Young Vasya (or Vasily) led a staid, privileged life in 19th century Moscow, that is until his aunt presented him with “a small wooden paint box.”
“Every proper Russian boy should appreciate art,” said Auntie. She showed Vasya the correct way to mix colors on the paint-box palette.
Vasya felt the colors spoke to him. They jumped out of the box and made sounds that only he heard, sounds that could be translated onto canvas. Fortunately, Vasya’s Auntie recommended his parents put him into art class. For the Russian elite, however, art was no substitute for an acceptable career like law which Vasya pursued as was expected of him. It was only after attending an opera that it was clear to Vasya that music and the emotions it evoked inside him could be expressed through art. His old noisy paint box that had been brought to life by the orchestra could not be ignored.
After quitting his job teaching law, Vasya moved from Moscow to Munich to study from great artists of the time. Everyone wanted this talented man to adhere to more traditional styles of painting, but Vasya and his artist friends could not conform. “Art should make you feel,” Vasya told them, “Like music.” Kandinsky’s influential new abstract art evolved from the emotions he experienced from color, music and the world around him. Though at first not easily understood, abstract art “sparked a revolution in the art world.”
Fans of Mary GrandPré will once again be treated to beautiful artwork that, like its subject, is never boring. As an artist bringing another artist’s work to life, GrandPré’s illustrations perfectly convey the emotion and vibrancy of Kandinsky’s creations.
In Rosenstock’s Author’s Note in the back matter, she goes into more detail about Kandinsky’s emergence as an artist and the speculation he may have had a genetic condition known as synesthesia where one sense (in his case listening to music) triggers a different sense. Rosenstock explains that individuals with synesthesia hear colors, see music, taste words, or smell numbers. –
Books as Gifts, The Good Reads With Ronna Holiday Gift Guide
Beginning today Good Reads With Ronna will be sharing books we recommend as gift ideas this holiday season including these beautiful personalized children’s books from I See Me! (www.iseeme.com).Order your customized book by Sunday, 12/15/13 and get it in time for Christmas (Continental U.S. only). PLUS:Use the code “goodreads” to get a 15% discount! There are so many cool choices on the site so don’t just take our word for it, go on and check it out.
I was excited to get my review copy of the latest I See Me! personalized storybook in the collection, Goodnight Little Me(the me gets customized to the name of your child) written by Jennifer Dewing with illustrations by Mary GrandPré’. You may recognize the latter name since Mary GrandPré was the award-winning illustrator of the Harry Potter® series. Her artwork is cheerful, dreamy and colored with muted blue and purple tones setting just the right mood for a bedtime story. Couple the soothing, sleepy time illustrations with Dewing’s rhythmic parade-themed tale and you’ll have one content child heading off to the land of nod in no time at all.
My copy was entitled Goodnight Little Tyler,and the name Tyler (I don’t know a Tyler, but you might so comment here and you may win a copy!) was incorporated into the story and illustrations over 10 times (samples shown here are from the I See Me! website where Elizabeth is the name used). My kids, with their uncommon names, would have gone wild over a personalized book when they were little, but even if their names had been Michael or Mary, they would have been delighted to see their name printed inside the pages of a such a lovely book. Even the glossy pages feel good to the touch.
“Sail away, sweet Tyler, on silver moonbeams, as the Goodnight Parade marches into your dreams.”
I love how the marriage of words, art, plus a youngster’s name can turn a very good bedtime story into a magical celebration of make-believe in a sky filled with all types of friendly looking animals. There are owls, eagles, frogs, mice, bears, sheep, cats, monkeys, and dogs. There are also some very happy looking cows jumping over a rainbow adorned moon as well as Dish and Spoon. As the story comes to a close, the back of the child is seen watching the parade end with an adorable doggie kick line. As your little one sails off to sleep, you’ll be pleased that you chose an I See Me! book to brighten their dreams.
I’m beyond delighted to announce that this and next Friday’s posts will be devoted to author and poet Roderick Townley. I will take this opportunity to review three of his children’s novels for those just making his acquaintance and next Friday Mr. Townley will join us for an amazing and inspiring interview. Those of you who are writers won’t want to miss this! For you who are already familiar with his delightful stories, you may empathize that it’s difficult to easily sum up the work of this author. His writing somewhat defies definition. I think Roderick Townley rather likes it that way. He likes to be unpredictable.
