Today, Abby absconds to the circus with her review of British children’s book author Peter Bunzl’s Skycircus ($12.99, Jolly Fish Press). Bonus: Bunzl posted free resources for teachers, librarians, and homeschoolers to use with his books.
Here’s a quick look at what’s happening in the book world:
- Variety reports that digital book subscription service Scribd raised $58 million from venture capital firm Spectrum Equity. Scribd’s website attracts 100 million visitors a month and claims a million subscribers.
- Journalists at The Washington Post share their top picks for children’s books in 2019.
- A copy of The Art of the Deal with Trump’s signature and the inscription “future president” went for $1500 at auction this week. Alexander Historical Auctions handled the sale of the first edition volume which was accompanied by a typed letter of provenance from the original recipient.
- Abby Richter profiled author-illustrator duo Brad Meltzer and Chris Eliopoulos about their books and recently launched series on PBS.
- A beloved Montclair, NJ bookstore gets compared to Narnia in The New York Times.
- Calling all California book collectors: there’s a prize waiting for you, but the deadline is nigh. Read the requirements here.
Put down the Halloween candy and grab one of these literary treats instead:
See What I have Done, by Sarah Schmidt, Grove Atlantic; $26.00, 324 pages.
Australian library coordinator-turned-novelist makes her chilling debut with a reinterpretation of the infamous story of Lizzie Borden, the Fall River, Massachusetts, native who bludgeoned her father and stepmother to death with an axe 125 years ago this past August. Borden was tried and acquitted of the crimes, and officially, the murders remain unsolved, but Schmidt’s reexamination of the events through multiple narrators offers gruesome, cruel new perspectives on hidden family secrets.
A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, her Two Sons, and their Fight against Fascism, by Caroline Moorehead, Harper; $27.99, 488 pages.
National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction finalist Caroline Moorehead (Human Cargo) takes on another topic examining courage under oppression. Here, we meet the Rossellis, an aristocratic family opposed to fascism and Benito Mussolini’s rise to power before World War II. Using family letters and secret police files, Moorehead recounts how the Rosselli’s dedicated their lives and resources to rebelling against Mussolini’s reign of terror, and how their courage continued to inspire opposition during the dark days of war. A vivid portrait of a country’s decent into darkness and of those who defied it.
In the Darkness of the Night, by Bruno Munari, Princeton Architectural Press; $35.00, 60 pages.
Originally published in Italy in 1956 under the title Nella notte buia, this little masterpiece uses a full arsenal of book arts techniques to convey space and time. Rather than relying exclusively on text, author Bruno Munari (1907-1998) relies instead on symphony of words and images to convey the story. Thick paper cutouts give way to fragile transparent sheets, making for a wholly unexpected and holistic reading experience. Perfect for collectors and paper engineers alike.
New from Quirk Books is an account of the world of horror pulp fiction of the 1970s and ’80s. Author and horror historian Grady Hendrix (Horrorstör, My Best Friend’s Exorcism) traces the unexpected success of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, Thomas Tryon’s The Other, and William Blatty’s The Exorcist–three nightmare novels that became bestsellers and spawned two decades of provocative horror publishing. Read more, if you dare, at the Fine Books Blog.
This year marks seventy years since The Folio Society began publishing beautiful editions of global literary classics. To mark the occasion, the publishing house is offering a showstopping selection of titles in its fall catalog–Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, a two-volume set of The Little Prince, and other great books. In addition, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is hosting an exhibition entitled The Artful Book, featuring illustrated books, bindings, and original artwork from the Folio Society’s vast archives. Highlights include commissions from illustrators like Quentin Blake, Sara Ogilvie, Kate Baylay, Neil Packer, and many others.
Folio Society’s Editorial Director Tom Walker recently spoke about the milestone year, how they put together this recent catalog, and how he hopes Folio Society will continue to honor the company creed of producing books “in a form worthy of their contents.” Come read the interview at the Fine Books Blog.
Welcome to our newest reviewer, Abigail Constance Richter, a New York third grader excited to share great new children’s books with you. This first review was inspired by the brave and selfless hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Florida, reminding us that anyone can lend a helping hand.
Bulldozer Helps Out, by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann; Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 40 pages, ages 3-6.
In Bulldozer Helps Out, Bulldozer wants to help the rest of the construction team, but the other machines say he is not big enough, strong enough, or tough enough. Soon, they feel bad and give Bulldozer an “easy” task. The full-page pictures in the book are big, bold, and colorful, and make the book a good choice for preschoolers and kids in kindergarten who love construction and want to be part of the team.
The Elephant’s Garden, by Jane Ray; Boxer Books, $14.95, 32 pages, ages 2-6.
Many cultures have their version of the garden thief story–Russian folklore tells of Tsarevitch Ivan whose golden apples are stolen by the mythical Firebird, and food theft leads to a most unhappy ending in Nankichi Niimi’s powerful Gon, the Little Fox (1932). And of course, there’s the biblical tale of the snake tempting Eve with a forbidden apple in the garden of Eden. These aren’t those effortlessly cheerful happily ever after tales–these are stories of greed, failure, and attempts at redemption, with varying degrees of success, and Jane Ray’s retelling of a traditional Indian folktale follows in that tradition.
Here, a little girl named Jasmine discovers a brightly festooned elephant stealing from her garden, and once confronted, the elephant explains that the fruit in his garden is inedible. To prove it, he whisks the astounded child to his faraway cloud garden, where massive kiwis, strawberries, and peaches fill every corner, but sadly, they’re only precious jewels and of no use to a hungry elephant. Upon returning home, Jasmine tells her family about the magnificent sky garden and though she begs them not to tell anyone, the whole village finds out about the elephant’s treasures. What follows is a surprisingly elegant exploration of greed and selfishness. Ray’s vibrant, jewel-toned, collages evoke a lush Indian fantasy world, and the double-page spread of Jasmine grasping the tail of the elephant recall’s a similar nocturnal flight in Joanne Ryder and Amy Schwartz’s Night Flight or any of Henri Rousseau’s jungle scenes.
A worthy addition to any folktale collection, The Elephant’s Garden subtly invokes Ghandi’s summation on avarice: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”