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

 

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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

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

 

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?

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

‘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

Maurice Sendak: “I refuse to lie to children”

“Maurice Sendak’s books were shaped by his own childhood: one marked by the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the concentration camp deaths of most of his extended family, and parents consumed by depression and anger. When Sendak started illustrating and writing for children, he vowed that he wouldn’t write stories of sunshine and rainbows, because that’s not real life” says Stacy Conradt

Maurice believed that it is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, happy-clouded childhood for anybody. “I’m totally crazy, I know that. I don’t say that to be a smartass, but I know that that’s the very essence of what makes my work good. And I know my work is good. Not everybody likes it, that’s fine. I don’t do it for everybody. Or anybody. I do it because I can’t not do it.”

His book MOMMY? is a riot. Take a look at the video and also enjoy the playfulness of his illustrations.

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More on Sendak in the next post