I'm Emily Reynolds.
I'm Emily Reynolds.
1) Remy and Lulu, written by Kevin Hawkes,
and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes and
Hannah E. Harrison
First off, you may want to pick up two copies of this book, as each spread could be cut out and framed as a masterpiece of light and color. So keep one copy for reading, and one for dissecting and hanging on your wall. (But of course, I've never committed such blasphemy to a children's picture book before--who would do such a thing to The Seven Silly Eaters, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, or Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse? Never me...ahem...*throat-clearing...*)
But really, my heart just sings at the harmonious play between sunshine and shadow in these illustrations. The haziness that Kevin Hawkes achieves in depicting the soft hues of depth of field in the French countryside is absolute eye candy. Just lovely. And we haven't even gotten to the story yet!
For a synopsis of the book by the publisher, click on the following link:
A fresh tale about one being loyal and true to the art that you create--without comparing oneself to others, or letting self-doubt creep in.
Maybe I love this book so much because it hits home. In my own personal art career, three different galleries politely declined my work over the last few months. Ouch! I felt the keen rejection after being snubbed. They wanted an edgy modern Jackson Pollock. Whom I am not. Until on the fourth go, this past Monday, a gallery owner said, "Yes! I love this! We'll put you in our holiday show!" Upon hearing these words, I started to weep, and had to turn away to catch my breath and wipe my eyes before this kind gallery director she could see me getting emotional.
And the words of my college professors came back to me for the billionth time: "You just have to find the right person who loves your art. For every one hundred mailers of your work that you send out, you'll only get about one or two contracts. Don't give up. Keep working, keep showing your stuff."
Anyone who's ever undergone a creative endeavor then, will appreciate Remy and Lulu's delightful story of exuberance in capturing a subject's essence, trying to please an audience, dipping into creative stupor, and the redemption that comes after finally sticking with it through the downs to make it to the ups while trying to create something original and meaningful to share.
As Steve Pressfield says, "There’s an axiom among artists and entrepreneurs: to succeed, you have to be arrogant or ignorant or both. What that means is you have to blow off every response that says it’ll-never-work. Be arrogant. The nay-sayers are idiots. Or ignorant. Stay stupid and plunge ahead."
So, for a clear vision of inspiration to plunge ahead and "capture a person's essence," check out a copy of Remy and Lulu, and go create, as Remy does, "from the heart."
2) Katie Meets the Impressionists, written and illustrated by James Mayhew
If spending an afternoon in a world-class art museum is your idea of heaven, then this book is for you. But if just the idea of spending an afternoon in a famous art museum makes your better half's flat-arched feet start to ache and throb, then you're both still in luck--this book is still also for you.
Because you don't have to walk three hours to exhaustion in a hushed setting to share the classics of London, Paris, or D.C. with little children or a wiped-out spouse anymore. Just open up a book from the Katie series, pull out the snacks (that you can't munch down in a no-food-policy museum), let the kids comment all they want in voz alto, and travel the world over with unhindered an Katie for some frolicking adventures through art history!
While reading our library's copy of Katie Meets the Impressionists in bed tonight to my youngest, she asked if we "could get these books?" I think we could arrange that--making one Christmas gift decision a whole lot easier.
WARNING: Katie is a bit of a stinker in Katie's Picture Show, the first book in the series. She does the unthinkable and reaches out to touch a John Constable painting (and who wouldn't want to, right?), and then falls into it, rather Alice-in-the-looking-glass style. So you may want to discuss how a wild alarm will go off on your next visit to The Musee D'orsay if your child decides to mimic Katie by climbing into a van Gogh painting. I never knew an angel child who didn't have a mischievous streak!
P.S. Check out all of James Mayhew's Katie series on Goodreads at:
3) The Museum, written by Susan Verde, and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
This book makes this art lover smile. Peter Reynolds's illustrations, in general, evoke the uncomplicated emotions of childhood in a simple, true style. Fun.
Read the full review on Goodreads:
4) The Journey, written by Sarah Stewart, and illustrated by David Small
Just one of the many golden winners by this husband and wife team of Stewart and Small! If you're a fan of their book, The Gardener, I hope you won't be disappointed to find that I won't refrain from reviewing that book later on in the year--even if everyone already knows it; I just never tire of reading it! And The Journey has that same poignant, salt-of-the-earth sensibility.
This story tells of one child's longing to see the world outside of the gentle Amish bubble she knows and loves. As her family gives her the gift of traveling to the big city of Chicago to discover the outside world, we see her gape at the new, and make tender connections with the elements she holds so dear back home.
