I do declare that it has been something like a year since I did a good old-fashioned Librarian Preview. Where has the time gone? For a bit I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work such a preview requires that I cut them out of my diet, cold turkey.
Well that ends today. From here on in we’re doing our Librarian Previews like it’s nobody’s business. Today’s is a perfect example of why. I’m sure you have all sorts of outlets for learning about minedition and their amazing books, but today I’m the one shining the spotlight. And what I see pleases me immeasurably.
But first, the basics. Mainly: What the heck is minedition? For some of you the name is vaguely familiar. It rings a distant bell. Well an explanation is easily found on their website. To quote: “Five years ago michael neugebauer edition was newly founded after the publisher Michael Neugebauer ended his affiliation with the Swiss Nord Süd Publishing.” In fact, minedition used to have a Penguin connection. These days they’re distributed through IPG. The very word “minedition” is a combination of the letters “mi” from Michael, “ne” from Neugebauer and “edition”. He’s a fascinating feller too. His father was a calligrapher (one of the best in the world, it seems) who gave his son a unique appreciation for fonts, layouts, and design. Michael himself went on to do many things before minedition, including serving as Jane Goodall’s favorite photographer. You know that picture at the end of Me…Jane that just rips your heart out of your chest? Michael took that.
But it’s this statement on the website that I like the best: “When children are exposed to exceptional books, if they have the chance to discover amazing books, they can develop much more than just a deeper appreciation of word and art. Such books can foster understanding and a greater appreciation of the multi-cultural world in which we live.”
Amen to that. So enough with the chitty chat. Let’s see what minedition has put on the table.
First up: The board books!
This would be We Love Each Other by Yusuke Yonezu (ISBN: 9789888240562). Now I appreciate a publishing company, particularly an artsy one like minedition, that understands how very difficult it is to make a good board book. A good board book is a like a homemade loaf of bread. On the surface it seems like it would be easy to make but there are subtleties involved. Thus far the author Yusuke Yonezu is unknown to our fair shores but I expect all of that to change soon. First of all, this book is pretty much brilliant. It shows animals apart who, when put together, make different shapes. Circles, squares, triangles, you name it. The art is bold, colorful, simple, funny, sweet, touching, all that stuff. And it’s just a friggin’ board book! The additional good news is that it’s not the only one this year:
Yum Yum, also by Yusuke Yonezu (ISBN: 9789881595355 ) isn’t out until the spring. Various healthy foods are presented and with a flip of a page you get to see various animals eating them. A mouse likes cheese, a pig likes an apple, a rabbit likes carrots, etc. Get to the end, though, and a human kid is there. And instead of a single food, he likes to eat everything that was already mentioned. It’s sort of a subtle good food message, but with these adorable illustrations. I mean seriously. Look at that cat up there. Can you resist that? Really?
From board books we travel to the world of fairy tales . . .
This would be Tales from the Brothers Grimm, selected and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger (ISBN: 9789888240531). Now if you’ve been in the business at all and looked at the people who are regularly illustrating fairy tale classics, you simply cannot have that conversation without mentioning Ms. Zwerger. I mean, she’s the Paul Galdone of the 21st century. As childscapes.com put it, “She has been recipient of virtually every recognition an illustrator can be given including the most prestigeous of all, The Hans Christian Andersen Medal as well as special recognition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.” Darn tootin’.
Now the thing to know about this collection of Grimm tales is that it’s a mix of things that had already been published in the States alongside stories that have never seen our sunny shores. There’s also a nice melding of the familiar (The Bremen Town Musicians) with the unfamiliar (The Poor Miller’s Boy and the Little Cat). There are eleven in total and it’s nice to see a good collection of this sort for this year. Lord knows nobody really tackles Grimm like this anymore (can you think of any 2013 that do?).
Along the same lines . . .
