Well, this is a story about a little bundle boy called Harold.
Our hero Harold has a purple crayon. And with that crayon, he draws the world!

This Papa’s palm-sized purple paperback is rich in imagination and its applications. Johnson’s illustrations explore the flexibility of a simple line as Harold makes his purple journey. Purposefully minimal, the pages of Crockett Johnson’s ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’ allow the imaginative reader to fill in the colours.

The next time you’re in bed, but can’t quite sleep, grab hold of a purple crayon and see where it will take you.

Likla
Writer at Art1st

‘Red- A Crayon’s Story’ by Michael Hall

 

Fresh off the Art1st Library Shelves, self-acceptance has never looked more colourful!

In Michael Hall’s ‘Red’, our beloved narrator takes the form of a classic Yellow Pencil as he takes us on ‘Red’ the crayon’s journey of self-discovery.

The story throws out the age-old art teacher’s motto of ‘practice make perfect’ and replaces it with the more current educational focus of exploration.

The narrative spills out of the words into the simple but clever visuals and is enhanced through the little details, like how the older and more experienced crayons are smaller than the newer ones like Red and Berry.

What do you do, if you’re trying to be Red, but you’re always Blue?
Why, you draw Blue Strawberries of course!

‘He was red. But he wasn’t very good at it.’

Likla
Writer at Art1st

Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail

History might not be the most favorite subject of children, but they all love stories. And in fact, history is nothing but stories.

But it is all about how a story is told. History becomes interesting when we add a bit of our own imagination and experiences to it, otherwise, it will all be about dates and nothing more. It’s the times spent between two dates that tell us the story about people and their lives.

“Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail” written by “Laurence Anholt” is a historical fiction book that offers a glimpse into the life of the famous artist” Pablo Picasso” and a little girl who became one of his models. The story is told from the perspective of the child.

Sylvette first met Pablo Picasso in 1954, when she was a girl in the southern French town of Vallauris. At that time, she was the shyest and dreamiest girl among her friends When Picasso set up his studio in a nearby house, he spotted young Sylvette and was taken immediately by her classical profile and her lovely ponytail. When at last he convinced her to pose for what became the first of more than 40 works of art, the two gradually became good friends.

Picasso’s portraits of Sylvette later became famous around the world.

Author and illustrator Laurence Anholt captures the spirit of this warm-hearted story in words and pictures. In the process, he also introduces several of Picasso’s most famous paintings. Young readers are sure to be intrigued by how Picasso transformed Sylvette’s image into a variety of fantastic and whimsical forms.