Abby and Jack Review Two New Children’s Books

Abigail is back, this time with her friend Jack to review two new children’s picture books. Jack tackles Zachariah Ohora’s latest fuzzy caper involving a pair of apartment-dwelling felines, while Abby looks at a canine compare-and-contrast board book by French illustrator Élo. Both are great choices for early readers to enjoy during the dog (and cat) days of summer.

Niblet & Ralph, by Zachariah Ohora, Dial Books for Young Readers; $17.99, 32 pages, ages 2-6. 

Niblet and Ralph is about two cats and their kid owners. The four of them live in the same building, but only two of them know it. A tragic mystery happens that brings the humans together–be sure to read the book to find out! The cover shows a cat wearing headphones–how adorable!

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Images reproduced with permission from Dial Books.

Contrary Dogs, by Élo, Candlewick Studio; $12.00, 20 pages, ages 0-6. 

Contrary Dogs is a funny book about all different types of dogs–opposites, really. For example, one has spots, another doesn’t. Plus, it’s a book where you can lift the tabs–who doesn’t like those? Your child will love exploring the tabs and reading all about these amazing dogs!

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CONTRARY DOGS. Copyright © 2016 by Éditions Sarbacane. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

Little Women at 150: Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel never gets old

My story on the 150th anniversary of Little Women is the June e-feature at Fine Books and Collections

Source: Literary Anniversary – Fine Books and Collections

Words and Meaning: A Look at Exhibit Design

A recent trip to the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) to inspect, among other items, a panel painting newly attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, revealed a curatorial trend of removing informational wall panels and captions. This captionless experiment was being played out in the museum’s Renaissance and Old Masters galleries.

 
“The Museum is working on alternative design approaches that encourage new ways for visitors to interact with and participate in daily uses of the gallery,” reads the WAM website. In Worcester’s Renaissance gallery, informative text has been replaced by interactive iPads and laminated guides stored in hanging bins around the room.

 
As a museum-goer accustomed to informative text, the absence was jarring–is the portrait on the wall a Vermeer or a Rembrandt? To answer that required firing up the communal electronic device or hoping the plastic info sheets weren’t missing. The experience brought up the question of whether or not informative captions distract from artistic enjoyment and contemplation.

 

Captions have become something of a controversial topic in the museum world, for reasons ranging from misleading facts to funding concerns to pleasing everyone in an age of political correctness. In a 2015 ArtNews article, WAM director Matthias Waschek expressed great pleasure at removing “that damn piece of paper,” referring to wall labels, allowing works of art to speak for themselves. Yet for those without a degree in art history, properly constructed captions provide welcome nuance and context.

 
“I guess I’m old fashioned,” said Brazilian art historian, curator, and collector Pedro Corrêa do Lago recently when asked about his preference for informative captions. Corrêa do Lago has amassed over 100,000 autographs, manuscripts, and other handwritten items that span nearly a millennium and which are now subject of a new exhibition at the Morgan Library. The Magic of Handwriting: The Pedro Correa do Lago Collectionshowcases 140 jewels from his archives that bear the signatures and handwriting by a who’s who of the world’s creators, performers, and thinkers. (See Nick Basbanes’s forthcoming profile on Corrêa do Lago in the next issue of FB&C.)

 
Corrêa do Lago wanted viewers to enjoy the exhibition at hand while also understanding the rationale behind the inclusion of each piece. How then, to tie together material hailing from six distinct disciplines in the Morgan’s intimate Engelhard Gallery? To do this, he turned to Brazilian husband-and-wife team Daniela Thomas and Felipe Tassara, the duo responsible for designing the Rio 2016 Olympic Opening Ceremony. At the Morgan, Thomas and Tassara organized the items like rows of cream-white Greek stele; each autograph sheet is raised at an angle, as if on a writing desk, protected only by a thin film of plexiglass, while large-font informative text greets the viewer at eye level. The result is a wholly immersive and informative experience.

 
“The text is critical,” explained Thomas. “It explains why Pedro selected these specific pieces, and how the power of handwriting can connect us to great people.”

 

 

Unaccompanied by captions, however, a letter bearing the thumbprint signature of physicist Stephen Hawking or other slips of paper become no more than marks on a page.

 

 

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New for 2019: Booklyn Art Fair and a New Location

In a positive sign of the times, we’re pleased to report the forthcoming arrival of another new book arts fair. Booklyn, that beloved Brooklyn institution dedicated to promoting book artists, printers, and other bibliocentric pursuits, is getting into the book fair business. In September 2019, Booklyn will be joining forces with the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair, also affectionately known as the Satellite Fair that takes place the same weekend as the annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair, and they’ve put out a call for exhibitors. Here are the specifics:

 

Booklyn has forty tables available to exhibitors for the duration of the two-day show at the bargain price of $400 each, limit four tables per artist, group, organization, or press. Contact mweber@booklyn.org to reserve a table before the September 1 deadline. The Fair itself will take place Saturday, March 9, 2019, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Sunday, March 10, 2019, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Sheraton Central Park 811 7th Avenue New York, NY, 10019.

