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Picturing a World

Alice and Martin Provensen

Cover, The Art of Alice and Martin Provensen (2021)

Alice and Martin Provensen were a devoted and charming married couple who were also both first-rate illustrators. They worked in tandem, mostly on children's books; and theirs was a true partnership of artistic equals. They never divulged which of them did what on their joint projects. After Marin died, Alice continued to produce imaginative books. The Art of Alice and Martin Provensen is the first monograph on the pair. It's a delight, with essays, photographs like a scrapbook of theirs and their daughter's lives, and generous high-quality reproductions from their many, many books. To flip through it, click here.

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Narnia and a darker wood

Website alerts: Oh, my! Two things I love already, Narnia and book sculptures. And now, voilà: Instructions for making your own sculpture of Lucy's first visit to the lamppost, complete with PDF's of some of the elements. I'm not a crafter, but, I might just make up a story about someone who is.
 
For those who want to take such things to a professional level, moreover, Su Blackwell has a new book out, Into the Dark Woods, which comes with an booklet of instructions for making the sort of talismans she included to illustrate her retold fairy tales. Well worth mooning over.

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Food and fiction

Blog post alert: Food history and children's fiction are two of my hobbies, so I was delighted to stumble across an old post, Biscuits (Cookies) w/ Sugar Flowers | The Little White Horse, at Fiction-Food.com. As it happened, when I found this site, I had just reread A Wrinkle in Time and so was amused to see that the blogger's archive included a post on Sandwiches & Hot Chocolate. And her recipe for a Sugar-Topped Cake looks just right for Mr. Tumnus' tea in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. A good diversion when I was supposed to be doing something else.

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Mole Family's Christmas

Russell Hoban is one of my favorite authors, with his offbeat imagination and mastery of style. He's best known for the dazzling, post-apocalyptic Riddley Walker. (My favorite may be the quieter Turtle Diary.) Anyway, sometime this year, I bought a used copy of The Mole Family's Christmas, put it aside unread, and forgot about it—then, luckily, found it again in time to read it last night as a Christmas Eve bedtime story.

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Treacle Walker

The news that at eighty-seven Alan Garner has just published another novel—Treacle Walker—is reason enough to celebrate. No surprise: it's superb. As always, Garner's prose has the compactness, rhythms, and multilayered power of poetry. His imagination is vivid and odd. And it's all rooted in the part of Cheshire where he grew up and has lived almost all his life. Another reason to celebrate: he has made a gorgeous promotional video that shows the house in which the story is set, a copse that plays a part in it, and three talismanic objects.

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Ardizzone’s Peter Pan

Blog post alert: When I ran across a reference to Edward Ardizzone's illustrations for J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan: the Story of the Play presented by Eleanor Graham, I was tickled. Ardizonne's illustrations for Eleanor Farjeon's Little Bookroom have been deep in my heart for a lifetime. I ordered a used copy of Pan. It arrived. Ardizonne's light-of-touch pictures were as pleasing as I had hoped. And they set me thinking: Who else besides Arthur Rackham had done interesting pictures for Peter Pan? No one came to mind, so I thought a blog post musing on which stories attract multiple illustrators and which ones don't might be interesting.
 
Ha! So it might—but not with Peter Pan at the forlorn center! See why at On J. M. Barrie and Peter Pan.

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Helen Stratton's Tempest

I honestly don't remember why I set this image aside for a blog post. True, a 1905 retelling of a Shakespearean story fits into the time frame for Mattie in my work-in-progress to have seen it, and Helen Stratton is one of those forgotten female artists it's fun to rediscover. What strikes me today, though, is the figure of Caliban. When you've just read Kindred, he would!

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Miereke Nelissen’s Oz

Just as appealing as Miereke Nelissen's animals are her illustrations for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—or more precisely for De tovenaar van Oz. Lisabeth Zwerger's version may have influenced Nelissen. Certainly Zwerger made clear that a modern sensibility can work wonders divorced from more traditional variations on W. W. Denslow's first-edition illustrations (see, for example, those of Scott Gustafson and Michael Hague and 25 more).

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Marieke Nelissen’s badger

Badgers are my totem, with Mr. Badger in The Wind in the Willows a sentimental favorite, so it was a great delight to discover one among the work of a children's illustrator new to me, Marieke Nelissen. Several of her pictures appear in Terri Windling's post, How to Begin!— for writers, a two-fer!

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Dancing Bear

My bedtime reading this week is Peter Dickinson's lively YA historical novel, The Dancing Bear. I first read it as a library book and then was lucky enough to come across a secondhand copy with its dust jacket by David Smee intact. I read it every few years, and this time around it seems as good as ever.
 
For the first time, though, I got to wondering about David Smee. I can't find much about him on the internet, although a Summary Bibliography of his works has images of many dust jackets and interior illustrations, including the jackets he created for Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books. I can see how those covers would seem definitive to the readers who were introduced to Earthsea by them.

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