Today is St. Patrick’s Day, meaning Irish pubs from Boston to Dublin will be busier than usual and just about everyone will be sporting some sort of good luck charm. However, if the idea of day-drinking and parade-hopping turns you green, there’s still a few ways to let your inner Irish spirit free, even from the comfort of your own library. Check out the bibliophile’s guide to St. Patrick’s Day – The Fine Books Blog
The Singing Bones, by Shaun Tan; Arthur A. Levine, $24.00, 192 pages, ages 14 and up.
Australian artist Shaun Tan has made his name creating surreal, slightly peculiar works of art with the ultimate goal of encouraging dialogue and social engagement–Tan worked on the science-fiction animated film WALL-E, for example–and in The Singing Bones he tackles the Grimm brothers’ literary canon with similar verve. Seventy-five pieces of original art are accompanied by a portion of text from obscure and beloved tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Inspired by Inuit and pre-Columbian stone carvings, Tan’s compositions are molded of earthy, unpretentious materials–papier-mâché and air-drying clay adorned with acrylic paint and shoe polish–resulting in art that looks like it has weathered the passage of time.
Many of the selections may not be well known to contemporary readers, at least not in the forms referenced here: in “Mother Trudy” an overly inquisitive young girl is turned into a block of wood and cast upon the hearth by a witch, and Tan’s sculpture depicts a demonic-looking old creature nestled comfortably in front of a recently lit blaze. A wicked stepmother decapitates her stepson in “The Juniper Tree” and the attending artwork is a disturbingly complex rendering of multiple moments that unfold in the narrative. Snow White and her long-forgotten sister Red Rose gleefully traipse on a magical bear in another excerpt. Though summarized in an annotated index, only the basic sketch of each story is provided, encouraging readers to explore the fairy tales separately.
Reigning master of macabre Neil Gaiman and renowned fairy-tale expert Jack Zipes provide thoughtful introductions and commentary on the enduring importance of the Grimm fairy tales for our generation.
The Singing Bones is a powerful examination of the range of human emotion, and how much greater that range can be for children, if adults will allow it.
‘Tis the season for award ceremonies, and on Monday the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books for children and young adults at its Midwinter Meeting, held this year in Atlanta, Georgia. We reported on Tuesday that Kelly Barnhill took top honors with the Newbery; read who else was recognized for their contributions to children’s literature over on the Fine Books Blog.
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!
An exhibition covering the sixty-year career of Massachusetts native Ed Emberley opened November 16. Read all about it on the Fine Books Blog on Friday.
Read the story on Friday at the Fine Books & Collections blog! (Image used with permission from Worcester Art Museum.)