Friday, October 17, 2014

Knee-High Nina


Knee-High Nina
Jack Kent ~ Doubleday, 1980

Not the most inspired Jack Kent of the bunch, but I am still on a mission to chronicle every last one of his books. The sweetest part of this little ditty is that it follows the classic Kent formula of a wee one wishing she/he was something other than wee. And I love love love the blue and yellow!

Nina was only knee-high. Mostly what she saw was the bottom of things. If she wanted to see anything up high, someone had to lift her up. If she wanted anything from a shelf, someone had to reach it down for her.




Life's rough when grownups are always telling you "You're wearing me out!" and you always have to study the bottom of things. Ah yes, there's always a wish, and in a Jack Kent book, wishes always come true, even if it does seem like the grass is always greener. In a freaky Friday twist of fate, everything gets flipped upside down and comedy ensues.




If you've never read the bit I did on Kent a while back in our local alternative press, check it out. (The post by his son, too)  And if you are a newcomer to his stuff, run don't walk to your nearest used book shop and try to get yourself a copy of Dooly and the SnortsnootMr. MeeblesJust Only John or any one of his fabulous fables.



Also by:
Jack Kent's Twelve Days of Christmas
I Was Walking Down the Road
The Grown-Up Day
The Fox and the Crow
The Biggest Shadow in the Zoo
The Animobile Book
Jack Kent's Book of Nursery Tales
Dooly and the Snortsnoot
Mr. Meebles
Cindy Lou and the Witch's Dog
Clotilda
The Blah
Jack Kent's Valentine Sticker Book
The Bremen-town Musicians
Round Robin
Just Only John
Fly Away Home
Fat Cat
Piggy Bank Gonzales
Socks for Supper

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Let's Eat


Bill Martin Jr. ~ Larry NicholsonHolt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967

I'm doing a twofer this weekend for two reasons. Children's photography books from the 60s and 70s! Yay! And apparently the photographers of that era made great parents. The photos in this book were taken mostly by Larry Nicholson, who has at least one super loving son who's a pretty sweet photog himself. No words here just a kid getting a milk mustache, more kids eating ice cream, slurping spaghetti, candy, cake, strawberries, hotdogs.... all the things even kids today love. (Some of the food images are courtesy of General Foods and Birds Eye as you know how important children's nutrition is to those corporate giants.) The concept for this book is credited to Bill Martin Jr., author of the Eric Carle illustrated classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, giving it yet another layer of awesomeness. 

Anyway, happy Sunday and behold the magic of children with food long since gone. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Walk











































The Walk
Bill Binzen ~ Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1972

One of the things I've loved most about this blog is finding out the forgotten stories and people behind old books. The library where I work has a pretty dated children's book section WHICH I LOVE, and I often go down and check out the selection. The other day I came across this one from my birth year. I have a soft spot for photographic children's books of this era, most notably ones like Why I Built the Boogle House, Do you know what I'm going to do next Saturday?, A Very Young Dancer and The Little Lamb. I could go on and on about all the things I love about these books, but mainly it's just fun to time machine back to a different place. I was particularly taken with this one because of its vintage photos of the streets of New York City, and a story line that reminds me of adventures from my own childhood that could never happen in my own son's overprotective suburban existence.

Charlie had waved good-bye to his friend Frank as the bus pulled away from the Boys' Club. Frank was off for two weeks at the Boys' Club camp in the country. I wonder what it's like at that camp? Charlie had thought as he walked home.

Shortly, Charlie gets a postcard from his friend telling him how awesome camp is so he and his other friend, Tony, decide to walk to the camp to see for themselves. Thus begins a journey that takes them over trash piles on Spring Street, a traffic jam on Grand, over the "Commerce Street Bridge" (not sure what that is), across the expressway to meet up with Charlie's Uncle Jack who lives in the Bronx and happens to drive his vegetable truck by the camp everyday.



Though simple in theory, this is a pretty awesome quest for these two young boys to embark on, as evidenced when Uncle Jack drops the boys on a random highway near the camp... "It was a strange feeling to watch the truck disappear down the road."

Woven within is an implicit conservation theme frequently found in books with this early-era Sesame Street feel.

I Googled around for some info on the author. Ends up he passed away in 2010 but his family maintains a website in his honor with a fabulous life history that includes fighter pilot, 1960s Ogilvy Benson & Mather ad-man, Life photographer and patriarch to a family with six granddaughters. His bio references his first photographic book for children, Miguel's Mountain, about a large pile of dirt in Tompkins Square Park NYC that became a makeshift playground for all the children in the neighborhood.

A cool but quiet legacy for a dude who could take a pretty good shot.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Magic Bubble Trip

Ingrid and Dieter Schubert ~ Kane/Miller 1985

An early book by a husband and wife team who are two of the most famous children's book authors in the Netherlands, its cover haunted me for a while before I actually picked it up and read it. The fantastical realism inside, didn't disappoint.

