Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thirteen

Thirteen
Remy Charlip ~ Jerry Joyner ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1975


Recently, I've come across two books by the illustrator Jerry Joyner and am totally intrigued. His art is vaguely recognizable from a handful of books I remember from childhood, but it's in this book that the fire of curiosity was sparked. It's hard to do any sort of real investigating sometimes on the Internet. It "seems" that "perhaps" Mr. Joyner is still alive and well and (maybe) working as a graphic designer and (I think, sometimes) does album cover design. But don't quote me on that. The first book I found of his was How Far Will a Rubber Band Stretch (which I will review tomorrow), but today let's focus on this unique but totally awesome collaboration he did with the ever-amazing Remy Charlip.

I'll start by quoting the back cover of the book.

Remy Charlip & Jerry Joyner shared the writing & painting of this unique book in unusual ways & in many different places. In New York, Mr. Charlip described his concept of Thirteen to Mr. Joyner & showed him some of the original stories he had already begun. Of these, The Sinking Ship and The Getting Thin & Getting Fat Again Dance were included in the final book. They decided to collaborate, and in the years & travels that followed, they met & corresponded & worked separately & together discovering & developing the individual stories & overall form of the book. In Paris, nine years their first meeting, they sat opposite each other to put it all together, choosing, sketching, adding, cutting, fitting, painting & writing. Twelve of the sequences were decided upon. In Greece, during three subsequent months, they did the final paintings. The thirteenth sequence evolved by improvisation. Mr. Charlip and Mr. Joyner each painted an image on a separate piece of paper. Then trading papers, they painted a visual response to each other's images. Working alternately they passed the paper back and forth. The final result was the Paper Magic sequence.

Quite a lead-in, no? I would love to sit down and talk to one of these guys about all that went into creating this book, as seriously, you can look at it a hundred times and still discover stuff you've never seen. Each page features not only a new vignette of each of the thirteen episodes, but it also includes a "preview of coming attractions" which is basically a smaller reprint of exactly what's on the next page. Groovy, no? Take the The Sinking Ship sequence. On the first page, we see a ship floating on the top of the water in a tall bottle. With each page, it sinks lower and lower until, at last...
This is a very old ship.
In fact it's so old it can hardly float anymore.
In fact it's sinking.
But it doesn't mind.
It's been everywhere.
Seen everything.
Been in many battles too!
Too many.
That's why it's sinking.
And although it has been around the world.
It's going down happy.
You know why?
It has never been to the bottom of the sea before.


Ingeniously put together, it's a lovely combination of eloquent design and childhood fun, and the fact that it's in my son's life now fills me with joy. Each story is full of hope, which is exactly the sentiment I try and infuse into my son heart in all things. I've always loved Remy. (Did you know he was the model for illustrations of Georges Méliès in The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick? Cool, huh?) With books like Fortunately and The Dead Bird, it's easy to see why he's become somewhat of a cult hero in the world of children's literature. Now, I'm adding Jerry's name to my personal list of people who are awesome.

This book is all kinds of excellent. 13 thumbs up.

Also by:
What good luck! What bad luck!
Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send For the Doctor Quick Quick Quick
The Dead Dird
Arm in Arm

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3 comments:

Kimberly said...

Wow, this looks great! I went straight to the internet to find a copy for ourselves. How sad that it's out-of-print and used copies are so expensive.

Laura Ottina said...

Thanks for the awesome discovery!

Joelle said...

I run in to Jerry at dinner in my neighborhood about once a week. Alive and well. :-)
Here is a great photo shoot of him:
http://marktucker.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/jerry-joyner/

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