Review: 100 Great Children’s Picture Books

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I’ve been doing some research into children’s picture books recently, and was thrilled to hear that Martin Salisbury wrote another book after Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling. Published in April this year by Laurence King Publishing, 100 Great Children’s Picturebooks is a visual feast, and offers a nostalgic look at 100 children’s books from the last 100 years.

With the many, many children’s books out there, the selection criteria for the book ultimately boiled down to good art and good design; and it doesn’t disappoint. I could imagine how difficult it was for Salisbury to whittle down the selection of books to the ones contained in this tome; and especially since most of the books within are mainly from UK/USA/Europe (although not all of them were in English) – I was sure that to have Asian children’s books added to the mix would have made the task even more of a challenge.

Each profile is arranged chronologically, with details of the book covers, inside pages, publisher, date of publication, commentaries, storyline, and the illustrator’s process and body of work. An impressive amount of research was done for the book and it shows. Some of the books were from the author’s own collection (as well as some who were in his own words “begged and borrowed” from friends, colleagues and students.)

It was hard to pick out a favourite spread from the book (there’s just too many!), but Babar’s story – of how Laurent de Brunthoff’s father Jean created the series, but died from tuberculosis at the height of the characters (and the books) fame when Laurent was 12 years old. He picked up where his father left off when he was 21, and has since created more than 30 additional Babar titles in the last 60 years.

More than just eye-catching covers and informative, beautiful page spreads, 100 Great Children’s Picturebooks presents a historical look at how illustrations and stories have entertained children and adult alike, and will continue to do so in generations to come. It would make a wonderful addition to any picture book lover’s library.

{Available via Amazon}

Review: Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World

I’ve been a fan of Julia Rothman for the longest time ever. You might remember my review of her first book of, Farm Anatomyand so Nature Anatomy is her second visual guidebook for Storey Publishing.

It’s a beautiful book, and the fact that the entire 224 pages of it is fully illustrated makes it a treat for nature lovers, scientists and for anyone who loves reading about facts and learning something new. I can imagine this being a great book for kids as well – it’s colourful, interesting and with lots of snippets of information sandwiched between each page, is a treasure trove for inquisitive children. There’s also recipes, crafting instructions and an lesson on how to paint landscapes!

From the anatomy of flowers to beautiful barks, from the various types of water bodies to the inner workings of mountains; each of the seven chapters covered in the book is a wonderful introduction into nature and its many inhabitants. And while the book doesn’t contain the most thorough of information, it’s certainly up there as one of the most visually interesting ones I’ve seen.

 

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

 

Julia writes in the introduction:

It’s about as fair to call this a “nature book” as it is to call my little walks “nature hikes”. There is no way to include even a small portion of the enormous world around us in a book of any size. Where does it end. There is an infinite amount to learn about, from the constellations to the core of the earth. I guess I think of this project as MY nature book. It’s the information I was interested in learning about, the things I wanted to draw and paint. While it is only a teeny scratch on the surface, it has given me a chance to become acquainted with plants, animals, trees, grasses, bugs, precipitation, land masses and bodies of water that I wanted to be able to name when I walked by.

Her fried, John Nieskrasz was her companion throughout the making of the book, and was an influential green voice and tour guide in her rediscovery through nature. Overall, it’s a brilliant tour indeed of what Mother Nature has to offer (even if it’s merely a scratch on the surface!)

I’m hoping there’s a third book from Julia!

Nature Anatomy is available from Amazon.

Review: Unlearning to Draw & The Kitchen Art Studio

 

When I reviewed three of Peter Jenny’s books in the Learning to See collection 3 years ago, the books offered great tips for beginners and also serves as great refresher material for more experienced artists.

Three years on, Jenny – professor emeritus and chair of visual design at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland – has come up with another two books to add to the collection: Unlearning to Draw and The Kitchen Art Studio, published by Princeton Architectural Press. 

 

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In Unlearning to Draw, the author encourages the use of family photos as the basis for creating new works, as looking at other people’s pictures may be uncomfortable. Through his exercises, he pushes artists to set aside the personal meaning behind these personal photos and find your own meaning behind them instead.

What caught my eye was this quote in the section on “Defamiliarizing the familiar”:

When we blink, what changes is not the distant, but the nearby. Television would have us stop blinking altogether, encouraging us to rely on someone else’s view of the world; but when you take a closer look at your own photos, you will continue to form your own pictures.

Using your own family photographs enables you to experience an added dimension to art-making, as can be seen in the various exercises within the book (22 in all). The idea behind using personal mementos is at once intriguing and haunting – especially when it involves the various emotional memories past. The thought of digging out photographs of my grandparents still make my heart ache, so I’d say this would be a challenge for me (a good one, nonetheless!)

KitchenArtStudio_cover

 

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In The Kitchen Art StudioJenny turns to the kitchen for new materials; playing with ingredients and opening one’s eyes to the many textures, smells, colours and form that food offers. Much like cooking, art is a process of transformation through experimentation.

The book welcomes the participation of entire senses: eyes, nose, ears, hands and mouths to create new works of art through unexpected, and yet familiar materials. The images within the book is beautiful – an invitation to look closer at our larder (and fridge!) for a universe that exists outside our own.

These two books are excellent addition to the previous three books in the Learning to See series: The Artist’s Eye, Drawing Techniques and Figure Drawing, and are available for purchase via Amazon.

Happy weekend folks!

[Flipthrough of the books by yours truly; the rest of the images are courtesy of Peter Jenny]
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