Ex Libris MAS – The Spider and the Fly
Sep10

Ex Libris MAS – The Spider and the Fly

The Spider and the Fly is a fabulous contemporary book (2002) with a lovely historical background. The illustrator is Tony DiTerlizzi, whose work you may be familiar with through the Spiderwick Chronicals. The author, as some of you will know, is Mary Howitt (1799 – 1888), an English author and poet. Howitt originally wrote this poem as a cautionary tale for her own children, warning them not to be too easily flattered by smooth talkers. Most adults would recognise and be intrigued to read the familiar first verse in a book for children. . . “Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly; “Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy. The way into my parlor is up a winding stair, And I have many pretty things to show when you are there.” See full text of the poem here. Though the ending is a bit macabre, it is a classic tale in every sense of the word. (For any worried parents, the spider issues a letter of explanation, if not apology, at the end of the book). The illustrations are black and white and are created traditionally with gouache and Prismacolor (coloured pencils) on bristol board. As DiTerlizzi admits in his profile, the “ghosts of insects past” were created by him in pencil and then layered in Photoshop by a talented designer (Greg Stadnyk) afterwards. DiTerlizzi sets the story in the 1920s using a dolls’ house, a Vincent Price-ish spider and a wide-eyed, tender young thing, Flapper-style fly. The visual allusions to the lifestyle of a spider are brilliant! Butterfly wings make curtains, the wallpaper is a pattern of bees with curly antennae, lightening bugs serve to light wall sconces, and a dead ladybug serves as a footstool. The pace of the poem is reflected in the images – the reader buzzes around the house, much like the little fly, getting a variety of viewpoints and close-ups, lingering over interesting spreads and dashing past others. In 2012, there was a 10th anniversary edition published – “featuring new jacket art and a commemorative poster”. When comparing the two covers, the original is truest to DiTerlizzi’s art, and harmonizes with the idea that the spider might have created the typography. The new cover captures the 1920s Hollywood look, but has a softer and almost friendlytypeface! The Spider and the Flywas DiTerlizzi’s 3rdbook, and earned him a much deserved Caldecott Honour. DiTerlizzi is a vibrant illustrator and continues to produce beautiful picture books. Another tasty example of his colour work is G is for One Gzonk, a kind of tribute to both Dr. Seuss and Edward Lear. A...

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Mo Williams In Dublin
Sep09

Mo Williams In Dublin

Calling all picture book fans! Children’s Books Ireland, in association with the National Library and Walker Books presents a fantastic one-off event on the 25th of October when illustrator, animator and picture-book maker Mo Williams will be speaking at the National Library in Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Mo is the illustrator and author of  Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny and Elephant and Piggie. Please note that this is an in-conversation event and as such is more suitable for adults than children. Tickets for this event are free of charge but must be booked in advance. Email aoife@childrensbooksireland.ie....

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Ex Libris MAS – Andrew Henry’s Meadow
Sep02

