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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Books

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world”*…

Shortly after 335 B.C., within a newly built library tucked just east of Athens’ limestone city walls, a free-thinking Greek polymath by the name of Aristotle gathered up an armful of old theater scripts. As he pored over their delicate papyrus in the amber flicker of a sesame lamp, he was struck by a revolutionary idea: What if literature was an invention for making us happier and healthier? The idea made intuitive sense; when people felt bored, or unhappy, or at a loss for meaning, they frequently turned to plays or poetry. And afterwards, they often reported feeling better. But what could be the secret to literature’s feel-better power? What hidden nuts-and-bolts conveyed its psychological benefits?

After carefully investigating the matter, Aristotle inked a short treatise that became known as the Poetics. In it, he proposed that literature was more than a single invention; it was many inventions, each constructed from an innovative use of story. Story includes the countless varieties of plot and character—and it also includes the equally various narrators that give each literary work its distinct style or voice. Those story elements, Aristotle hypothesized, could plug into our imagination, our emotions, and other parts of our psyche, troubleshooting and even improving our mental function.

Aristotle’s idea was so unusual that, for more than two millennia, his account of literary inventions existed as an intellectual one-off, too intriguing to be forgotten but also too idiosyncratic to be developed further. In the mid-20th century, R. S. Crane and the renegade professors of the Chicago School revived the Poetics’ techno-scientific method, using it to excavate literary inventions from Shakespearean tragedies, 18th-century novels, and other works that Aristotle never knew. Later, in the early 2000s, one of the Chicago School’s students, James Phelan, co-founded Ohio State’s Project Narrative, where I now work as a professor of story science. Project Narrative is the world’s leading academic think tank for the study of stories, and in our research labs, with the help of neuroscientists and psychologists from across the globe, we’ve uncovered dozens more literary inventions in Zhou Dynasty lyrics, Italian operas, West African epics, classic children’s books, great American novels, Agatha Christie crime fictions, Mesoamerican myths, and even Hollywood television scripts.

These literary inventions can alleviate grief, improve your problem-solving skills, dispense the anti-depressant effects of LSD, boost your creativity, provide therapy for trauma (including both kinds of PTSD), spark joy, dole out a better energy kick than caffeine, lower your odds of dying alone, and (as impossible as it sounds) increase the chance that your dreams will come true. They can even make you a more loving spouse and generous friend

Recurring story elements that have proven effects on our imagination and our psyche: “Eight of Literature’s Most Powerful Inventions—and the Neuroscience Behind How They Work.” (Excerpted from Angus Fletcher’s Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature.)

* Philip Pullman

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As we noodle narratives, we might send a combo birthday and St Patrick’s Day greeting to Catherine “Kate” Greenaway; she was born on this date in 1846.  Creator of books for children such as Mother Goose (1881), Little Ann (1883), and The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1889), she was one of the most the most accomplished illustrators of her time– and the inspiration for The Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the U.K. to an illustrator of children’s books.

Greenaway’s illustration of the Pied Piper leading the children out of Hamelin; for Robert Browning’s version of the tale.

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“A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking”*…

 

A market doubles as a bookstore in Obidos, Portugal

What makes a book town?

It can’t be too big—not a city, but a genuine town, usually in a rural setting. It has to have bookshops—not one or two, but a real concentration, where a bibliophile might spend hours, even days, browsing. Usually a book town begins with a couple of secondhand bookstores and later grows to offer new books, too.

But mostly, they have a lot of books for sale…

Tour some of the world’s best at “Book Towns Are Made for Book Lovers.”

* Jerry Seinfeld

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As we browse in bliss, we might send a combo birthday and St Patrick’s Day greeting to Catherine “Kate” Greenaway; she was born on this date in 1846.  Creator of books for children such as Mother Goose (1881), Little Ann (1883), & The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1889), she was one of the most the most accomplished illustrators of her time– and the inspiration for The Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the U.K. to an illustrator of children’s books.

Greenaway’s illustration of the Pied Piper leading the children out of Hamelin; for Robert Browning’s version of the tale.

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Written by LW

March 17, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Childhood is a very, very tricky business”*…

 

Picture from Presto and Zesto in Limboland, ©2017 by the Maurice Sendak Foundation.

