It’s the first Sunday of the month, when I normally bring my readers an introduction to a student illustrator or someone otherwise new to children’s book illustration, but I’m breaking the rules today. And that would be because my favorite “best of” list of the whole year, no matter what year, came out this week — the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books list. Here’s the wonderful (very short) round-up for 2010. Ten titles from thousands published during the year that three esteemed judges (including my writing partner-in-crime this year, Betsy Bird) deem the best in illustration. Since I’ve covered quite a few of those books here at the blog this year—and since I only cover what I really like—it may not come as a surprise that I give seven enthusiastic thumbs-ups to the list. Er, I would if, I had seven thumbs, that is.
Now, y’all know I’m a Suzy Lee fan something fierce (as evidenced by this ‘08 interview, this post, this post, this post, this post, and … shoot, I give up looking, but there are probably more). You will see on the NYT list that her newest title, Shadow, is on there. I’ve had this book a while and have been marvelling over it. Just when I thought I couldn’t like her work anymore, she up and does a book like this. I finally got around to requesting some spreads from it, just in time for this list’s release. So, that’s what I’m celebrating today — instead of what I normally do the first Sunday of each month. I’m breakin’ the law.
Shadow (Chronicle Books, September) is a wonder and is Suzy Lee at her best. It’s another wordless title, this time of a very imaginative young girl playing with the shadows cast from one little light bulb of an attic. The entire story is depicted in only two shades of color — the yellow and black you see in the cover above and the spreads below. A book that is horizontally-oriented, the reader sees the attic up top and the girl’s imaginative wonders at the bottom (which means you can flip the book any time and read it the other way) — until, that is, the two worlds unite (just as they do in her May release, Mirror, which I covered here). And, just as with her other titles, there is great mystery, fear, and joy conveyed through the story, Lee showing us what a master illustrator can do with bold color, line, shape, and movement with her charcoals (and pencil and watercolor and spray paint and computer).
The girl in the story begins her imaginative play by making a bird shadow with her hands. As she really gets into her own game, an old boot becomes a wolf (perhaps a fox?), the hose becomes a snake, the ladder becomes a tree, some boxes and a vacuum hose become an elephant, and more. A whole jungle emerges in the shadows. Suddenly, the wolf leaps up into the top half of the book, startling the girl, who defends herself by jumping into her own imagination below. As we can come to expect from Suzy Lee, she is blurring the lines, as the Publishers Weekly review points out, between reality and imagination. There’s reconciliation and joy, all stopped by a cry of “Dinner’s ready!” The book also closes with a nice twist. “Once again, Lee focuses on a single idea, develops it with rich imaginative power, and executes it with grace and finesse,” adds Publishers Weekly.
Here are some spreads. (I hate to put borders around them, but if I do so, you can click on each to enlarge slightly and see in more detail.) Enjoy.
SHADOW. Copyright © 2010 by Suzy Lee. Published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco.
NOTE: Another book on the NYT list is Peter Brown’s Children Make Terrible Pets, which is a winner of a picture book. You may remember Peter discussing it (and sharing early spreads and sketches from it) in my April interview with him. Still, though, tomorrow he’s going to stop by and say a bit more about it — and share some more art. If you’re so inclined, come visit then.
As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.
1). I love this trailer for a new documentary short about the oldest Holocaust survivor in the world, Alice Herz-Sommer. There are many reasons to love it, but here are my two favorites: 1). When she says, “music is God.” 2). Chopin.
2). Getting words on paper for a new chapter for this and overcoming writer’s block. (I am not sure sometimes if “writer’s block” suffices for moments of extreme self-deprecation, as in “you suck and who ever thought you could write a BOOK, Jules?” but I’ll use “writer’s block” for lack of a better phrase.)
3). People like J. Patrick Lewis, who stopped by this week, and how, as my friend noted, it’s a good, good thing in this world that people like him are alive and making gorgeous things and thinking wise thoughts.
5). I sort of boldly and nervously emailed Karen Peris of The Innocence Mission, one of my favorite bands, to tell her not only how much I love their new CD, but also how much I needed to hear EXACTLY it, particularly last week. (I had corresponded with her previously, because of this post in which I featured some of her art.) And she kindly got back to me and thanked me for my note. Isn’t that terrifically nice of her?
7). I also finally purchased, months late, The Black Keys’ new CD, released this summer. IT IS MIGHTY GOOD. I had already purchased one track, the one performed live in the below video, which I leave you with now on account of its blinding and overwhelming greatness. (I’ve been obsessed with this song since July.)
BONUS: The very funny Paula of Pink Me all zippy-quick penned a 7-Imp theme song. See these comments for the low-down. I thank her for the enthusiastic song. Think we can get The Black Keys to record it?
What about you? What are YOUR kicks this week?