Sunday, December 9, 2012

Books and the Art of Giving

Each year I look forward to creating an image that expresses the spirit of the season. Here's what came out of the studio yesterday. Just in time to make holiday cards and gifts for our friends friends. When thinking about giving gifts, I want to continue a favorite tradition of pairing just the right book with something unique and artful. As an illustrator, naturally I'm captivated by heart stopping imagery and the blending of well crafted words and pictures.
Here's a few of my selections for the special someone on your list.

It's no secret that as a painter I'm wild about birds. Artists and poets have used them as visual and verbal metaphors for centuries. John James Audobon was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist and gifted painter. In this amazing book he documents in glorious detail The Birds of America. An artist explorer, he boldly traveled the wilderness of Kentucky, the Carolinas, Louisiana, up and down the Mississippi River, into the Florida swamps and up to Eastern Canada.
The Audobon Society got it's name from this great artist.
My son Santiago studied his adventures this year in 5th grade and convinced me to pick up the book. He created this drawing in the center but added a yo-yo to Audobon's Florida flamingo on the right which proves this book is great for kids and adults alike. Together with your children you can have fun and make whimsical bird seed ornaments and wreaths. Use a red ribbon to tie one of these onto Audobon's glorious book Birds of America and forget the wrapping paper. After the presents are passed out, tie the seed ornament on a tree and give a gift to your local birds.

Esperanza Rising, an inspiring book by Pam Muñoz Ryan tells the tale of a young Mexican girl's courage. Born into a world of comfort and privilege on a ranch. The 13 year old heroine of this story finds her life changed when her father is killed by bandits. She flees with her mother to the U. S. where they survive as migrant farm workers. When her mother falls ill with Valley Fever she learns the value of family and friends. Caring for her mom she remembers her grandmother's lessons to not be afraid to start over and there are no roses without the thorns. Pair this treasure of a book with magical rainbow rose seeds and gardening tools for children like this set from Trumpety Trump.

Gotta Love a Classic. My son and I created a game we like to play on weekends. We visit our local Goodwill, thrift stores and used book stores to search for Roald Dahl books. These fantastical stories are punctuated with clever illustrations by Quentin Blake. Our pick for this season is Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Matilda, The Twits, The Enormous Crocodile and The Witches. You simply can't go wrong with someone like Roald Dahl who so easily enters a child's mind. Not only do his inventive books charm and entertain but they are addictive and turn any kid into regular readers. Wise parents will decide to go for the whole collection and find they end up getting hooked themselves.
Bundle them up with a Make your own Chocolate Kit. Willie Wonka would be proud as this tasteful gift for children 8 and up mixes chemistry with world culture and history.

Growing up as the only brother of 3 sisters and a dynamic mom I became a big fan of strong women. I fell hard for Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst with captivating pencil drawings on pastel paper by Lane Smith. Make sure to check out his new book too Abe Lincoln's Dream. Used to getting what she wants Lulu decides a pet like Mr. B would be a wonderful thing till she realizes that he believes she would be the ideal pet for him. Smith's illustrations blend perfectly with Lulu's snarky attitude. Pair this clever book with a 3D Jigsaw Brontosaurus a child can put together to hold their favorite colored pencils.

I encourage you to check out a remarkable book called Drawing from Memory by Caldecott Medal winner Allen Say. This incredible story details the artist's own journey growing up in Yokohama, Japan. At the age of six he longed to be a cartoonist despite his father who dismissed his dreams describing artists as lazy and not respectable. His parents divorced and when he was only twelve Say boldly apprenticed himself to his favorite cartoonist and lifelong mentor Noro Shinpei. You will get lost in his amazing drawings, vivid watercolors, cartoon strips and photographs. This introspective book showcases the courageous spirit and path of an artist in such a compelling way. When first learning to draw Greek and Roman sculptures Say used charcoal sticks and wads of fresh bread as an eraser. Pair this treasure of a book with soft chalk pastels great for budding young artists and don't forget the baguette.

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