• Posted on February 24, 2011

Good Snark Hunting


I’ve hesitated to write about The Hunting of the Snark because I don’t understand it, and I am not alone in my befuddlement. There are entire societies devoted to the deciphering of literary puns and allusions in this complex masterwork by the writer of the equally complex but perhaps more accessible Alice in Wonderland. However, an incomplete grasp of the text is not an impediment to the enjoyment of this bit of nonsense. Even a small child can take pleasure in the sheer inventiveness of the wordplay, the first circle of Carrollian delight. Entry to the other circles of understanding is optional, and by optional I mean, I could go back to university and get an advanced degree in 19th century history, literary symbolism, and English banking practices, but I’m busy. And some very good and clever people have already gone to extraordinary lengths to unfuddle the Snark, giving the rest of us a free pass to the poetry behind the poem.

Next stop, Camel

Never let it be said that I’m not up for the occasional literary challenge, especially where snark (of the more pedestrian variety) is concerned, displayed, or encouraged, but the real reason I picked up The Hunting of the Snark is for the gorgeous illustrations by Mahendra Singh~artist and Snark Hunter of the highest order. But beware: drawing attention to the loveliness of Singh’s illustrations is in no way to suggest they are lacking in a complexity equal to Carroll’s text. On the contrary, there is an agony of literary and artistic referencing in every illustration housed within the eight ‘fits’ of The Hunting of the Snark.

But, for now, just enjoy the ride. It’s a long, strange, and wonderfully rewarding trip

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  • Posted on February 12, 2011

Hug it Out, Earth

In spite of the title and the giant heart on the cover, Hug Time is not a conventional Valentine’s Day book, unless your object of affection is a blue whale, or a baobab tree. However, considering my other VD recommendations (at the end of this post) involve fruit and frogs, Hug Time is entirely within the scope of the 32 Pages Valentine’s oeuvre.

Hug Time is actually an environmental book, starring Patrick McDonnell’s favourite little environmentalist, animal advocate, and resident tiger lover, Jules, also known as Shtinky Puddin’ in the comic strip Mutts, from which this character originates. Jules decides that our ailing world is in need of hug, and sets out to remedy the situation. I can think of a few more things the world needs (more cowbell, for instance), but a hug is always a good place to start. Ever resourceful, Jules packs only what is necessary for such a journey, his favourite green sweater and a hug to-do list. If only my cat traveled so lightly.

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  • Posted on February 08, 2011

The Sensual World

Every so often I read a book that makes me suck wind, as my former colleague in the bookstore used to say.

Suck wind~v. 1. to draw breath through one’s mouth. 2. To elicit a gasp. 3. To be surprised, as in the sudden appearance of Jesus Christ at Buffet World (extremely unlikely, and entirely inappropriate in this context.) 4. To experience a euphoric reaction to a beautiful thing.

Big Wolf & Little Wolf: The Little Leaf that Wouldn’t Fall is such a book. As I turned the pages of BWLW for the first time, I was struck by the exquisite charm and quirkiness of the illustrations by Olivier Tallec. And the writing…well, I wasn’t expecting it to be so poetic, and the ending so lovely. It is a vent sucer à deux, a double wind-sucker. When I finished it, I wanted to share it with someone, anyone, immediately, after I caught my breath of course. My cat, however, was uninterested.

Sometimes I feel like a preacher, fired up by the Good Word (or the Good Illustration), my arms raised in a beatificating pose, testifying to the masses, and one mightily bored feline. Big Wolf & Little Wolf: The Little Leaf that Wouldn’t Fall is a great book. A perfect book. And your souls will be damned if you don’t pick it up.


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  • Posted on February 04, 2011

A Happy Anniversary

“I am writing this blog for people who collect and admire children’s picture books, not because they are the necessary accoutrements of successful child-rearing (which they are), but because we know, the most beautiful, virtuoso art being produced these days is for the picture book.” February 4th, 2010

It’s now been one full year since I posted my first review on this blog. Hard to believe, really. I still have very vivid memories of my friend trying to convince me that this would be a good idea. At the time, it did not make sense to me, especially in light of the fact that my own illustration ‘career’ was languishing, and I had other writing projects that needed my attention. Also, having been away from the ‘book biz’ for about five years, I wasn’t sure I had anything relevant to say.

Now, a year later, I feel as if this blog has been a huge gift. The books on my shelves, loved but dormant, have new lives on this blog, and I have returned to my role as an advocate, a role that I’ve missed and one that has always felt like a privilege. Twinned with the Illustrated Word, my Twitter feed, this passion for beautiful picture books has been fully reawakened (and my bank account drained). I still need to work on my own books, but you know, there’s always retirement.

Without this forum, I’m not sure I would have encountered great artists like Poly Bernatene, Janice Nadeau, Peter Brown, Catherine RaynerMariji & Ronald Tolman, Emily GravettIsol, Jon Muth, Komako SakaiSebastian Meschenmoser, and Beatrice Rodriguez (and her lovely chicken), or indeed, all the new and not-so-new publications from long-time favourites. I strongly believe that books find us, not the other way around, and this blog has been a conduit for all the books trying to find me. In that respect, it’s been a selfish journey, but I hope that amidst all this ‘self-pleasuring’, I’ve been able to help these wonderful books find other forever homes. I’ve certainly been introduced to an online community of folks just like me who love great illustration. This has been one of the unexpected and most enjoyable aspects of jumping head first into the blogosphere.

Thanks to all the readers, fellow bloggers, and especially to all the writers and illustrators of all the amazing and inspiring children’s picture books that have crossed my path, or will cross my path. I couldn’t be more grateful, or humbled. Or jealous. And to Kevin, my friend, who is the sole reason that this blog exists at all, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this gift.