Something for Everyone

So many books, so little time. So true. So, in the interest of saving time, here’s a quick rundown of three new books sure to please just about any reader in your home.

The Borrowers Collection, by Mary Norton, illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush; HMHCo, $24.99, 1004 pages, ages 8-11. 

The charming adventures of the miniature Clock family have captivated readers since the Eisenhower era, and this hefty volume presents five fantasy-filled adventures. The first story won the Carnegie medal in 1952, and today The Borrowers remains as magical and rewarding as ever. A captivating gift to share with first-timers and lifelong Borrowers fans.

Muddle & Mo, by Nikki Slade Robinson; Clarion Books, $14.99, 32 pages, ages 0-3. (available February 21, 2017)

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Originally published in New Zealand,this cuddly picture book by Nikki Slade Robinson  lands stateside in less than a month, and it’s worth putting on your wish list; this adorable story about a goat and a duck exploring what makes them different subtly teaches important life lessons like kindness, patience, and love.

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Did You Ever See? by Joanna Walsh; Tate, $16.95, 32 pages, ages 2-5.

Kids wonder about everything–why the sky is blue, what the smallest living creature is, and even what the inner workings of a television look like. Author-illustrator Joanna Walsh examines the world from a youngster’s point of view, and her oversized images of big eyes staring out at the world in bold stamps of color encourage imaginative exploration. Walsh’s jaunty text nicely coordinates with the retro-jam feel of the illustrations. Art lovers of all ages will find something to enjoy here.

Booksellers Consider Constraints of New California Autograph Law; Others Push for Repeal – The Fine Books Blog

Source: Booksellers Consider Constraints of New California Autograph Law; Others Push for Repeal – The Fine Books Blog

Clowning Around with Elisabeth Helland Larsen

The author of Life and I: A Story About Death talks about writing and working as a clown in hospitals and refugee camps.

In December we reviewed Elisabeth Helland Larsen’s poignant examination of mortality in Life and I: A Story About DeathLarsen kindly answered a few of our questions about her work as a children’s book author and visiting hospital clown to children in critical care units and in refugee camps. (No creepy clowns here!) Larsen lives in Oslo, Norway, and answered our questions through a series of email exchanges at the dawn of January 2017.

LFS: Can you tell me about the I Am series? [Life and I is one in a trilogy of books on the subject.] What prompted you to take on these topics? 

EHL: This series is a result of my meetings with children and youth in various states of emergency over the past twenty years, and I’ve combined my own mix of fantasy and playfulness. For a very long time I’ve circled around the themes of death, life, and clowning. Nearly everything in my life deals with these topics. My aim is not to give any answers but to create conversations, reflections, or visual experiences. I believe the Norwegian publishing house Magikon and all the other countries that have translated the books are quite brave in taking on such a subject. These books wouldn’t be what they are without the talented illustrator Marine Schneider.

LFS: How did you get started as a clown? Do you work with a group?

EHL: I started with theater and clowning when I was very young because it gave me the freedom to do everything I wanted: meet people, travel around the world, and encounter different cultures. Playing, juggling, acrobatics, dancing, drawing–these are universal activities that each culture gives their own slant. After completing theater school in Paris, I became more and more involved in clowning in hospitals and refugee camps. Now I’m part of a group of hospital clowns in Norway called All Noses and I visit refugee kids as often as I can.

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LFS: How do children react when they meet you in clown costume?

EHL: The red nose is like a universal passport into all cultures. It is incredible how laughter and playing can unite us despite different circumstances. The power of love, humor, and playing can help children survive overwhelming odds. Laughter keeps us afloat when life gets tough. I am so amazed to see the power to overcome in every single human being. I’ve only had positive reactions to me in clown character.

LFS: How do you prepare for a clown show? 

EHL: These days I work in hospitals and I also tour a lot to promote my books, which I present through different kinds of performances than the ones I prepare for children in hospitals. I love to meet children and talk about books and big themes, especially taboo themes. Children are open to honest discussion about tough issues, but we need to be willing to have those conversations.

LFS: Where do you find inspiration for your books? 

EHL: As humans we all have hundreds of stories inside our hearts, minds and bodies. Some of us feel the urge and need to write them on paper or transform them into art.

LFS: Has writing grown out of your work as a clown? 

EHL: Writing has always been a important part off my life but in 2011 I became more serious about it after finishing a training program on writing children books at Norsk Barnebokinstitutt [the Norwegian Institute for Children’s Books].

LFS: What else would you like to tell me about your work?

EHL: I think that adults are duty-bound to encourage children to realize that life in today’s world can have meaning, but they need our guidance. I do what I can with my artistic tools, but we all have a responsibility to teach those who will one day lead the world.

Top photo by Christine Crüger. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.

Hawaii’s Written History of Karate Preserved – The Fine Books Blog

Hawaii’s Written History of Karate Preserved

Cover for Kobudo kenpo, karate katsuyo zukai setsumei goshin-jutsu (1952). Reproduced with permission from the Hawaii Karate Museum Collection, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library.

Source: Hawaii’s Written History of Karate Preserved – The Fine Books Blog

Reading French Books

Happy 2017! We’re starting the year off with a look at how American Francophiles can satisfy their booklust without breaking the bank.

Whether in digital or print format, procuring classic French literature like Candide and Les Misérables is relatively easy, but for the ravenous bibliophile (or recovering French lit major), finding titles by great modern French and Francophone authors poses a surprising set challenges. A little savoir faire makes those obstacles surmountable.

Recently published French books (and other international titles) can be hard to come by in the U.S.; while they’re often available on e-commerce sites like Amazon.fr or Fnac.com (the Gallic version of Target), shipping fees can sometimes cost more than the book itself.

Yet, stateside Francophiles need not wait until their next trip to France before loading up on coveted volumes. Many major metropolitan cities are home to independent bookstores catering to international tastes. East-coast outposts include Manhattan’s Albertine and Schoenhof’s Foreign Books in Cambridge, MA, while European Books and Media in Oakland, California is another great resource with a robust web presence. Newly released books may still be pricey, however, and others may not be readily available, but independent shops are wonderful for physical browsing and seeking out expert opinions. Some stores also host in-store book talks, signings, and foster an overall sense of joie de lire.

A budget-friendly option is to say bonjour to your local Alliance Française (AF),a global non-profit organization founded by Louis Pasteur and Jules Verne dedicated to promoting French language and culture. Many AF chapters host monthly book clubs based on fluency level, and while fees vary, roughly $120 dollars nets participants ten books and a monthly venue for discussion. I discovered my local chapter a few years ago, and in addition to reading the latest award-winning books, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the material in French among other Francophiles. (Groups are moderated by AF instructors.)

Our book club’s theme this year is “le retour,” or “The Return,” and includes new and recently released books by Pierre Lemaitre, Lola Lafon, Russian-born Andrei Makine, and Leïla Slimani–all prizewinning and internationally acclaimed authors. Slimani’s Chanson Douce just received the prestigious Prix Goncourt in November, and the group moderators swapped out another title so that we could decide for ourselves whether Chanson Douce merited the award. (It does. The story is loosely based on the actual homicide of two Manhattan children at the hands of their nanny. Class divisions, race, and mental instability are deftly explored in this quietly ferocious tale.)

However you satisfy your Gallic booklust, Bonne lecture!