Professor Noah’s Spaceship (Book Acquired, 3.29.2014)

noah

Browsing books with my son the other day, Brian Wildsmith’s Professor Noah’s Spaceship caught my eye. Absolutely gorgeous illustrations and a charming story.
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Illustration from Beauty and The Beast — Walter Crane

Alphabet — Walter Crane

abcd_th efgh_th ijklm_th nopqr_th stuv_th wxyz_th

Melville Underwater Camera

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From David Wiesner’s marvelous wordless wonder book Flotsam.

I want! I want! — William Blake

I want blake

Three Beautiful Books For Children (and Adults)

As the season for giving arrives, Biblioklept reviews three beautiful books that children and adults alike will enjoy.

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First up is E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 Christmas classic Nutcracker in translation by Ralph Manheim and beautifully illustrated by the late Maurice Sendak. In 1983, Sendak designed sets and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s adaptation of Nutcracker and in 1984 he translated some of those designs into a book edition.

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According to a 2001 profile with NPR, Sendak was initially unsure about working on what he considered “the most bland and banal of ballets.” However, upon reading Hoffman’s original text, Sendak discovered a work full of “weird, dark qualities that make it something of a masterpiece,” an observation he notes in his introduction to Nutcracker.

The NPR profile notes that Sendak intended to bring “Hoffmann’s original story back to audiences, especially by having the main character, a girl named Clara, brought back into the story.” Sendak believed

The whole ballet is about her and for the most part you get her in act one, and then she discreetly disappears for the rest of the work. My feeling is this has to be disturbing to children. . . . [She goes] where the wild things are . . . She is overwhelmed with growing up and has no knowledge of what this means. I think the ballet is all about a strong emotional sense of something happening to her, which is bewildering.

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These “strange, weird” qualities—the same tones that made Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are a classic of children’s literature—are on display in Nutcracker. Hoffman’s text in Manheim’s translation has a wonderfully episodic, even picaresque quality that restores a sense of adventure—and even peril—to the smooth play we might be familiar with sitting through each December.

Nutcracker’s reading level, length, and tone make it likely appropriate for children over eight or nine, but younger children will enjoy reading the story through Sendak’s marvelous and strange illustrations.

Nutcracker is available in a new hardback edition from Random House.

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Next up is Annelore Parot’s Kokeshi Kimonos from Chronicle Books.

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Koskeshi Kimonos is a fun and stylish book that uses kokeshi dolls to showcase facets of Japanese culture including attire and family life. The book features folding flaps, pull out sections, and other interactive features that will appeal to younger children. It’s the sort of aesthetically charming book that adults can enjoy as well.

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Kokeshi Kimonos will likely appeal to younger readers—five to nine—and seems particularly suited to girls (although this doesn’t mean boys wouldn’t enjoy it, of course). The cute kokeshis are a wonderful alternative to the sterile, plastic world of Barbie and other facile dolls.

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Finally, Ernest Raboff’s Albrecht Dürer, part of his Art for Children series. The book is out of print but not impossible to find.

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Raboff presents Dürer’s life simply and in clear context, using about a dozen beautiful  prints from the German master, as well as many of his etchings. Raboff also hand letters the book, and provides his own sketches and illustrations occasionally to clarify and explain Dürer’s work.

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What I love most about Raboff’s book though is the way he integrates elements of art appreciation into his book in subtle, simple ways. Lovely:

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Robinson Crusoe and His Parrot

From The Twelve Magic Changelings by M.A. Glen, a 1907 book of children’s cut-outs.

Nutcracker, Illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Book Acquired Some Time in October, 2012)

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We’ll be running a giveaway contest for one of these beautiful editions of Hoffman’s Nutcracker, featuring illustrations by Maurice Sendak sometime next week.

I Took My Kids to the Book Store (Books Acquired on Veterans Day (Observed), 2012)

I took my kids to the book store today and let them run like heathen.

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They had fun. I usually take them separately (and usually they go to the library), but their mother is at work and we needed to get out of the house.

My daughter picked out a few books for her little brother (and then read them to him, sort of).

She also picked out a book of antique paper dolls (Dolly Dingle) and an Anne of Green Gables pop up cottage book to let the dolls live in.

Here’s what I picked out, maybe more for me than them:

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A beautiful illustrated Durer biography that’s written more or less like a comic book, and an illustrated edition of Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.”

 

“Of the PRESIDENT next you will hear me declare / That altho’ neither silver nor gold does he wear”

(More/via).

“The Land of Nod” — An Illustrated Poem by Robert Louis Stevens

(From A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson; illustrated by Charles Robinson, 1895. Via the LOC’s rare books collection.)