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Showing posts with label G.P. Putnam's Sons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label G.P. Putnam's Sons. Show all posts

7.11.2015

Can't Wait Till Christmas! (2010)

Written by Mike Huckabee

Illustrated by Jed Henry

G.P. Putnam's Sons

Election season has been gearing up, and while everyone else has been distracted by Donald Trump's shenanigans, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the major players through the lens of picture books. First up is former Governor of Arkansas and current Republican nominee, Michael Dale Huckabee!

In 2010, Mike Huckabee authored this small Christmas-themed tome, "Can't Wait Till Christmas!" I must confess, I was surprised at how... secular of a tale it was. Huckabee is not one known for mincing words when it comes to religion, and is a proponent of the 'war on Christmas' myth so pervasive in right-wing politics, so I assumed this would have something Jesus-y in it. As it stands, there was nary a manger scene!

1.15.2012

The Boy Who Lived With The Seals (1993)

Retold by Rafe Martin

Illustrated by David Shannon

Acyrlic

Typeset in Meridien

G.P. Putnam's Sons

I thought I'd begin this month of Native American stories with a book by two of my favorite people, Rafe Martin and David Shannon. They previously had collaborated on The Rough-Faced Girl. In that book, I remember being very surprised at how soulful Shannon's artwork could be - as I generally associate him with goofier, more playful fare. This book finds him back in full form here, adding some real gravity to a fanciful tale. In particular, I marveled at the violence with which the men of the village wrestle the boy from the island of seals to bring him home to his parents.

This is a Chinook tale, and is a tale with some familarities. The Jungle Book sprung to mind. Boy runs away from home, boy is taken in by anthropormised animals, boy returns to society... However, I have to think that it was the more spiritual elements which made Rafe want to tell this story. "These People understand well the sacredness of all life," he writes in an afterword. "They know one cannot just take without giving some gift in return - and that out of this gift new gifts of renewed life will grow."

Once the boy returns to his people, he tells of his life with the seals. It's mostly swimming and fishing, as you might imagine, but also...

He said that they build fires at night under the sea and tell stories. Only the stories the seals tell, he said, are of the things that happened long ago when the world was new, and of the things that are yet to happen far in the future.


A strange, cosmic detail, indeed.

I couldn't help but be glad to see the boy escape and rejoin his underwater family, yet the tale was bittersweet, as we end with the parents who must now go on living without their son.

6.24.2011

The Rough-Face Girl (1992)

Retold by Rafe Martin

Illustrated by David Shannon

Text set in Veljovic

G.P. Putnams' Sons

When Arlo first learned that this was a David Shannon book, he was surprised - as was I. The paintings are just so... earnest. Beginning with the cover, which I could look at for a year and a day, waiting for her to move the hands from her face, just a centimeter, as I know she is about to, and then continuing into the early morning mist revealing a small encampment by the shores of Lake Ontario, followed by the two sisters standing over the eponymous rough-face girl, their eyes lost in shadow as they gloat above a roaring fire. They look hollow. They look like evil statues. These are paintings which carry weight.

This is a Cinderella story, and it is also a retelling of the Sootface story which I reviewed last week. Sootface was Ojibwan, this story is Algonquin.

The former heroin had a face of soot, this girl has sisters who "made their youngest sit by the fire and feed the flames." Over time, as the sparks do their worst to her flesh, her skin begins to take on a rough appearance.

Beyond that, the two stories were very much the same. I noted that neither one begins with the appearance of the Invisible Warrior. We are introduced to him and his sister and their large wigwam before we meet the Rough-Faced girl and her wicked sisters.

All of the women of the village go to the wigwam of the Invisible Being and are then challenged by the sister.

"If you want to marry my brother, you have to have seen him. Tell me, have you seen the Invisible Being?"

"Of course!"

"What's his bow made of?"

"The great oak tree."

"No! What's the runner of his sled made of?"

"The green willow branch."

"No! You have not seen my brother. Now go home."

So then, it is the rough-face girl who makes the journey to the wigwam, and as she walks, she must put up with the taunts and jeers of the other women. "Go home, you ugly girl! You'll never marry the Invisible Being!"

Here the tale diverges quite a bit from Sootface. I noted that in Sootface, when the young heroine is asked about the Invisible Warrior, she responds that his bow is made of the rainbow. We see a normal-sized warrior approaching holding a bow which indeed appears to be a rainbow - or perhaps a rainbow colored piece of wood.

In The Rough-Face Girl, Shannon paints a gorgeous, 2 page spread of an unfolding landscape. "As she walked on, she saw the great beauty of the earth and skies spreading before her. And truly she alone, of all in that village, saw in this thing the sweet yet awesome face of the Invisible Being."

A very large, and very real rainbow arcs down from the skies.



