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Showing posts with label Atheneum Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Atheneum Books. Show all posts


Forever Young (2008)

By Bob Dylan

Illustrated by Paul Rogers

Text set in Clarendon

Ink, acrylic, and Adobe Illustrator

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

I am very pleased to say that my son liked this one very much. I wasn't sure, since it seemed on first glance like it would have more appeal for older Dylan enthusiasts and completists. I like the song, "Forever Young," of course, but its not one of my favorite Dylan songs, probably not in my top 10... or even top 20. I like songs best that tell a story, or at least suggest a story, and for a story-lover, Bob Dylan is a treasure trove. "Forever Young," however, has always seemed to me more of a series of platitudes and well-wishes.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young

It does not evoke within me a sense of place or time or character. So it's to Paul Rogers' credit that he was able to infuse the song with just these elements and create a story through his illustrations. Beginning with a wide-eyed youth gazing at Woody Guthrie sitting outside of Gerde's Folk City, "This Machine Kills Fascists" emblazoned on his guitar case, it follows him through adolecense, through Greenwich Village, the shows, festivals, the protests. Along the way, the backgrounds are littered with the likes of Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Pete Seeger, John Lennon, all those greats, and references to Dylan songs.

The illustrator's notes at the end give away most of the references, which may seem like cheating, but Arlo really enjoyed going back through the book afterward to see if he could pick out the hidden emblems. "Get some Dylan albums," he writes, "sit down, listen to the lyrics, look at the book, and see what you can find."


On Purim (2000)

By Cathy Goldberg Fishman

Illustrated by Melanie W. Hall

Collagraph and mixed media

Text set in Novarese Medium

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

"Oh, today we'll merry, merry be," I sing as I work on my mask.

In On Purim, Goldberg gives us a story within a story, showing how the Biblical story of Esther translates into a modern-day celebration.

We begin as a contemporary Jewish family is preparing for Purim. The young narrator of the story is making masks, and wonders, "Why do we wear masks on Purim?"

Soon, the whole family is wearing masks, taking on the guise of specific characters. There is wise Mordecai, handlebar-mustache-weilding King Ahasuerus, and of course, Esther.

"Line up!" demands this incarnation of the King. "I will choose a new queen!"

It's all a giggle. So funny, how these violent Old Testament stories can become something so pleasantly diverting.

"Who knows the story of Purim?" asks the grandfather, and soon the family has gathered around for the telling. When the young narrator reads, "The king's chief advisor was an evil man named Haman..." the grandfather yells, "Boo! Boo!"

"Haman wanted everyone to bow down to him," she attempts to continue, but is again interrupted by the booing of her grandfather. Every time Haman's name is spoken aloud, he feels compelled to shout out his displeasure.

It's a simple retelling, but Hall's illustrations are quite lovely and emphasize the fairy-tale aspect of the story. It is plain to see how this is a story which would be especially appealing to children, and particular to girls who daydream of becoming princesses.

Following the story, the family continues their celebrating, noshing on some hamantashen. Hamantashen are triangle shaped cookies which are supposed to look like the hat Haman wore. "Gobbling them up is another way of blotting out his name," says the grandfather, who really does seem to have a personal vendetta.

Then comes the Purim carnival itself, with games and prizes, a costume parade and a Punch and Judy-esque puppet show, in which all the children - not just elderly grandfathers - chant, "Boo! Boo!" and shake their groggers when puppet Haman makes its appearance.

All in all, this is a light story, very deftly providing the origin behind the traditions, how a story becomes another story, becomes another story. At the end, the narrator asks a question that I too had been wondering for some time, as I've worked on this series on Purim and Esther.

"Where is God in the Purim story?"

I have now gone through several versions of the story, and it has not escaped my attention that - though Biblical - there is no obvious supernatural element. There are wicked people, yes, and there are good people, but never did I get the sense that there is any Devil-work at hand, or divine intervention.

"He is hidden in the faith of Mordecai and Esther and in their courage to do the right thing," says her father.

We wear masks to remind us that, even though we don't hear His name, God is a hidden part of the Purim story. We wear masks to remind us that, even though we don't see Him, God is a hidden part of our lives, too, and when Purim is over, He will still be there.
Click here for more versions of the story of Queen Esther!
Click here for more Biblical Stories from the Old Testament!
Click here for Jewish folktales!


The Hunter (2000)

Retold by Mary Casanova

Illustrated by Ed Young

Pastel and gouache

Text set in Papyrus ICG

Book design by Michael Nelson

"The author first heard this story from an exchange student from Chang Chun, the capital city in the Ji Lin province of northeast China," begins the book, prior to the dedication.

Following this are reproductions of 15 stylized Chinese characters and their English translations:

Suffer - Drought
Snatch - Soar
Hasten - Rescue
Dragon - Palace
Reward with - Treasure
Magic - Rock
All - Benefit
Floor - Disaster
Begging to - Escape
Doubt - All
Heavenly - Secret (Plan)
Turning to - Stone

Not counting the cover and title page, Young produced 15 illustrations for this particular book, each corresponding to one of these characters, which appear as tiny, scarlet imprints on the right hand corner of each page, like a seal. Taken in total, they form a narrative.

This is the story of a young hunter named Hai Li Bu, charged with providing the meat for his village in a land where game has grown scarce and life is hard. "The children rarely laughed, the young women seldom sang, and the white-haired people were too weak to leave their mats."

However, deep within the caves beneath the village lives the Dragon King, whom Young illustrates with a multitude of fierce strokes, seemingly unconnected to any shape or outline. He is surrounded by treasures and by magic, and it is with him that Hai Li Bu must bargain.

"Your treasures are beautiful, but the only thing I desire is to understand the language animals. Then I can be a better hunter."

The Dragon King reared back and from out of his mouth shot a round stone. "Take it," he said, "and your wish will come true. But remember one thing: You must not pass on the secret of your gift, or you will surely turn to stone, like the one you now hold."

For a while, this gift helps the hunter, and he is able to return to his village each night with more and more food. But there is a price to be had, one of heightened responsibility. He must warn his fellow villagers of a coming storm - which he knows about due only to his understanding of the birds and the beasts. His fellow villagers do not believe his words, and so he is forced to divulge the secret of his knowledge.

"Look," he said, "the birds flee." As he spoke, his toes grew stiff as stones. "Tomorrow the mountain will be struck by lightning," he added, and his legs became granite hard. "The village will be flooded," he said, and his hands stopped in midair. "Listen," he said, "believe me and have courage." And as he spoke these last words, his lips turned to stone.
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