October Quick Picks

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.

I Work Like a Gardener: A New Translation of Joan Miró’s Art Philosophy

Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramicist Joan Miró (1893-1983) is perhaps best known for his Surrealist sculptures and activity with the anarchic Dada art movement. Miró catapulted into the art world stratosphere, ending up on many contemporary art collectors’ wishlists.

In 1958, the artist spoke to Parisian critic Yvon Taillandier about his life and work, and that conversation was published in a French limited edition of seventy-five copies in 1964. Now, Princeton Architectural Press is releasing a new English translation of the book on October 10.  Read all about it on the Fine Books Blog  .

Alphabets, Pigs, and Irish Rabbits

This week we’re looking at a technical workbook from Princeton Architectural Press, persistent piglets who won’t go to sleep, and an Irish translation of a classic children’s book. 

“Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own,” by Tony Seddon; Princeton Architectural Press, $19.95, 160 pages, ages 12-up.

(Available April 9, 2013)


Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY.

This book takes the art of custom-drawn fonts, – lively, hand-drawn letters often perfected by middle school adepts – to an extraordinary level of sophistication. British graphic designer Tony Seddon opens the manual with a primer on the history of hand-lettering, including tips for perfecting one’s craft, the pros and cons of tracing, and understanding the basic structure of letterforms. Seddon teaches the proper techniques to create funky, personalized fonts in this very hands-on workbook.

The thirty alphabet fonts all are custom drawn by a team of young designers and illustrators who each reveal a little about themselves and the inspiration for their fonts. For example, artist Michelle Tilly discovered the origins for her “Spotty Fairground” font by observing antique signs on a Bristol pier.


Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own  Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY. 

There is a style here to suit any mood and personality, ranging from the Pacman-inspired “Butterman,” to “Topiary” where the letters resemble leafy bushes. My favorite font is the “Octobet.” This intricately detailed font is influenced by the Norse legend of the fearsome sea-monster, the Kraken.  

Seddon concludes with a useful section on how to use one’s fonts by digitizing them.  A glossary of terms as well as an anatomy of principal font features rounds out the book. This isn’t necessarily a book geared towards children, but placed in the right hands it would no doubt be lovingly received and perhaps nurture grains of artistic creativity.  A perceptive child might also enjoy reading the included designers’ biographies.


Draw Your Own Alphabets: Thirty Fonts to Scribble, Sketch, & Make your Own  Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, NY. 


Piggies in Pajamas, Reproducedby permission of the publisher, Simon & Schuster, NY.

“Piggies in Pajamas,” by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Ard Hoyt; Simon & Schuster, $15.99, 32 pages, ages 3-5.

Michelle Meadows has brought back her adorably boisterous pig family, this time for a nocturnal escapade. In 2011’s Piggies in the Kitchen, the piglets took over the kitchen and surprised Mama with a birthday cake. In this latest installment, bedtime takes a back seat to navigating an ocean adventure, riding a train, and playing dress-up.  Each imaginative pursuit is a precarious one – they are supposed to be counting sheep, after all – and when they suspect Mama’s heading up the stairs, they dash to bed to avoid detection.  As with the Kitchen book, Meadows employs the same lively, catchy quatrain a-b-a-b pattern that younger readers will adore repeating.  “Piggies in pajamas/Scoot across the floor,/ Going for a train ride,/speeding past the door.” Ard Hoyt renders the plucky piglets in light watercolors that fully capture the spirit and excitement of the tale.  The high-octane energy level in this book may make it a difficult bedtime choice, but will be thoroughly enjoyed no matter when it’s read.  


Piggies in Pajamas, Reproducedby permission of the publisher, Simon & Schuster, NY.

“Tomhais Méid Mo Ghrá Duit” (Guess How Much I Love You in Irish), by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram; Candlewick Press, $9.99, 32 pages, ages 3-7.


While the classic tale of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare is close to two decades old, this brand-new edition is just in time for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.  Both author Sam McBratney and illustrator Anita Jeram call Ireland home and pay tribute to their land and language with this Gaelic translation of their beloved story.  There’s no Irish-English glossary, nor is there a pronunciation guide, so intrepid readers may want to have the English version on hand, or visit one of the many Gaelic pronunciation guides available online.  (I found standingstones.com/gaelpron.html to be quite informative and straightforward.)