Monday, December 30, 2013

THE SEASON OF LIGHTS - III

On Christmas Eve, the little church in the Vermont village I lived in always held a candlelight service.  When the service was over, many of us---whether traveling on foot or in vehicles---did our best to keep our candles alight for the trip home.  We wanted to carry our lighted candles ceremoniously into our houses; set them on our tables and our mantlepieces; light more candles from their burning wicks; preserve the light.  We guarded our little flames carefully during the journey.  They often succumbed to a gust of wind, or an inadvertent gesture.  Yet, always, at least one candle remained lit, and was there to pass its light back, and on, to the rest.
This is a Christian tradition, of course.  Yet the desire to bring light into the darkness, and love into sorrow, is universal, and is found in philosophies and beliefs all over the world.  During this time of the year, an old celestial cycle is ending, and a new one is beginning.  The lengthening nights have slowly turned, once again, toward the return of the light-giving sun.  Let's now grasp the light and love that is given to us, and take it with us.  Let's carry it into our homes, and into our hearts.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

50% OFF IN MY ETSY STORE

I'm having a big sale right now in my Etsy store.
Spend $30 or more, and get 50% off your total at checkout.
Use coupon code SAVE50.
Sale ends on January 7, 2014.
Hope to see you there!
Once again:  Spend $30 or more at my Etsy store, and get 50% off at checkout.  Use coupon code SAVE50.  Sale ends on January 7, 2014.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

WHY I MAKE CHILDREN'S BOOKS

I published this book many years ago.  The children who were reading it when it was published are now in their 30's, their 40's, or perhaps even their 50's.  But even though the book is now out-of-print, it seems that it still lives on in the hearts of those who read it as a child.  Someone will tell me, "It was my favorite book when I was 5 (or 10, or 4, or 8, or....)."  A grandmother or grandfather writes, "My daughter/son loved this book, and now I want to give it to my grandchild."
Recently I had the opportunity to see the flyleaf of a copy of this book...
...and the flyleaf of another copy of this book.  A colleague of mine, seeing the same flyleafs, wrote, "These inscriptions are very moving, and renew my faith in the tender, sacred quality shared between children and those close to them through children's books.  Seeing these handwritten notes is quite touching.  Yes, all the work and effort put into creating good children's books is so worthwhile."  Could we, as writers and illustrators of books for children, leave behind any better legacy?

Friday, December 13, 2013

RUTH CHRISMAN GANNETT

I cannot resist---I must post a second birthday-of-the-month:  Ruth Gannett, born December 16, 1896.  One of the books she illustrated, MISS HICKORY, was one of my favorite books as a child.  In fact, it still is.  It's a story about stubborn prejudiced Miss Hickory, who is forced by unpleasant circumstances to make huge changes in her life, so that by the end of the story she is "heedless, headless Miss Hickory."  The black and white lithograph illustrations for this book were at least fifty percent of its attraction for me.

As an adult I discovered more of Gannett's work.  I marvel always at the clarity, boldness, vigor, and sure hand of her work.


What a little masterpiece!
And compare her own interpretation of Russian peasant culture with that of Rojankovsy's.  The two are different---but is one better than the other?  Yet though Gannett's work is of the same genius, quality, and calibre as other great illustrators I've highlighted in this blog, she is rarely spoken of.  Read a bit more about her at this link:  http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/xml/CLRC-31.xml.  And please do read MISS HICKORY.  You'll not find a better tale (or novel, even) about having to face and accept the uncomfortable realities of life.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

FEODOR ROJANKOVSKY

Feodor Rojankovsky was born in Russia on December 24, 1891, and after a life disrupted many times by WWI and then WWII, emigrated to the United States in 1941.  I've always admired his artwork, particularly for its wonderfully rich bright colors.
One of his gifts were the tactile illusions that he was able to portray.  I always felt I could reach out and stroke the fur of his kittens, or feel the damp smoothness of his mushrooms.  
Another wonderful aspect of so much of his art is the reference to the folk art of his native country.  His three bears, for example,  inhabit a thoroughly Russian peasant's home, with gaily carved furniture and utensils.
And he clearly was well acquainted with the animals he portrayed in his illustrations.  He's one of the few illustrators about whom I've thought, "If only I could illustrate like THAT."
Once again, I have felt quite frustrated as I've searched online for information in preparing this birthday-of-the-month post.  I've been stymied by the lack of online information about whatever illustrator I've chosen, and often an illustrator I've thought of is not anywhere to be found.  I've also been very disappointed to find hardly anything about female illustrators from these earlier times.  There were many women, too, in this field---women of great skill and reputation; and yet it's almost impossible to find anything at all about them online.  I plan to find some good old-fashioned BOOKS about these artists as I continue this series in the new year; and I also keep thinking that in my "spare time" I ought to begin creating an online treasury and directory, to honor and acknowledge these artists who were the founders, in a sense, of the great field of modern children's book illustration that we have today.  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feodor_Stepanovich_Rojankovsky

http://www.childrensliteraturenetwork.org/birthbios/brthpage/12dec/12-24rojan.html

http://www.lib.usm.edu/legacy/degrum/public_html/html/research/findaids/DG0834f.html

Thursday, December 5, 2013

THE SEASON OF LIGHTS - II

The Season of Lights, for me, is not only a serious time of year, but a magical one.  From my earliest memories, I imagined what other creatures might do when we nosey humans were not staring at them.  As I lay in bed at night waiting to fall asleep, I could hear the sounds of mice as they began their daily nocturnal activities within the sturdy walls of our old brick house.  I felt certain that they had their own everyday lives, just as I had mine.  I extended that conviction to all of the non-human world around me---our diary goats, the rabbits and woodchucks of the fields, even the spiders and ants industriously working in the garden.  I also was convinced that all that fauna must have their magical times, just as we humans had ours.  I created this piece of art, using pen and ink with watercolor, in memory of that childhood belief...a belief that I see I still hold in my child's heart.  I'm offering giclee prints of this image through my Etsy store:  https://www.etsy.com/listing/171933183/archival-giclee-print-magical-tree-free?ref=shop_home_active

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

THE SEASON OF LIGHTS

As days shorten, and dark nights lengthen, we humans turn to lights to mark the season.  Even more southern cultures---though they live amidst a more subtle change of seasons---celebrate with light, in anticipation of the return of longer days.  As for me, growing up in northern New England, where the winter nights are dark and endless---well, if I had lived in earlier times, I would have whole-heartedly participated in religious and magical rites designed to entice the sun to return to the frozen earth.  Instead, being a supposedly more modern creature, I've treated this topic often in my books.  One example is TALES FOR A WINTER'S EVE, which I created intentionally to honor the winter solstice as it would pass through my beloved rural Vermont community.
The sun setting over a frigid and snow-clad community was a signal to folk---animal or human---that it was time to scurry for home, warm hearths, and tasty stews.  But it was also a symbol and a reminder of the setting of one season, and the advent of another.  
It was a signal to settle in for the long winter to come---in burrows, nests, hollow trees, or clapboarded buildings---that were hopefully well-stocked with food and fuel.
Brief forays out into the darkness and cold added zest to the long waiting.
But there was always the blessed fire and light on one's return---where one could warm one's toes, sip hot cider, and tell stories to pass the time.
And at the very end of the day, we hoped that for everyone---furred, feathered, scaled, or naked---there was a cozy bed, a goodnight hug, and comforting dreams of the return to light and warmth.