The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Lisbeth Zwerger (ISBN: 9789881848543). Now this pretty thing isn’t coming out until the spring but we can wait a bit. Isn’t that a stunner of a cover? Zwerger’s Pied Piper has never been published in America before. Now the art is beautiful to begin with. Rats actually scurry around the margins of the tale until the Piper lures them away (the last you see of them are the tips of their bare pink tails). Then there’s the cover image you see here. That red hat is the Piper’s hunting hat, and already you can see a child enticed by what he’s playing. There’s also a fantastic Afterword by Renate Raecke that discusses how strange this Grimm story is. Unlike the tales that begin “Once upon a time” this one begins with the exact date of when this incident occurred (June 26th, 1284). Here’s my favorite part: “Historians have been fascinated by this mention of a specific date, and by the handwritten entry, in an old chronicle of the town of Hamelin, recording the children’s disappearance, although it is thought to have been added decades after the event.” It then goes on with alternate theories about what happened to the kids, including the plague.
Santa Claus: All About Me by Juliette & John Atkinson (ISBN: 9789881512658) is what you would get if ever Candlewick felt like creating something along the lines of Christmasology. But the book is far more factual than the “ology” books, even if the format is similar. It explains the origins of everything from Christmas trees to “The Sleighway Code”, and there are lots of fun doodads and pop-ups inside (even a little sixpence that looks awfully real). In a hat tip to librarians, many of the flaps are fancy post-its, which can come off without damaging the book itself. Ta! And speaking of Christmas . . .
The Message of the Birds by Kate Westerlund, ill. Feridun Oral (ISBN: 9789888240555) is a straight up Christ child Christmas story. The tale itself involves the birds of the world and a song they learned long ago that they want to sing to every child that they find. The real lure is the art, however. Particularly the various birds, most that you won’t find in North America.
You could be forgiven for thinking that The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry, ill. Sonja Danowski (ISBN: 9789888240579) was the work of Robert Ingpen, P.J. Lynch, or Roberto Innocenti. Heck, that’s what I thought when I saw it. In fact it’s by Sonja Danowski, a German artist who is as beautiful as the woman in this story. I’ve not seen her work before but apparently she illustrated Streams and Dreams and Other Themes, which was another minedition title. The story is set in a turn of the century New York apartment. As we read, the stencil of a flower grows and grows until it becomes an all encompassing riot on the endpapers.
Well I am happy to report that Aesop is having a banner year in 2013. I was already aware of Aesop in California by Doug Hensen (which is GORGEOUS and which you really must find on your own), Aesop’s Fables by Ann McGovern, and Arctic Aesop’s Fables: Twelve Retold Tales by Susi Gregg Fowler. Add now to the list Aesop’s Fables by Aesop, ill. Ayano Imai (ISBN: 9789888240524). A book meant to be read vertically, there are thirteen tales here in total. Each one a stunner, with the slyest little details bedecking the edges of the bottom pages. I love them all but it’s The Lion and the Mouse here that has my heart. I don’t know why no other illustrator has ever considering trapping not just the lion but other animals and creatures in nets, but Imai has and it’s brilliant. Imai, for the record, was born in London but eventually moved to Japan. It was there that she developed her love of painting, a fact that is reflected in her work.
And finally, I save the best for last.
Hm. That jacket, for all that it’s cool (can you see the squirrel?) isn’t doing this book justice. Here. I’ve posted this video before for the French edition but I’m going to do so again for the American. Behold! It looks exactly like this:
The book is Hansel and Gretel by Sybille Schenker (ISBN: 9789888240548) and it is a wonder. First off, admire that spine, tied with twine. Then as you page through it’s like the inventiveness of Bruno Munari has been combined with a classic Grimm sensibility. Partially transparent papers give the sense of walking through the foggy woods, so that the gingerbread house emerges like a vision in the gloom. I have never encountered a book that could evoke the feeling of claustrophobia better than this. Without a doubt, it is the most beautiful fairy tale I’ve seen this year.
And that’s that! Thanks so much to Michael Neugebauer for sitting down with me to show me the season. Thanks too to Deborah Sloan for the images and the ISBNs. Great grand stuff.