Meet James. He lives in a tall apartment building, but loves to visit the pond in the woods behind his place. His folks are always getting on him about bringing frogs back to the apartment, and one day, sad and dejected missing his frog friends, James begins blowing bubbles and something strange happens.

One of the soap bubbles began to grow bigger and bigger and bigger. When it had grown so large that it completely surrounded James, it started to float out of the window, carrying him along in it! 


It's not until his bubble finally lands that things get freaky. He meets a mess of grass frogs that eventually take him to Mr. Odd-and-Ends, a guy that lives by an enormous junkyard in a house made of junk, grass, rabbit hutches, and other, ahem, odds and ends.



The mysterious man makes all sorts of things... like toys made out of shoes and match boxes, button snakes, but even better, a Heli-plane; one that is missing a part that James just happens to have in his pocket.

Not really sure how the story arrives at the ending, but let's just say, James' parents don't have much of a problem with frogs anymore.



Wild, weird, and wonderful.







































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Sunday, August 24, 2014

one, two, where's my shoe

one, two, where's my shoe
Tomi Ungerer ~ Harper & Row, 1964
new edition from Phaidon, out in September

I finally got around to watching the Tomi Ungerer biopic, Far Out Isn't Far Enough, and it has totally inspired me to see if I can make my Ungerer collection run a little deeper. Been seeking out titles on eBay and the like and came across this sweet little semi-wordless book that only has two lines of text, one on the first page and one on the last.

 I was delighted to see that Phaidon is reissuing it next month.




Each spread has the image of a shoe hidden creatively within it.

Brilliant but simple images and colors for the earliest Tomi readers.




If you haven't already, check out my interview with Tomi last year.



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Meet Zack Rock

To celebrate the publication of Zack Rock's first children's book, Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum, I put together a short Q&A to find out a little more about the man behind the bulldog.

After following his fledgling career for five years, this past spring I was finally lucky enough to meet Zack in person, on the night before he was moving from Seattle to Berlin. Moving not because he had a job in Germany. Not because he was chasing a girl or following a friend. He was moving just for the hell of it. And he was taking his cat.

How bad ass is that?

That night I found out that not only is Zack talented, but he's also curious, brave, totally neurotic, and kind of an all around virtuous guy. And he has a tremendous heart. But I didn't need to meet him to know that. You can tell from his drawings that he cares about the world and sees it with a sense of wonder very few of us are able to hold onto as adults.

Anywho, I won't brag anymore as I've done that plenty herehere, and here. Without further blah blah, meet the most awesome of the awesome, Zack Rock.


VKBMKL: What sort of children's books did you love as a child?

ZACK: If it featured cats, I was hooked. Nicola Bayley's Copycats series and Ursula Le Guin Catwings were favorites, and I had enough Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes annuals to dam a river. In fact, I ended up reading more comics than picture books, especially Mad Magazine. Their paperback collections from the 60s and 70s formed a large portion of my literary sustenance throughout the late 80s. The significance of the Berlin Wall falling may have eluded me, but no one in my second grade class had a larger repertoire of Spiro Agnew jokes.

VKBMKL: When did you begin to draw as a child? Any inspirations non-book or people-wise that brought you to this line of work?

ZACK: A time when I wasn't drawing is beyond my memory's reach. Even in elementary school, I kept a pad and pencil at the ready in case some muse needed a sketch of hot dog riding a skateboard STAT. My binders were filled with 17% studious notetaking, 81% drawings, and 2% Stüssy logos. So all my career aspirations as a child leaned heavily on drawing and storytelling.

VKBMKL: I love the opening line of Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum. "Everything has a story." Is that a concept that you've mulled over for a while?

ZACK: Humans are meaning-making machines, and the way we endow people, things and ideas with meaning is by fitting them into stories we tell ourselves about them. We have Grand Narratives for how the whole universe works, and less grand narratives for smaller things, but we always have narratives. They’re rather invaluable for tidying up reality. However, these stories can also be limiting. The only thing humans are better at than making stories about the world is taking those stories for granted, especially as we get older and the stories turn stony.

If we come across an object or idea that falls outside our narratives, there’s a tendency to reject it or ignore it instead of exploring it. So the book suggests looking deeper into things we take for granted (including what we tell ourselves about ourselves), and seeing if maybe that’s not the whole story. (Love this Sky Squeaker watercolor from Zack's youth!)

VKBMKL: How did you come up with the wonderful things that lines the walls of the curio shop? Any Easter eggs?

