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The work of Mitsumasa Anno

“All beautiful things encourage a child’s sense of wonder–and everything that encourages a child’s sense of wonder is beautiful.”–Mitsumasa Anno

Image result for Anno's Journey

The work of Mitsumasa Anno has been beloved since the 1970s when his first books appeared in the United States. His first US title was Topsy Turvies (1970) and in 1978 the book that acquainted me with his work appeared. That was Anno’s Journey–a truly inspired and for me, enchanted wordless journey through Europe. The genius of Mr. Anno’s work is in the delightfully detailed watercolors that lead the reader from pastoral scenes to village and finally to city scenes. Life is presented within the simplicity of quotidian routine–farmers tending their fields, shepherds guarding their flocks, a merchant selling wares, or a child playing hoops. Then suddenly, suddenly, out pops a scene from an Impressionist masterpiece, or a character from a novel, or a scene from one of Shakespeare’s plays. Traveling with Anno through Anno’s Journey is a delight to all who love art, architecture, literature, geography, culture, or children’s books! For instance, hidden within his inviting scenes, one will come upon Van Gogh’s Langlois Bridge or Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Gatte or his Bathers at Asnières. Less artistically inclined “readers” will find delight in Anno’s hilarious depiction of the silly king from The Emperor’s New Clothes, or the unsuspecting Little Red Riding Hood innocently picking flowers while the wily fox watches from the woods. Then there is Pinocchio, running through the streets! Even young children will experience the thrill of discovery when they notice the four whimsical characters–the donkey, the dog, the cat, and the cock from the well-loved Tale of the Bremen Town Musicians or see the iconic red balloon wafting up off the page from the Oscar-winning French film short of the same name. There is something for everyone here, even the youngest child will love just poring over the pictures with their intense colors, humor, and variety.

Over two years ago, I contacted the Japanese publisher of Mr. Anno’s work, Fukuinkan Shoten, to see if Beautiful Feet Books could publish Anno’s Spain, which had been out of print for some time. In the process of that journey, I also found that Mr. Anno had done a Journey book on China, which had never been published in the US before. Not only that, I also discovered that for each of Mr. Anno’s Journey books (there are now 8) he had written wonderful back matter to accompany each scene. These have never been translated and published in the English language editions, which is a shame, as Mr. Anno’s voice is as endearing and warm-hearted as his art. So, for the editions that Beautiful Feet Books is bringing out, we are thrilled to be including these wonderful notes. After that, we will begin work on Anno’s Japan and Anno’s Denmark.

From Anno’s China a scene from the beautiful Guilin province in China. Just one of many scenes visited in Around the World with Picture Books!

Just a few weeks ago we took delivery (like proud parents with a new baby!) on Anno’s China–the first time this beautiful book has ever appeared in America. Just like his other books, “readers” will accompany Anno as he travels through China, exploring life in this vast and majestic land where birds fish for men, where dragons and lions dance, and where thousands of clay soldiers and calvary guard the tomb of China’s first emperor. Anno’s China received a Kirkus starred review which you can read about here.

I am currently working on bringing Anno’s Spain back into print as well. I am finishing up editing the translation from the Japanese to English and expect to go to print early Spring. I will continue to post more about Mr. Anno’s work as we continue this wonderful journey with him!

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French Children’s Books!

Hello Readers!

Today’s post is dedicated to the wonderful world of French language children’s books!  Though most of us are familiar with the wonderful works of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Jean de Brunhoff, and Hergé, I have just recently learned of a wonderful treasury of Belgian children’s books by Gilbert Delahaye and illustrated by Marcel Marlier.  Originally published in French the Martine books number over 50 and have been translated into many languages.  I only recently learned of these through Eve Ratthe, who is a friend of my niece Faye Hanoian.  At a recent seminar in Orange County, the topic was the way in which children’s books can be inspirational to a child’s future destiny.  Eve was eager to share how the Martine books were formative to her life’s passion and how that has been realized in her life.  I think you’ll find her story and these books delightful!

Hello readers,Martine bathing baby

My name is Eve Blanchard Ratthe and I am a French Canadian living in Orange County with my soul mate/best friend and my 7 blessings from above.  There are many things in life I am absolutely passionate about, one of which is holding a good book in my hands, smelling it (the older the better) and looking at it with anticipation. I try to find ways to carve out some time from my busy schedule to discover it’s beauty and how it will affect and change my life!

I recently went to Rea’s literature seminar in Orange County and was thrilled to meet her. During the seminar, my love for books grew bigger and deeper. The idea of writing my own book some day became a little closer to reality! After the seminar, Rea asked me if I would be interested to share about the books I liked as a little girl and how they influenced me now as a mother, wife,  baker–I was delighted!