Lynn Caponera, president of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, was going through the late artist’s files last year “to see what could be discarded,” she said. “I was asking myself, do we really need all these?” when she found a typewritten manuscript titled Presto and Zesto in Limboland, co-authored by Sendak and his frequent collaborator, Arthur Yorinks. Caponera, who managed Sendak’s household for decades, didn’t remember the two friends working on a text with that title, so she scanned the manuscript and e-mailed it to Michael di Capua, Sendak’s longtime editor and publisher.

“I read it in disbelief,” said di Capua. “What a miracle to find this buried treasure in the archives. To think something as good as this has been lying around there gathering dust.”

Not only is the manuscript complete, so, too, are the illustrations. Sendak created them in 1990 to accompany a London Symphony Orchestra performance of Leoš Janáček’s Rikadla, a 1927 composition that set a series of nonsense Czech nursery rhymes to music.

Voila! So it is that Sendak, considered by many to be the most influential picture book creator of the 20th century, will have another publication in the 21st, five years after his death…

Happy endings at: “New Maurice Sendak Picture Book Discovered.”

* Maurice Sendak

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As we go Where the Wild Things Are, we might send powerfully-drawn birthday greetings to Colleen Doran; she was born on this date in 1964.  A write, artist, illustrator, and cartoonist, she has illustrated hundreds of comics, graphic novels, books and magazines. She has illustrated the works of Neil Gaiman (her drawings and adaptation of his “Troll Bridge” was a New York Times bestseller), Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Joe R. Lansdale, Anne Rice, J. Michael Straczynski, Peter David, and Tori Amos; her credits include: The Sandman, Wonder WomanLegion of SuperheroesTeen TitansThe Vampire Diaries comics, Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and her space opera series, A Distant Soil… for which she has received Eisner, Harvey, and International Horror Guild Awards.

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“I left the fairy tales lying on the floor of the nursery, and I have not found any books so sensible since”*…

 

Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, published in 1744 and now in the collection of the British Library, is the oldest surviving published collection in the genre.  Some of its rhymes are still familiar; others, like  “Piss a Bed” (above), have faded away.

While the mid-18th-century Tommy Thumb’s represents the oldest collection of nursery rhymes on paper, the oral tradition is, of course, much older. In a preface to his 1843 collection of English nursery rhymes, scholar James Halliwell-Phillips could pinpoint the origins of some verses in his collection to the 16th century but believed that some could be “ancient.” Later studies have dated most of today’s familiar rhymes to the 16th through 18th centuries, with some earlier outliers coming from the medieval period.

Tommy Thumb’s is a milestone for another reason; as the British Library writes, it “represents one of the very first attempts to make books in which children would delight.” It’s small—3 by 1 ¾ inches—and has an engraved illustration on every page; the library suggests that the scheme of alternating ink colors (red, black, red, black) may have been intended to add even more interest for young readers…

* G.K. Chesterton

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As we count to three bags full, we might recall that this date each year is UNESCO’s “World Book and Copyright Day.”

23 April is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Haldor K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla, and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.

It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference, held in Paris in 1995, to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. In this regard, UNESCO created the World Book and Copyright Day.

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Written by LW

April 23, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?”*…

 

It’s well known that before Andy Warhol became the most famous artist in New York—if not the world—he worked for several years as a commercial illustrator. For instance, he did a bunch of album covers in the mid- to late 1950s, a couple of which are quite familiar to anyone who follows jazz—even if they’re not familiar “as Warhol covers.”

Another of his gigs lasted about four years, that being occasional illustrations for children’s stories in the “Best In Children’s Books” series published by Nelson Doubleday. He illustrated six stories between 1957 and 1960—since there were 33 volumes in the series at a minimum, we can be sure that the series was pretty popular. Every volume had roughly ten stories in it, and each story featured art by a different illustrator. So Warhol’s output in this series was a tiny fraction of the art contained therein. One of the other artists who did illustrations in the same series was Richard Scarry…

More of of this bedtime tale– and more nifty examples of Warhol’s early work– at “Andy Warhol, Children’s Book Illustrator.”

* Andy Warhol

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As we turn the page, we might send birthday greetings to Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier; he was born on this date in 1811 (though some sources date it on yesterday’s date).  A poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and art and literary critic, Gautier was a champion of Romaniticism, a point of reference for many subsequent literary traditions (e.g., Symbolism and Modernism), and widely esteemed by writers as diverse as Balzac, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Pound, Eliot, Henry James, Proust, and Wilde.  As editor of the influential review L’Artiste, he editorialized in support of “Art for Art’s Sake.”

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Written by LW

August 31, 2015 at 1:01 am

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