I still have my childhood copy of Christmas in the Country. It was garish when it was new. Now it is foxed and stained, but I read it every year. Maybe it's why I've always loved to imagine animals observing Christmas in the barn. For grown-ups, here is Thomas Hardy's lovely, wistful version of the idea:
Picturing a World
Blog tip: In 1843 (the year Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol), a civil servant named Henry Cole commissioned a card to be designed so that he could send greetings to friends and family. The rest is printing and commercial history. Read more at the History Blog's post, World's first Christmas card goes on display at Dickens Museum.
The Krampus—a half-humorous counterpart to Saint Nicholas, who snatches bad children at Christmas—came to my attention via artist Kathleen Jennings' post on Krampus Krackers from the Tiny Owl Workshop. In 2014, the workshop produced a limited run of hand-made, letterpressed crackers for sale at chosen bookshops and cafés in Australia. Each contained an illustration and a grumpy flash fiction. Imagine a short story about clever, disgruntled twelve-year-olds who hear about them and decide to make their own to hand out to friends and family! It could be an antidote to icky sentimentality and over-commercialism at Christmas.
Blog tip: Just look! Another of Jackie Morris's Christmas fantasia designs, this one in supprt of the International Board for Books for Young People. Ladies who love to read, sigh with pleasure (and click on the image for an enlargement at her website).
Mysterious, lovely pictures originally created as Christmas cards to support a musicians' charity, then published in book form with stories to go with them? An invitation to readers to explore further by making up their own tales? —How could I resist?!? I bought a copy and plan to savor it slowly.
For a quick look to stimulate your imagination, spend a minute with the publisher's trailer. And don't miss Jackie Morris's own blog post about making The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow. It shows an early sketch of the title picture and reminds all creative people how daily life and doubts accompany achievement.
For Veterans Day: Ever since I was a child and loved Eleanor Farjeon's Little Bookroom, Edward Ardizzone has been one of my favorite illustrators of children's books. And now Art and Artists has shown me a whole new dimension in his work. This watercolor from the Second World War is nothing like any other war pictures I've ever seen, and it's just one of many by Ardizzone. Check out this post on Ardizzone at Art and Artists. (It's the fifth of fifteen installments! Believe me, I'll be exploring them one by one.)
Although the contrast is supposedly between trains of 1837 and 1897, I love the way the speed of "Now" is transferred to the cartoonishly running passengers. Somehow it works visually to suggest surging energy from the oncoming (stationary) engine. And note the two classes of cars in Then, the Pullman car in the background of Now. The whole page might supply an older character's memory. Each vignette might yield a story or a plot point. Small details can add just the needed authentic touch. What would you do with it?
Blog post tip: As a follow-up to my previous post on Myrioramas, see the Princeton University Library's post Polyorama or Endless Changes of Landscapes. Different name, same idea, more examples.
In Philip Pullman's new novel, The Secret Commonwealth, while on board a train, our heroine Lyra Silvertonguewatches an old man use a pack of pictorial cards to tell a story to a little boy. After a while, he tells the child to draw a card from the pack. "As before, the picture seamlessly continued the landscape of the previous one, and Lyra saw that the whole pack must be like that, and it must be possible to put them together in an uncountable number of ways" (p. 534). What a wonderful device! I thought when I read the passage. Had Pullman made it up? No: he names that kind of card pack on the next page: MYRIORAMA. Read More
A propos of nothing—it's just that it tickled my fancy—I'm posting this image from an 1897 children's book. In a series of unrelated full-page illustrations, the book purports to depict England as it was when Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 and as it was sixty years later. Interesting to see which inventions added up to the latest word in modernity in 1897 (also to see what books grown-ups bought for children). Via the superb blog, Art and Artists.