I will dare to say that it takes a certain talent that very few authors have to be able to convey such potent meaning in just a few sentences. Additionally, his writing is full of the magical, creative, and wondrous power of fairy tales. Mr. Townley is one of those authors who, through his books, seems to come to the reader and say, “Take my hand for now we are about to go journeying to places unknown, sights yet unseen, and things not clearly understood by anyone. Ready?” I always say, “Yes!” to offers like that, for not many authors are able to provide such unique and original tales. By the end of the story I have always thought very new thoughts, experienced high adventure, and returned to the real world wishing that the book could have lasted just a little bit longer, or even just a few pages longer. The writing itself is so magical that I always end up half convinced that, if I just wished hard enough, the extra pages I want might magically appear. Of course they don’t, but right there is the proof of a good author. Who else could half convince me of such a possibility? Such writing is just like the title of his first book. It is indeed a Great, Good Thing.
The Great Good Thing (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $6.99, ages 10-14)
“Sylvie had an amazing life, but she didn’t get to live it very often.”
Sylvie has been a storybook princess for more than eighty years. Her trouble is that the story of her amazing life is never lived until a Reader comes along. It is only when the book containing the story of Princess Sylvie is opened and read that she can live her adventures in the storybook. When your life depends on Readers reading and your story is forgotten what can you do? The characters in the book begin to accept the fact that they might never have a new Reader. However, one day, a very special Reader does come, and Sylvie dares to break the rule of all storybook characters, “Never look at the Reader”. Being Sylvie (brave, adventurous, and a Person with Purpose), she takes it one step further and makes a lasting friendship with this Reader. This friendship is destined to change Sylvie’s story forever, but it also offers Sylvie the opportunity to fulfill her greatest wish. Sylvie is finally given a chance to do A Great Good Thing.
The Blue Shoe: A Tale of Thievery, Villainy, Sorcery, and Shoes (Knopf Books for Young Readers, $6.99, ages 8-12)
“Not long ago, in the sunny mountain village of Aplanap, famous for its tilted streets, cuckoo clocks, and Finster cheese, there stood a small shoemaker’s shop. And in the window of that shop was a shoe that fit nobody.”
In this book Mr. Townley invites the reader to follow the adventures of Hap, the goodhearted assistant cobbler to the shoemaker who made the beautiful blue shoe. When the blue shoe looses its magical glow (due to Hap’s theft of one of the precious blue stones), he is sent to work tirelessly in the dreaded mines of Mount Xexnax. However, here in this cruel place, Hap discovers that sometimes life isn’t just about liberating yourself from a dreadful situation. Sometimes it’s about liberating others as well, for Mount Xenax holds many others in slavery. But just how will Hap be able to escape and set everyone else held in slavery on the mountain free as well? What about the blue shoe? Will the blue shoe ever regain its mysterious blue glow and why does it glow? Mary GrandPré, who is now famous for her illustrations for the Harry Potter series, wonderfully illustrates The Blue Shoe bringing to life the cast of characters that populate a world of heroes, heroines, villains, a blue shoe, and one shadowy, mysterious character it would be unfair of me to mention too much about.
The Door in the Forest(Bluefire, $6.99, ages 8 and up)
“Some people claimed it was enchanted; others swore it was cursed; but, really, it hardly mattered what you thought because you couldn’t get to it.”
Daniel and his family live near a mysterious island. This island is impossible to reach, as the island itself seems to jealously guard its secrets with vines, quicksand, and snakes. No one has ever set foot there. While most people are content to leave the island to itself, Daniel is not. He knows he would willingly spend his whole life trying to figure out how to reach such a mysterious place. However, to achieve this dream, it will take a war, a witch (or is she?), and a girl named Emily whose past may be the only key to accessing the island that Daniel will ever find. Now, mix this cast of intriguing characters together with an evil captain who is intent on getting to the island first, and you are ready for an adventure you will not soon forget! The Door in the Forest seems to me to always ask these questions: “How much would you risk, who would you be willing to trust, and how long could you hold out during a dangerous time to attain the impossible thing you have always wanted with your whole heart?”
To find out more about Roderick Townley’s young adult novels Sky and The Red Thread and to learn more about the sequels to The Great Good Thing (Into the Labyrinth and The Constellation of Sylvie) visit www.rodericktownley.com. Also, please join me next Friday for the interview with Mr. Townley as we discuss his writing for children, writing in general, poetry, and the inspirations that have led to his remarkable books.
Stop by the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse today to pick up your copy of these great books, buy gifts, enjoy their extensive selection of other great reads and relax over a great cup of coffee. Check out the website atwww.flintridgebooks.com to keep up-to-date with story times, author events and other exciting special events. And when you stop by, keep a lookout for Hilary peeking out from behind a novel.