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Category Archives: Art / Photography

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman

Why We Broke UpI read this book in one night instead of sleeping.

Things you should know: Daniel Handler also writes children’s books as Lemony Snicket, best known for A Series Of Unfortunate Events.  Maira Kalman is an artist who has published books of her own work along with illustrating books written by other people.  (We previously reviewed one of her picture books here.)  Together they create a physically beautiful book, with glossy pages, full color illustrations, and gorgeous endpapers.  There was basically no chance I wouldn’t buy myself a copy.

The story itself is a letter from a teenage girl, Min, to her boyfriend-for-six-weeks, Ed.  It starts with a box of things that symbolize the relationship to her, which she is unceremoniously dumping on his doorstep.  Each chapter starts with a full-page illustration of an item from the box, followed by a somewhat stream-of-consciousness retelling of how it became important.

If a six-week relationship seems insignificant to you, and definitely not worth being heartbroken over, you may be an adult with a very bad memory of what it’s like to be a teenager.  Min and Ed’s story is full of firsts and lasts, at times painfully awkward while otherwise being perfectly sweet.  Mistakes are made, lessons learned the hard way – and yet, from an outside perspective, the experience gained in six weeks of Min’s Junior year is invaluable.

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The Girl With The Crooked Nose by Ted Botha

The Girl With The Crooked NoseI watch a lot of NCIS, where 40 minutes and one amazingly talented forensic scientist are enough to solve even the most horrific of crimes.  Real life, however, takes longer and doesn’t always yield such clear-cut results.

Enter Frank Bender.  He came upon his calling as a forensic artist almost accidentally, when he attended an autopsy in lieu of taking an anatomy course to help with his sculpting.  In the storage room, there was a body of a woman who had not been identified – he was told, “We have no idea what she might have looked like.”  Looking at her skull, however, Bender realized that he did know what she looked like.  And he asked permission to sculpt a bust of her face.

Five months after he completed her bust, the woman was identified as Anna Duval, a missing persons case from Arizona.

With a successful ID came more skulls needing faces.  Bender learned more about forensic reconstruction and streamlined his technique.  He visited the Mütter Museum to study differences in skulls (and later exhibited some of his completed busts there – leading to the identification of yet another victim).  He set up a studio for his unusual hobby.  And when the Mexican government asked the U.S. for help in identifying some of the more than 400 women killed since 1993, Bender was a natural choice for the task at hand.

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Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Lauren Child

Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Lauren ChildThe liquidation book fairies were very kind to me last week.  As I was cleaning up what was left of our Kids’ department for the umpteenth time one morning, I stumbled upon this lovely version of Goldilocks, as told by Lauren Child.  When I saw that it was illustrated with photographs of handmade dolls posed in a handcrafted cabin, I knew that I had to buy a copy for fellow bookseller and reviewer hardboundandgagged.  In case you don’t know her in real life (which I imagine most of you don’t), she is not only a fantastic kids’ bookseller, but she also does some very unique artwork.  A lot of that artwork utilizes dolls, and she poses them for photographs that are works of art in and of themselves.  So, basically, this book could have had her name written on it.

After I bought it and brought it home, however, I realized that I had a problem.  Although this book was perfect for her, after looking through it in more detail, I realized I was going to need a copy for myself.  And that is the really impressive part – somehow, the very next day, while cleaning up the Kids’ section yet again, a second copy materialized in front of me.  A liquidation miracle!  That kind of magical discovery would never happen while buying books online.  Suffice it to say, we both have our own copies now, and she kindly allowed me to write the review.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenHave you ever felt haunted by a book that wanted you to read it, no matter what?  The wonderfully-titled Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children followed me around for a couple of weeks, then appeared in my house under suspicious circumstances.  Which is to say, it was recommended to me on various websites, by word of mouth, and I saw it reviewed all over the place.  But I resisted, and wasn’t sure that I really wanted or needed to read it.  I wish I could remember what finally convinced me to pick it up, or where or when I finally bought it.  All I can say for sure, however, is that it made its way into my home, at the very top of my TBR, and I’m grateful that it did.

This book takes a series of odd (or let’s say “peculiar”) vintage photographs and builds a narrative around them.  The concept works so well that it becomes entirely plausible to consider the pictures as proof of the story, instead of merely a jumping off point for spinning this yarn.  In truth, I would have been fascinated by the book if it was just a collection of strange and creepy photographs with whatever limited information about their origin was available.  (The photos all come from personal collections, mostly cultivated through flea markets and other somewhat anonymous sources, so there is probably very little solid information available on any of them.)  In some cases you can guess at the techniques used to create an image of an invisible boy, or a girl trapped in a jar, or a young man lifting a large boulder with one hand.  Though I still found it impressive in an age when “dodge and burn” was not achieved by a mouse click in Photoshop.  Other of the photos are not as easy to explain away, and I spent more time than I care to admit just staring at them in amazement.

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Monumental: The Reimagined World of Kevin O’Callaghan

MonumentalAn M16 transformed into a teddy bear.  A phone booth that finds new life as a fallout shelter.  A typewriter that has a waffle press on its keyboard.  A car that has become a working telephone.

These are just a few of the projects pictured in this book covering the artistic vision of Kevin O’Callaghan.  O’Callaghan teaches a 3D art course at the School of Visual Arts in New York.  Many of his class projects become exhibitions in large New York venues, or even go on tour throughout the country.  This is the kind of book you can open at any page or read cover to cover, finding extraordinary creations on every page.

Some of the collections include: “Yugo Next”, where students took one of the least successful cars ever made and gave it new life; “Horsepower”, which reinvents the buggy for use in the modern world; “Disarm”, which pulls the most common and deadly assault rifle into non-violent contexts; and “Off Roading”, where a gas-guzzling pickup truck is dismantled and turned into apartment furnishings.

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