Sunday, 21 December 2008

Picture Book Monday Special : Christmas (Part II)

As promised, here's the second part of my special picture book post.

The first I'm going to recommend is called The Princess' Blankets, by Carol Ann Duffy and Catherine Hyde.
This is one of those jewel books that immediately stand out for me. You can tell from the beginning that it's going to be something different. Something special.
The story is like a traditional fairytale, but it reinterprets the genre in such a beautiful and poetic and daring and sensual way, that it's hard to call it any other way than a work of art. Carol Ann Duffy is a poetess as well a writer. You can tell. It's one of the few times that I love the text as much as the illustrations. But I can't talk of illustrations here, really. They are actually paintings. Mostly abstract representations of feelings and atmospheres. As the artist explains "I wanted the mood to change like the seasons as the story progressed, so the paintings run from hot and bright to moody and harsh and finally to warm and sensual."

One could say this is not for children, but why deprive them of such a beautiful thing? I know I would have loved it as a child. It's so mysterious and fascinating.
It's the story of a princess who is always cold, and nothing ever seems to warm her up. One day a magician arrives at the castle claiming to be able to cure her. If he is successful he will claim the princess as his wife. But his eyes are hard as polished stones and the princess doesn't want to go with him. The stranger tries to warm her up with blankets made out of the ocean, then out of the forest, of the mountain and of the earth. But the princess is not cured, and the land is left with no ocean or forests or mountains...Until a musician with a kind and good heart arrived in the kingdom...

"The musician heard the Princess sigh in his ear and thought he would die with love, but he took her face in his hands and kissed her eyelids. Two warm tears trickled down the Princess' face, and the forests' blanket slipped from the bed. The musician and the Princess looked into each other's eyes and they saw their souls there, and when the musician kissed her on the lips the Princess's heart warmed her whole body with love"

One of the best children's books I have seen so far.
You can see plenty of Catherine Hyde's artworks here and here.

Next is something on a completely different note. This is undoubtley for children. Especially those who can't stop asking questions about everything and anything around them.
Why is the sky blue? by Geraldine Taylor and Amy Schimler answers a lot of questions about nature in a fun and interactive way,which I find irrestistible.
What I love most about it is the texture. It's thick paper which looks like is drenched with colour. The pastels are vivid and eye-catching, while the interactive side of it allows the children to pull tabs, lift flaps, turn wheels and open fold outs to discover the answers to the questions. It's a lot of fun!
It hasn't had the publicity it deserves, maybe because it's published within the Ladybird series, but this is definitely something you want to keep in mind for your curious children!

more sneak peeks at the book (clink to enlarge):

The illustrator has a very colourful blog, check it out:)

And now I want to talk to you about Niamh Sharkey and more specifically about her new book, Cinderella, retold by Max Eilenberg.
I've wanted to feature Niamh Sharkey for a long time but it never actually happened so there we are. The first time I noticed her was thanks to her "Gigantic Turnip". Her illustrations reminded me of some books I had as a child, no idea what, but I instantly loved them. Then I saw her "Jack and the beanstalk" and the love grew. I actually think that's her best work. I must get a copy soon.
So this year Niamh Sharkey has illustrated another classic fairytale, this time a very girly one. The epitome of girliness. Not my favourite story because it's all about a passive heroine who does nothing expect show up at a ball and fit into a shoe. And how come the prince didn't recognize her before if he was so in love with her. But anyhow, let's not go there. Once again is the illustrator I want to praise. She's done a wonderful job creating a supercute Cinderella, with supercute mice and funny looking step-sisters. Although my favourite parts are the odd-looking girls in line to try the shoe. So funny!
The colours are wonderful, as well as all the different dresses that Cinderella wears at the balls. Yes, because in this version, Cinderella goes to three different balls, in three nights, which kind of makes the love for the prince a bit more realistic.
So if you're looking for a classic fairytale, with delightful illustrations and a little bit of reinvention, go for it!

To look at Niamh's artwork go to the Barefoot's website here or visit her blog.
I've had the pleasure to meet Niamh while she was signing her books in our shop and also at P.J. Lynch's exhibition, and she was so lovely to me! She even knew about my blog :D I think she has earned an eternal fan:)

And the last for this year is Her Mother's Face by Roddy Doyle and Freya Blackwood.
This is Roddy Doyle's first picture book. It's a nice story about a girl, Siobhan, who can't remember her mother's face because she died when she was only 3. Then one day she meets a beautiful woman in the park who tells her to look in the mirror and she will know. Although the basic storyline is simple, the story is enriched with details about Siobhan's life and memories about her mother. She can remember her voice, her hands, and some words like
"Cat and spuds for dinner, Siobhan, how does that sound?"
"Yeuk, cat? or yeuk, spuds?"
"Yeuk cat."
"Okay. We'll have chicken instead".

And I haven't even started telling you about the illustrations. They feel like comfort food. Warm and welcoming, and calming. Reassuring, even. I am a watercolour lover, so it's not by chance that I'm attracted to this book! I've tried to look for images on the internet by this artist but I only found this..

That's it!!! I hope you enjoyed my choices. I've loved reviewing picture books, and I'm looking forward to discover more gems in the new Year! Merry Christmas to all of you :=)


The Ginger Darlings said...

I love the Princesses Blankets. I have a passion for picture books for all ages and have bought this one in the slip case version, for two lucky people for Christmas.
Catherine Hyde's work is like painted poetry.

Nymeth said...

You made me want to get The Princess' Blankets right now!

mariel said...

Lovely! I enjoy Carol Ann Duffy's poetry so this is a perfect combination.

valentina said...

We share the same passion, Jackie, I'd love to see the slipcase version., we never got it in the shop!

Nymeth, you should at least look at it somehow, it's gorgeous!!

Mariel, I want to read her poetry too now!