Zig and the Magic Umbrella

(images used with permission from Dial Books; ©2015 Sylvie Kantorovitz)

Zig and the Magic Umbrella, by Sylvie Kantorovitz; Dial Press, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5. (On Sale March 15, 2015)

We’re looking at another rain-themed book this week, and this time it’s Sylvie Kantorovitz’s latest read-aloud, Zig and the Magic Umbrella. A timid, suspender-wearing blue ogre wakes up to a dark and rainy day, but when he grabs a red umbrella flying by his window, Zig is carried away to a magical forest. There, he meets a frantic yellow bird who needs help freeing his flock from a mean monster’s lair, and Zig summons his courage to save the day. That red umbrella comes in handy too – it transforms into a bridge, a boat, a lever, and even a dart.  Kantorovitz’s collage and acrylic illustrations stay in the primary color range but vary in tone, creating a warm and inviting imaginary world. Her use of color recalls the whimsical exuberance of fellow French illustrator Hervé Tullet. The story is just long enough for young readers, and really serves as backdrop to the wonderful art. In all, Zig’s adventure is a cute story that will encourage children to use their imaginations to create their own adventures on dreary days.

Picture This! An informal discussion with Hervé Tullet and Mo Willems

 MANHATTAN (April 8, 2013) –

On Monday night, a mixed crowd of children, teachers, authors and illustrators attended an event organized by the French Embassy and held at the Books of Wonder children’s bookstore. The evening’s French representative was author-illustrator and Sorcières Prize winner Hervé Tullet, while America’s artist ambassador was three-time Caldecott winner Mo Willems. The men discussed how reading should be an interactive and fun experience for children.

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Mo Willems and Hervé Tullet spin yarns at Books of Wonder while Jennifer Brown moderates. (Photo courtesy of Judith Walker at the French Embassy)

This discussion is the first of the Embassy’s Picture This! series. The goal of these events is to bring French and American illustrators together to talk about their work.  Events will take place from April 9th through May 13th throughout Manhattan.(http://frenchculture.org/books/festivals/picture-this) 

Jennifer M. Brown, director of the Center for Children’s Literature at the Bank Street College of Education, moderated the discussion, which touched on topics such as reading as an interactive activity and the role of humor in children’s literature.  The illustrators’ responses were lively and informative. 

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Mr. Tullet said that he views his role as a social artist. He envisions children as his audience, but aspires to create an experience for two readers to share. The Game of Light illustrates interaction between reader and book. One participant holds a flashlight to illuminate the cutout images on a wall, while another reads the text, which acts as a catalyst for parents to create their own stories to accompany the shadows.

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Mr. Willems compared the experience of reader interaction to the inner workings of a symphony; the book is the score, the adult is the orchestra, and the child is the audience.  The author writes knowing that his books may a child’s best, or sometimes only, friend. To make his books accessible to children, Mr. Willems said he purposefully illustrates in such a way so that a five year old might be inspired to copy his work with success.

The evening concluded with an audience Q & A, then Mr. Tullet inscribed books for people who waited patiently on a line that snaked through the store.