ZACK: Honestly, I stared at a blank wall and imagined REAL HARD. My main goal was to create curios that implied a story without leading the reader to one particular interpretation. Though one of the joys in creating this book was thinking up an unusual item, like a flute made from a leek, and discovering someone already created it in real life. That being said, the collections at certain museums inspired a lot of the artifacts: Pollack's Toy Museum and the Horniman and Soane museums in London; and San Francisco’s Musee Mecanique for instance. And towards the end of the book, I just began including items related to my personal interests: Søren Kierkegaard’s face in the slice of toast, the hat and apple from Magritte’s “Son of Man,” etc. I knew I had exhausted my imagination when I painted a strand of Blue Ivy descending from a giant bottle of Beyoncé’s perfume.

VBKMKL: How did you decide on a bulldog and who did you use as a model?

ZACK: I wanted my protagonist to be instantly sympathetic and unassuming. One look into an old English Bulldog’s sad sack eyes is enough to for the pity to well up in you, and if said bulldog is half blind, walking with a cane and wearing a stuffy suit, you’d likely not suspect he was anything other than an old museum custodian, a curio amongst curios. Unfortunately I didn't have a friendly bulldog on hand to sketch. Had to rely on the Google Image Search Modeling Agency.

VKBMKL: The book is part Indiana Jones part Tyger Voyage. Were you obsessed with the idea of adventure as a child?

ZACK: I was/am obsessed with the idea of elsewhere, that a road away was whole other world I couldn't even begin to fathom, with its own rituals, beliefs, traditions, stories. And beyond that place something more unfathomable, and beyond that, and that. It’s less a desire for adventure, more a hope to have my imagination bested.

VKBMKL: Reoccurring theme of the Phoenix in Homer Henry Hudson's Curio Museum. Explain?

ZACK: The Phoenix is a mythological bird that is consumed by fire and is reborn from its own ashes. As Homer Henry Hudson experiences a similar rebirth in the book, I thought the symbol was appropriate. But it wasn’t supposed to be reoccurring! I painted both scenes where the Phoenix is namedropped months apart, and totally forgot the credit card Homer uses at the restaurant had had “Phoenix” written on it just like the ship does at the end. I justify the accident to myself by saying the Phoenix Credit Card lets him earn travel miles he can redeem on a future voyage aboard the Phoenix line of cruise ships.

VKBMKL: I love how my turbaned tiger (from my banner) shows up. What's his story?

ZACK: I don’t know yet! But I’m hoping to find out some day!

VKBMKL: And the rabbit jewel prize from Masquerade!?! Yay!!!! Elaborate!

ZACK: Good eye! It’s one last shout out to a picture book legend in the book. I had Lisbeth Zwerger, Shaun Tan, and Maurice Sendak in the sushi restaurant, and Kit Williams’ prize fit in perfectly in the museum.

VKBMKL: What are you working on now?

ZACK: My next title is yet another book about the power of stories, evidently I can’t get enough of the topic. In fact, I realized last week the protagonist—an accounting pig who dreams of being an acrobat—is basically saved by a bookstore.



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Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Sun: Our Nearest Star

Franklyn M. Branley ~ Don Madden ~ Thomas Y. Crowell, 1988

Wanted to drop in today to talk about Don Madden. Whenever I stumble across one of his books in this house, it's almost as if I have never seen it before. Each one is so vibrant and alive with color, each read is like seeing it for the first time. His books never fail to excite me, and more and more I am thinking he might be one of my fave 70s/80s illustrators. I can't find much on him except this from here. "Born October 24, 1927 in Cleveland, Ohio and educated at The Philadelphia Museum School, now the Philadelphia College of Art, Madden illustrated magazines, advertising, cartoons as well as children’s books."



And scans of his work for Playboy pop up here and there, but sadly keep getting blocked by my childproof fire wall... click here and hopefully you won't be so unlucky.

This site touts a OMG-how-awesome-would-this-be-if-it-is-still-moving-forward movie version of The Wartville Wizard (Don's most famous book) which, according to them, was the first children's book printing entirely in full color when it was released in 1986.



He's definitely a guy I'd like to track down and interview if he's still with us, but until that day, I'll share this little ditty from the gotta-love-um This Is a Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science Book series.



At night you can see a lot of stars because the sky is dark. You can also see a star in daytime, when the sky is bright. It is the sun. The sun is our daytime star. It is also the star nearest to us.



Yes. The star nearest to us, even though it is 93,000,000 miles away. Yet is it so hot and bright that it is the thing that makes life on earth possible. Sun helps plants and animals grow, and so on and so forth. The point of this book isn't really the few facts it is teaching a kid about our solar friend, but the fabulous illustrations that bring those facts to life.



I have a very secret dream of having a house wallpapered in giant-sized Don Madden illustrations, but until then, I have his books full of technicolor beauty to remind me every now and again of the amazing awesomeness of pen and ink.



Also by:
Is There Life in Outer Space?
The Daddy Book
Oxygen Keeps You Alive
The Wartville Wizard

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