• Posted on March 26, 2011

Under African Skies

Funny. I live in one of the most northern cities in the world. As I write this, the landscape is bleached of colour, the snow is piled higher than in recent memory, and in spite of the arrival of spring a few days ago, the temperature refuses to inch above zero.

And yet, one of the finest African picture books, from one of the finest African storytellers originates from this winter city. Flipping through the pages of The Orphan Boy, a book that has been in my possession for almost twenty years, I am once again beguiled by the poetry of  Tololwa Mollel’s words as he recounts the Maasai legend of the planet Venus. It is enough to warm my blood, but in unison with Paul Morin’s wondrous paintings of Africa, I feel spirited out of my down-filled parka to the arid farmlands of Tanzania, gazing up at the star-filled night in the company of an old man who is destined to meet a very unusual boy.

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  • Posted on March 24, 2011

Picks & Tweets from the Illustrated Word

Da Man (otherwise known as Chris Van Allsburg)

Hmm…nothing much has changed since my last Picks & Tweets post two weeks ago. It’s still winter here in the great white north, with no discernable signs of spring, other than the few unfortunate Canada Geese I’ve spotted dipping their feathery nether regions into the frozen North Saskatchewan River. However, in spite of winter’s frigid hold on this city, I refuse to use this blog to whine! It’s immature, unsavoury, exceptionally futile, and more to the point, it’s what my other blog is for…

So, without further delay, here are a few signs of hope, rebirth, and whatever else spring supposedly promises~

From School Library Journal, via the Andersen Press (UK), Chris Van Allsburg (Polar Express) talks about his new book QUEEN OF THE FALLS. More CVA, as well as a little Patrick McDonnell (and Jane Goodall), courtesy of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Carl Hiaasen on Florida, crime, and writing children’s books. I love this guy so much I’d read his comments on bicycle repair, wound management, and dryer lint, if I had to, but I’m glad it’s mostly book-related stuff.

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  • Posted on March 16, 2011

In The Company of Wolves

If I wasn’t already in love with this series of picture books by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Olivier Tallec, I would have picked up Big Wolf & Little Wolf, Such a Beautiful Orange, the third and final book in the trilogy, for the title. Or the promise of the title. What could be more tantalizing than a perfect piece of fruit? If not for the title, I would have added the book to my collection based solely on the cover. That wolf is killer, and I don’t mean this in a predatory sort of way. The long and amply-snouted Big Wolf is a wonderfully inspired creature, unlike anything else in contemporary picture book illustration. All of this is, of course, immaterial; there is no reason to single out one attribute from another. Big Wolf & Little Wolf, Such a Beautiful Orange is perfection from beginning to end, and I am so very glad to have been in the company of wolves, these wolves, over three extraordinary books.

But just how beautiful is this orange? Plenty beautiful, as you’ll see…

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  • Posted on March 09, 2011

My Plant, My Pet

I have a fern that is about 15 years old. Maybe 20. It’s not particularly attractive, at least in comparison to my other plants, and because it is rarely moved, the plant is lopsided; lush on one side (the public side) and bald on the other. I’ve named it Sideshow Bob because it sprouts dreads like Krusty’s infamous sidekick on the Simpson’s, but unlike the cartoon character, my Sideshow Bob possesses few, if any, homicidal inclinations. I should have turfed this plant a long time ago, but I have grown rather fond of ol’ Bob. My point? Anything can engender love — including plants, and books about plants.

From the moment I first laid eyes on the dirt-trailing, long-snouted stump of green foliage walking across the cover of Plantpet, I was in love. Like Bertie, the solitary, never-out-of-his-slippers human with the Don King hair in Elise Primavera’s story of unexpected friendship, I could not resist the charm of this tiny sprout, abandoned in a cage amongst Bertie’s junk. But is it a plant, or a pet? And is there a name (or treatment) for this type of love?

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  • Posted on March 01, 2011

Picks & Tweets from the Illustrated Word


Month seven of the winter of 2010/11, and the third month of a raging case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’m experiencing all the usual symptoms: shivering thumbs, poker face, chapped brain, random acts of obesity, Criminal Minds marathon-induced paranoia, and of course, mange.

Normally I feel rather jolly about winter, but here in the frozen north it’s been exceptionally snowy and monumentally cold. I’m exhausted. Still, it’s not all about weather reports and opening veins. Here are a few moments of hope and warmth from the interwebs~

And the Oscar goes to...

A great big CONGRATULATIONS to illustrator Shaun Tan, who picked up an Oscar for his short animated film, The Lost Thing on Sunday night. Other than seeing Colin Firth’s face on a 55 inch TV screen, this was the highlight of the evening. The film is absolutely charming, and the stupidly gifted Tan is well-deserving of this honour. Rather conveniently, The Lost Thing is also downloadable from iTunes. For additional Tanian diversions, may I suggest these two posts: The Rabbits and Tales From Outer Suburbia.

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