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Picturing a World

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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Hats and illustrations

Website alert: I happen to be rereading Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones at bedtime. Its heroine, Sophie Hatter, works in her stepmother's millinery shop. Okay, so today something prompted me to check to see whether Jim Kay is working on illustrations for another Harry Potter book. He is, The Order of the Phoenix, as I discovered at the website he shares with his wife Louise Clark. Who, yes! is a hatter. Go take a look her Millinery page if you love hats; they're all as delicious as this one (which is perfect for a Sophie Hatter creation). And if you are curious about Diana Wynne Jones, a Tor essay on where to start reading her books is a good overview.

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Mr. Badger

Blog post alert: I'm a sucker for scale models, stuffed animals, and children's books. Imagine my delight in finding I Made Needle Felted Badger from "The Wind in the Willows." Perfect coziness, and perhaps inspiration for a hand craft or a story. A soothing way to end a week of impeachment, COVID-19, and winter weather, for sure!

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Diaries of Sarah Gooll Putnam

Yesterday, I attended an absorbing webinar on Boston artist Sarah Gooll Putnam. Every aspect of the topic interested me (see below), and I hope it will be posted to YouTube as planned. For this blog, it introduces one more excellent, little-known woman artist. Putnam was a successful portraitist in Boston elite circles, painting in a style reminiscent of John Singer Sargent and Cecilia Beaux.

 

An even bigger Wow! for the historical novelist are her voluminous diaries now digitized at the Massachusetts Historical Society. In them, she recorded daily events, illustrated her entries with drawings, and supplemented them with clippings and other memorabilia. If you have a hankering to undertake a story set in Boston in the latter quarter of the 19th C or early 20th, don't miss these.

 

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