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

The work of Mitsumasa Anno has been beloved since the 1970s when his first books appearedImage result for Anno's Journey 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 any that 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 George Seurat’s  A Sunday on La Grande Gatte or his Bathers at Asniers.  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 pouring over the pictures with their intense colors, humor, and variety.

Over two years ago, I contacted the Japanese publisher of Mr. Anno’s work, in order to ascertain if they would be willing to have our

Guilan.JPG

The enchanted Guilan from Anno’s China

company, Beautiful Feet Books, republish 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.

annos-china-iphoneJust 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 on this wonderful Journey with him!

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Hi!  My name is Rebecca and I’m Rea’s eldest daughter.  As she’s been busy with lots of projects she’s asked me to write some guest entries for her book blog.  As a bibliophile myself, I am happy to jump in!  I have my own blog over at http://scottybecca.wordpress.com where I write about my life in Scotland, books I love, and anything else that piques my interest.

I am excited to be doing a series of entries over the next few weeks on some of my favorite summer reads – ranging from picture books to literary classics.  Today we get to explore the world of picture books, an area that holds a special place in my heart. One should never outgrow a good picture book – the beauty of a simply crafted story accompanied by creative illustrations, these are books for all ages.

The Obadiah Books by Brinton Turkle: Thy Friend, Obadiah, Obadiah the Bold, and Rachel and Obadiah

These books were staples of my childhood, bringing alive a time and place far from my experience.  Set during the height of the whaling age these stories feature the Starbuck family, Quakers living on Nantucket amidst all the hustle and bustle of a vibrant shipping port community.  Obadiah, the youngest son, is the main protagonist and he’s very much a classically mischievious boy.  Brinton Turkle wrote and illustrated each of these books with a specific purpose in mind: “In writing, I use all sorts of tricks to capture the attention of my young audience: suspense, humor and even charm, when I can muster it. But no matter how successfully I may entertain, I am really up to something else: subversion. My abilities are implacably lined up against the hypocrisy, materialism, and brutality that so pervade our society. As my readers leave childhood behind, I hope that they will carry with them an appreciation for such alternatives as integrity, mutual respect, kindness and reverence for life. These alternatives are in my books and I pray that exposure to them will play a part in the construction of a better tomorrow.”  As a child, I never suspected these stories of being subversive – they were just good stories that worked into my small brain the ideas of kindness and generosity and courage.  The best stories are like that – they teach great lessons without being didactic.

Illustration from Obadiah the Bold

Turkel’s illustrations are so charming and I can remember looking at each detail as a child.  Although these were often read aloud to me, I also loved reading them myself, making them perfect for summer.

Wilfrid Gordon Mcdonal Partridge by Mem Fox was a newer discovery for me and I loved it from the first time I saw it.  How could I not?  The illustrations of delightfully rumpled children living in realistically messy houses are charming.

Illustration from Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

I remember hoping that the story was good enough to justify such great illustrations and was delighted to discover that the story is a treasure.  Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, who isn’t very old, is best friends with Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, who is very old.  In his heroic attempt to help Miss Nancy find her “lost” memory, Wilfrid has all sorts of adventures and the story beautifully illustrates the friendships that can exist across all ages.  Charming, whimsical, and moving, this is one of my all-time favorites.

The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola

Another later discovery, this book is a bit heart-wrenching.  The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola is based on an old Italian legend about a clown who offers the Christ Child the gift of his talent and the miracle that follows.  Much like the story of the widow’s mite it’s a good reminder that the best gift one can give is the gift of self.  I am also taken with the illustrations which seem to me to model those of stained glass windows.

Illustration from the Clown of God

As a side note, I love this book but do recognize that the ending can be upsetting.  Please preview it before sharing it with especially sensitive children.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is a great bedtime story.  It’s as quiet as a wintery night and speaks of the special relationship between a young child and her father.  Expansive illustrations play well with the sparse text giving the story a bigness that is uncommon in a children’s book.

Illustration from Owl Moon

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into some of my favorite picture books.  I will be back with more and in the mean time, please share your favorite picture books.  I would love to hear about what you’ve been reading, what books you loved as a child, and even what books you’re planning on reading this summer.  I’m sure the other readers would love to hear too – so share your thoughts.

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