Over the years I've enjoyed collecting images to illustrate terms and allusions in Greer Gilman's Moonwise. For this year's reading, it was "Who'll dig his grave? I said, the owl," which comes from The Death and Burial of Cock Robin. What specially tickled me was discovering the Cock Robin Card Game published by Mcloughlin Brothers in the latter part of the 19th C. In brief, players first have to correctly identify the verse that goes with a picture or vice versa. Then when all the cards have been identified, the rules turn it into a sociable party game of forfeits. Right there historical fiction writers have a use for the tidbit.
Picturing a World
I came across Polly Redford's Christmas Bower last year in The Illustrated Dust Jacket. The Gorey jacket illustration alone would make it a treasure. In addition, three other reasons made it seem written just for me: My father worked for Rich's department store in Atlanta, where Christmas was a big deal. My brother is an avid birder. And, of course, I'm a fan of children's literature.
Our library system had a copy. I read it. I wanted it. I located a copy of my own to buy. Now I'll kick off December by rereading it. Recommendation: see if you can find a copy!
Artist Karrie Fransman and her husband, IT guy Jonathan Plackett, collaborated on Gender Swapped Fairy Tales. He devised an algorithm to swap the genders of characters in fairy tales. She illustrated the results. To learn how two creative people work together, check out the video at the link above. It's charming and just might stimulate your own work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!