For a concisely nice synopsis of the book, check out this site for David Small:
And to read a delightful interview about the writing and illustrating dynamic/life between Sarah Stewart and David Small, you can tumble down this rabbit hole (don't forget to come baaaaaaaack!):
5) Drawn Together, written by Minh Le, and illustrated by Dan Santat
Might as well just say it right up front. Dan Santat's a genius. And after this story, now we all know that Minh Le isn't too shabby of a writing conjuror either.
As my eldest kids grow closer to young adulthood, and begin to think I am more and more old-fashioned (After I made some fuddy-duddy comment this afternoon, one of them said, "That makes you sound so old!"). "Whew! Aren't I glad!" I certainly don't want to go the other direction!), this book becomes more meaningful to me.
The divide between generations sometimes feels like a chasm, but this relatable book reminds us that a simple connection of common interests between generations can cinch that void together--if only for a few moments here and there, to forge bonds of love and understanding that last forever.
The Goodreads review can't be beat: "When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words."
So, if you haven't seen this book yet, and know a grandparent or grandchild who would love to be closer to their gapped generation counterpart, this gem might spark a few ideas. Don't you think? I know what we'll find under the Christmas tree this year at the Reynolds's house...Dan Santat and Minh Le, crouching there, with big shiny bows on top of their heads! Or...at least one or two of their works.
And finally...our chapter book:
6) Under the Egg, written by
Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Reading aloud to six kids makes a mom pretty discriminating when it comes to chapter books. But there are only so many times a gal can read the Little House on the Prairie series when the teenagers are wanting a little more excitement. A book has to be interesting enough to capture all ages, but wholesome enough to not mention profanities for the little ears listening most intently.
My bookworm buddy, Melanie, (who I swear will someday be a Recorded Books narrator on Audible), recommended this title to us after loving it with her kids. We were not expecting though what a thoroughly engaging, intriguing, and funny jaunt this book would be. It reminds me of a mixture of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (but--I hate to say for Mrs. Konigsburg--much better!), "The Parent Trap" movies (two opposite young girls come together and resolve differences for friendship), "The Monuments Men" movie, and Chasing Vermeer (I hate to say it again, but so much more credible than Blue Balliet's fun, but quite unbelievable, art-related tales).
I'm actually jealous of any of you who have this unopened book yet before you to read. I still remember exactly what the weather was like one day when my older kids and I gathered around our table in the breakfast nook one day after school. They were all asking, "Where's Under the Egg, Mommy? And can we make some hot cocoa while we listen?" Mother/child bliss, I tell you!
If you'd like to research the book a bit--to gauge a sensitivity-meter for your family--the paragraph directly below, entitled, "What Parents Need to Know" from Common Sense Media will tell you specific details about the book. Common Sense Media gives parents reviews on various levels of appropriateness such as: Educational Value, Positive Messages, Positve Role Models and Representations, Violence and Scariness, Language, Sex, Drugs, Drinking, Smoking, and even Consumerism. Cool. And so helpful. They also guage what age books are geared toward...but this you'll have to judge for yourself. See what you think. I'm guessing if you're reading this book blog, you probably already use this resource, right?
WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW (from commonsensemedia) about Under the Egg. [It's an] "engaging, fun mystery with an admirable heroine and very little to be concerned about. The story starts out with a tragic death of a family member in a scene that includes a very brief description of blood; historical atrocities such as gas chambers and slave labor are mentioned but not described. Highly educational, the book also shows the benefits and rewards of heroine Theo's "unplugged" lifestyle as she makes the most of a shoestring budget and solves complex problems with careful, critical thinking."
Again, read the reviews on Commonsensemedia, as there were a few instances when I glossed over a sentence or two about a reference to the artist Raphael's mistress, and the word "stupid" was used two or three times, as well as one usage of the word "boob." Various parts of history of WWII are mentioned, such as the Holocaust and gas chambers. But none of these, to me, felt offensive or explicit.
Here's what Kate DiCamillo said of the book, "When a book is good, I stop being a writer and I'm just a reader, which is what I did here. You just fall into it as a reader. But the writer in me did go and check a couple times to see, 'Is this really the first thing that [Fitzgerald]'s written?' Because it's so accomplished and it's packed with stuff...It's really a very compelling read and I don't know how she did it."
So go soak up every minute of Under the Egg, if you're so inclined--you lucky ducks! Jealous! When you're done reading it, come back to bask in Laura Marx Fitzgerald's website:
Happy November reading, everyone! So thankful for good books and fellow reading buddies!