 

The theme for the 2019 fair is a bit of a mouthful, but certainly gets the point across: “Resistance and Resonance, how have the recent Art Build, Me Too, March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter, BDS, Immigrants’ Rights, Gender Justice, and Standing Rock direct action movements affected the field of creative publishing?” Participants are invited to submit a proposal for a presentation based on that theme.

 

Bookyln organizers hope this new endeavor will provide participants the opportunity to meet new audiences and collectors in Manhattan.

 

In addition to launching a new fair, Booklyn’s in some new digs: the organization recently moved to a location in the Artbuilt Brooklyn center located in the Brooklyn Army Terminal (Building B-7G) and will reopen to the public in July with a welcoming exhibition, workshops, and lectures. The telephone number remains (718) 383-9621.

Behind the Bookshelves: The Podcast

Quick Picks, Nor’Easter Edition

You can be excused for feeling a little apocalyptic if you happen to live on the East Coast, but once you’ve got the lights and heat back on, consider picking up one of the following books for you or the kids–they are all a welcome salve for these windswept times and reminders that love and compassion come in all shapes and sizes.

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First up is National Book Critics Circle Award winner Louise Erdrich’s latest offering, Future Home of the Living God (Harper, $28.99), where evolution seems to be coming to a standstill: animals stop reproducing while others revert back to prehistoric proportions and children are born with disturbing abnormalities, leading to an increasingly fascist government regime where pregnant women are incarcerated. This is bad news for four-months-pregnant Cedar, the adopted daughter of loving parents and the protagonist of this cautionary tale. Cedar decides its time to meet her Ojibwe birth parents in Northern Minnesota, where she reconnects with her spiritual side. Told in diary form by Cedar, Future Home of the Living God touches on prescient, lightening-rod themes of reproductive rights, faith, and environmental disorder with equal parts verve and candor. Newbies to sci-fi would do well to start here.

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Meanwhile, offer the kids have something far less dystopian in nature, like Paul Griffin’s Saving Marty (Dial Books, $16.99). Here, lonely Lorenzo is looking for a friend, and finds one in Marty, a pig that thinks it’s a dog. Instant friendship ensues, and when Marty grows into a robust 350-pound porker, Lorenzo is ready and willing to do anything to save his best friend from being shipped away. Middle-grade fans of Griffin’s When Friendship Followed Me Home will find similar themes of compassion and friendship in Saving Marty.

Another book of porcine proportions is The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter, and Caprice Cane (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17.99), which shares the real-life story of Esther and her owners. In 2012, Steve and Derek adopted Esther and welcomed her to their animal sanctuary. Much like Marty in the previous book, Esther was destined for corpulent greatness–eventually tipping the scales at over 600 pounds. But Esther’s size was no match for Steve and Derek’s love and patience–rather than give Esther away, they moved to a country farm in 2014, founding the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary where they continue to care for all sorts of creatures. Young readers will snort with joy watching Esther grow from a tiny piglet into a massive pink hog. Corri Doerrfield’s lively illustrations are sweet and perfectly in tune with the text.

New Picture Book Biography of Jane Austen Glitters

Jane Austen’s novels criticizing sentimentalism, the British landed gentry, and women’s dependence on marriage have remained in print continuously since 1832, when the publisher Richard Bentley purchased the copyrights of all six of Austen’s works. For the past 186 years those stories have thrilled readers around the globe. Now comes a picture-book biography for children attempting to piece together Austen’s rise to fame.

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Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel (Holt, $17.99, 48 pages) explores Austen’s modest upbringing and how she quietly forged a career as an author at a time when most women aspired to fortuitous marriages to secure their economic status.

Though little is actually known about Austen’s childhood since she kept no journal or diary, author Lisa Plisco admirably examines just how Austen developed her plucky wit and delightfully biting sense of irony. (Spoiler: Austen read a lot of books.) Illustrator Jen Corace’s vibrant mixed-media illustrations show a rosy-cheeked Austen, likely an homage to the portrait of Austen completed in 1810 by her sister, Cassandra.

Have a future wordsmith on your hands? Give her this beguiling introduction to a great woman of letters.

                                                                                                                                                                                           Image courtesy of Holt Books for Young Readers

This review first ran on the Fine Books & Collections Blog on February 23, 2018.