Later, as night has fallen, and she is asked by the sister to tell of the Invisible Being's sled runner, she looks up into the starry skies and answers, "Why, it is the Spirit Road, the Milky Way of stars that spreads across the sky!"

There is the sense, then, that the Invisible Being is not a person at all, but a spirit which surrounds the whole of the earth. Perhaps the problem with the other sisters was that they took the questions too literally, trying to discern an invisible apparition, with the Invisible Being was with them and apparent the entire time. From this point of view, then, it seems The Rough-Face Girl - though beginning as a Cinderella story certainly, ends up being about a young woman's spiritual awakening, seeing for the first time the supernatural properties of the natural world.

Click here for more Native American tales!

Click here for more Cinderella stories!

6.17.2011

I Want to be Free (2009)

Written by Joseph Slate

Illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Watercolor

Text set in ITC Cushing

G.P. Putnam's Sons

"This poem is a retelling of a story in the sacred literature of Buddha about his disciples, the Elephant Ananda, as related by Rudyard Kipling in his novel, Kim," writes Joseph Slate, though you'd hardly guess it from a glance. The setting is very far removed from the world of Kipling. This is a story of African slaves fleeing their plantation and escaping to freedom along the underground railroad.

For complete authenticity, the illustrator, E.B. Lewis, made the journey from Kentucky across the Ohio river. "I imagined the dark nights when lives quietly swept across to the other side," he writes. "I toured the Rankin House in Ripley, OH, for the first time and stood still for a while to reflect on the risky and humane actions that helped free slaves during those times."

That is not to suggest that everything about this book is based on fact. There are several more fantastical moments, beginning with the very first page.

Before I die, I want to be free.
But the Big Man says, "You belong to me."

And then we see the Big Man, rising before the young slaves like a specter, his face covered in shadow from his wide-brimmed hat. His enormity is exaggerated. Looking at him is like looking at an unscalable mountain.

But its a mountain the narrator attempts to scale nonetheless. In another few pages, he's off through the woods, finding a cave by nightfall where other slaves huddle and hide. These nighttime scenes are incredibly beautiful and atmospheric, using just a few different shades of green, lewis creates an entire world of lush vegetation, ragged clothing and nighttime starscapes.

Big Man has dogs. He has a gun.

The salves flee in the night. One small child who had lost his mother is about to be left behind.

"Oh no," says I. "We'll run to the wild! The Lord will help me care fort this child!"

For the rest of the story, we follow the two of them fleeing together, all the meanwhile, the iron is still clasped firmly around the leg of the man.

One day, my child looked close at the rung.
Said, "Papa, papa, what is that thing?"
I told him the story of that dark, dark day.
He touched the ring. It fell away.
Tears welled up. Fell down from my face.
I saw my child lit up by grace.
"How, dear child, did you set me free?"
"I'm from the Lord. You cared for me."

12.12.2010

Uncle Bobby's Wedding (2008)

Written and Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Watercolor and graphite on cold press watercolor paper
Text set in Espirit

Designed by Katrina Damkoehler

G.P. Putnam's Sons

Such a simple tale, told gracefully with warmth and humor, it is perhaps shocking that it remains such a controversial book.

"Bobby was Chloe's favorite uncle. They went for long walks together," Brannen writes, and there they go, the two guinea pigs, hand in hand, strolling nonchalantly through the woods, through which shafts of light pierce.

Later we see them rowing on a lake beneath the moonlit sky, and Uncle Bobby seems to be pointing out constellations to the young girl. They are truly the best of friends. However, this friendship is tested when Chloe discovers that Bobby is getting married to his friend Jamie!

All of their friends and relatives whoop and holler at the news, laughing and crying and feeling generally congratulatory... all except Chloe.

"I still don't think you should get married. You have me! We can keep having fun together, like always."

After awhile, however, Chloe warms to the idea, and to Jamie.

"I wish you were both my uncles," said Chloe.

"You get your wish, sweetheart," said Bobby. "When we get married, you'll have an Uncle Jamie, too."

They have this exchange whilst roasting marshmallows in a fireplace, an unfinished game of Monopoly laying behind them. Brannen has a real eye for these sort of relaxing, pastoral activities. The eponymous wedding is no different.

An afternoon breeze cooled the garden. Daisies and buttercups bloomed in the grass and the air smelled like roses.

All of the guests are barefoot - which isn't so remarkable since going back through the book I see that everyone is always barefoot - but even so, taking in the blooming flowers and the soft grass and the sunshine, I like to think that they're especially barefoot.

That night, all in attendance dance to the light of the moon, holding hands and frolicking, the air filled with fireflies.

"That was the best wedding ever," said Chloe. "I planned it all from the beginning."

This book was first reviewed in Tales and Their Tellers 4: "We're Here, We're Queer, and We're Anthropomorphic!"
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