This is one of my favorite scenes, so tender and filled with love…oh how I longed to hold a baby…I was crying. That day I remember vividly my mom letting me go babysit with my older sister so I can hold one of these precious miracles until one day I could hold my own…

How excited I am to share these awesome books with you. This beautiful French collection is called “MARTINE” and there are 60+ books in the series. It’s been translated in many languages and for those of you who would like to learn French, some are accompanied by a CD which has a narrator telling the story.

As a little girl, I loved Martine’s sweet character, full of life and how she brought me into all her adventures. The incredible art work would transport me into my dreams. They allowed me to visualize them, they were a tangible way of seeing that my dreams can come true. Often times, right after reading these books, I would ask my mother if I could play out what I saw in those pictures and she would let me. I would gather all that I needed and would re-create exactly what I saw in those pictures.

I truly believe I had hidden those BEAUTIFUL images in my heart and that one day they would come true for me . . . and they have . . .

I am now rediscovering them through the eyes of my children! I couldn’t wait to have my own children and experience motherhood, I couldn’t wait for them to have their own library and mark those special books with Ex Libris. When I gave birth to my first child, I immediately thought of starting her library and book collection. I asked several people in our families to give our daughter a book that they liked as a child and that influenced their own childhood. I wanted her to have this “MARTINE” collection that was so dear to me . . . of course. Whenever we go to Quebec, we never miss a chance of expanding her collection and mark those trips with one or two new Martine books. When our families come visit us, they also bring some with them. All my children truly enjoy reading them. The other day, my daughter Armanie shared with me that it was her absolute favorite collection–how thrilled I was to hear that!

Last year, the illustrator “Marcel MARLIER” who is now in his 80s, came to Quebec to visit the town where my sisters live. My sisters had each bought a book for my daughter and had it signed by him, needless to say, my daughter and I were incredibly touched. He wrote her a little message in each book and gave her a card as well. This is priceless to both of us! These two books are now marked with a very special autograph. Just as I have dreamt, I truly hope my children dream as they open these books . . .

These pictures increased my love for cooking and I’m sure had something to do with me entering pastry school!!

In these theater scenes, I just wanted to jump in the book and play with them.


Martine Plays Theatre, Martine is a Ballerina, and Martine and the Birthday Present are some of our favorites! I believe that just like they were for me, the Martine books are candy for my children’s sweet little eyes . . .

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Children’s books and the inspiration behind them . . .

Dear Readers,

Last Saturday I had the gratifying experience of meeting with 40 lovely ladies for a full day seminar discussing children’s books, education, literature, and history.  Despite the fact that we had over six hours together delving into these absorbing subjects, as usual there simply wasn’t enough time to cover it all!  So in response to some of the requests that emerged in our discussions, I’ll be posting over the next few days on some of these topics.

First of all, and a topic I come to with a great deal of enthusiasm, is the “story behind the story” of many of the best children’s books.  Honestly, the reason I come to this with such eagerness is that in this arena I happen to know one of the foremost authorities on children’s literature today!  Her name is Anita Silvey and I had the delightful opportunity to sit under her while doing my graduate work in children’s literature at Simmons College in Boston.  Since that time, Anita and I have maintained a warm friendship and I never miss a chance when visiting Boston to make a date with Anita.  She is one of those people who brings out the best in everyone she knows, and just sitting discussing children’s literature with her for an hour over lunch is always inspiring, informative, and invigorating!  I know if you were able to meet her you would feel exactly the same way!

So here’s one of my secrets:  Anita’s books on the history of children’s authors and illustrators!  I posted last year about her book Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book and you can access that here. A number of the stories I shared with you on Saturday–Robert Ballard, Jim Trelease, Andrew Wyeth, David McCullough, were adapted from this book. There are many, many, more on contemporary authors and the books that inspired them as children. I find these stories SO valuable because as mothers and educators we never really know which book or books may be the catalyst or inspiration to focus our child on their particular path in life. And of course, this points to the importance of Charlotte Mason’s notion of “abundant and orderly” serving of books.

Now, if what you’re really looking for is the stories of the authors themselves, then Anita offers a number of really important resources. But to start, I would recommend one of two: Children’s Books and Their Creators and The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and their Creators. Hardly a month goes by for me that I am not pulling one or the other of these off my shelf to reference. The first title is over 800 pages and contains about that many entries related to children’s authors, genres of children’s literature, historical and cultural forces as formative to various genres, and personal perspectives from the authors themselves. The Essential Guide offers many of the same components (and indeed carries over into this paperback edition much of the same material) but arranged alphabetically from Aesop to Zwerger (you may remember that name as Zwerger is the remarkable illustrator of the edition of The Selfish Giant that we looked at in the literary analysis component of our day). So for the really ambitious I would recommend the first title, and for those that want a slightly simpler more condensed (albeit still 500 some pages!) version I would select The Essential Guide. This is a great place to start. I have many more guides to children’s literature that I will feature later, but this is a wonderful place to start!