Ex Libris MAS – Andrew Henry’s Meadow

We might as well start with a long-time favourite book (though it is very hard to choose a favourite!) – Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Doris Burn. This little gem was published in 1965 by Coward McCann in New York and was marketed as a “Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club” book. The charming illustrations are pen and ink only, which is very old school and affordable, yet the amount of detail and personality makes the reader forget there was ever such a thing as colour. Strangely, Burn had no formal art training. This is certainly not evident from her work. Andrew Henry (of the title) is the middle son in a family of 5 children. As the story goes “Andrew Henry liked to build things”. Though he makes a fabulous eagle’s cage (there is no eagle to live in it) and an excellent merry-go-round (out of his sister’s sewing machine), his inventions are unappreciated. So, Andrew Henry quietly packs his tools and leaves to go build his own home. After a journey that involves climbing Blackbriar Hill, wading through Worzibsky’s swamp and coming out of the deep woods, Andrew Henry finds his meadow. No sooner has he built his home than he is joined by various other children looking to have spaces of their own. Andrew Henry builds each of the 9 children a home – and Alice Burdock’s is a most endearing tree house! Though the children live quite contentedly, the families left behind begin to search for the missing children. In the end, it is Andrew Henry’s own dog that leads the villagers to the meadow where a joyous reunion takes place. The small details in the illustrations make the reader want to linger over each spread, getting a taste for the characters and the atmosphere. And while the book is nearly 50 years old, it has aged incredibly well! The charm of a simple childhood experience and the gentle, personality-filled pictures make it timeless. In 2005, a 40th anniversary edition was released. The cover is brighter and shinier, the pages are slicker but alas there is a mistake in reprint. At the very climax of the story, Sam the dog lets his loneliness for Andrew Henry get the better of him. The word “out” is repeated twice in the text – this is not the wording in the original edition. Philomel released yet another edition in July of 2012. Though I have not seen this edition, the reviews of the design work, again, are not up to the original. The author / illustrator, Doris (Doe) Burn died in March of 2011, and this is perhaps why the book was reissued...

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Ex Libris MAS
Aug27

Ex Libris MAS

The best thing about going back to school, lets face it, is storytime! As course leader for the Illustration department in BCFE, I subject my students to ‘storytime’ at least once a week. Though these students are not “children”, they seem to enjoy the exercise – leaning in, shhhushing their classmates and becoming enthralled after just a nice endpaper. Looking at, reading, and investigating books are the best ways to get to see an entire portfolio of work – not just the illustration and design – but how the piece, the book, the story, works as a whole. My personal interest in childrens books began, like most of you, as a child. As an adult I completed two Masters’ degrees, one a studio degree in Visual Communication, the other a theoretical degree in History of Design and the Applied Arts – both with a focus on Illustration. I can’t seem to get enough . . . So, for your edification and enjoyment, (and following on David Maybury’s successful “A Book with a View” entries) I’ll be reviewing childrens books weekly. Selections will be drawn mainly from my own collection which dates from the early 1900s to the present, and numbers around 2000 books. There should be something for everyone. As I tell the students, “If you’re going to illustrate, kids, you have to know what’s out there first!” Hope you...

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Mountain to Sea Festival
Aug22

Mountain to Sea Festival

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council is bringing another edition of the famous Mountain to Sea dlr Book Festival this September. The Mountain to Sea Festival aims to share insights into the publishing industry through a brilliant line up of presentations, conversations and workshops with talented authors and illustrator’s alike. Illustrators Ireland member and Laureate na nÓg Niamh Sharkey along with Norton Virgien from Brown Bag Films will talk about how Niamh’s picture book – I’m a Happy Hugglewug –  became an exciting new Disney cartoon (Henry Hugglemonster) in Meet the Hugglemonsters. Chris Judge another great Illustrators Ireland member, will also take part in the Festival, through reading his Beast Books and offering a draw along session during the Picture Book Picnic. II member and celebrated illustrator Steve Simpson will hold a workshop on how to make a Deadly T-Shirt taking attendees through the process of designing a Mexican themed Day of the Dead festival character. Last but not least experienced teacher, Illustrators Ireland member and picture book maker, Adrienne Geoghegan will get you drawn in a part lecture, part workshop session about the process of creating and submitting a children’s picture book proposal as well as finding work as an illustrator. There’s plenty to do this September at the Mountain to Sea Festival, so make sure to book you place early to avoid disappointment. For further information and booking check out the Mountain to Sea Festival...

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Bologna Book Fair Questionnaire
Apr22

Bologna Book Fair Questionnaire

Over on the Illustrators Ireland blog they have just posted the first part of a ‘Bologna Book Fair Questionnaire’, whereby they asked members who had attended this year’s fair the same set of questions, to see what their various experiences were like. If you are an illustrator who is interested in the publishing industry, this is a must-read for you. Part Two will follow over the next couple of...

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