The truth about death is pretty depressing: it’s inevitable. As adults, we’re consciously aware of this fact mostly because we have no say in the matter—even if we escape death in our personal lives, that luck can only be tragically temporary (just like us, unfortunately!!!).
It’s often easier to joke about death than it is to confront it directly, as evidenced by this article. RIP, human nature. It can be difficult to live with the reality of death… so can you imagine how impossible it might feel to explain it to a kid, like spoiling the ending of an otherwise excellent story. This children’s book can serve as a gentle conversation-starter in a difficult time.
Image Via Barnesandnoble.com
Matt James‘ The Funeraldepicts a funeral from a child’s perspective. Even in its title, the book hints at the uncanny juxtaposition between the weight of death and the lighthearted whimsy of a child’s perspective—the fun in funeral is a cheery yellow while the word continues in a dim blue. Though the cover depicts tombstones, the two children are smiling and playful. The book opens:
Norma was practicing her sad face in the mirror of her parents’ room. Though she was, in fact, pretty happy. It was a day off from school, and she would be spending it with her cousin Ray. Her FAVORITE cousin, Ray.
Image Via 100scopenotes.com
The Funeral tackles the difficult questions, but, as in life, the hardest ones go unanswered. Norma asks: “is Uncle Frank still a person?” Instead of explaining to children what death means (or, even more daunting, what actually happens when you die), James simply depicts what the process of death might look like to a child. The book portrays a scene of the funeral itself, during which Norma laments “how looong they sat on those hard seats, with all that talk about God and souls, and not very much talk about Uncle Frank.” The story is unique in that it grounds itself in the physical, sensory details of a death—it is not an explanation but an introduction.
There is something magical and pure about children’s picture books. Even more than any other books, they teach and bring joy. Furthermore, for younger generations to grow up loving books and being introduced to the wonders of creativity and imagination is a fantastic thing!
To all the children’s authors today, I thank you for your work! But today specifically, we honor one particular author and artist who we have sadly lost, children’s author and illustrator John Burningham.
Image Via Telegraph Media Group
According to his official website, johnburningham.com, Burningham studied illustration and graphic design at the Central School of Art, graduating in 1959. With his degree he worked on several illustration commissions, including posters for London Transport. Each commission was made with whimsy and childlike imagination.
Image Via twentiethcenturyposters.com
This piece was designed to convince people to visit a local zoo. | Image Via twentiethcenturyposters.com
Mr. and Mrs. Plumpster are delighted when their six eggs hatch into adorable baby goslings. But one has them worried: Borka, who was born without feathers. The doctor encourages Mrs. Plumpster to knit Borka a fuzzy sweater, but while it helps keep out the cold, it doesn’t keep all the other young geese from teasing Borka — until, come migration day, her siblings fly off without her. What is the tearful goose to do? In a brand-new edition of his debut book for children —awarded a prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal in 1963 — the incomparable John Burningham turns a sad beginning into a whimsical tale of pluck and serendipity, kindness and kindred spirits, as he celebrates the rare birds among us.
This adorable and, at first, somewhat tragic tale about finding your own way no matter how “different” people may see you, helped jumpstart Burningham’s career in children’s books. Since then John Burningham has illustrated over thirty picture books, that have been translated and distributed all over the world.
Included in his vast collection Burningham has also published books collaborating with other artists and writers. The well-known novel Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car, which had its own film, entitled Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, was one book Burningham illustrated .
Image via Amazon
Ian Fleming, best known for his James Bond novels, wrote only one children’s book—and it is a classic! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the name of the flying, floating, driving-by-itself automobile that takes the Pott family on a riotous series of adventures as they try to capture a notorious gang of robbers. This is a story filled with humor, adventure, and gadgetry that only a genius like Fleming could create.
Burningham also took the challenge of solely writing a book! With the help of his wife Helen Oxynbury, who is an illustrator herself, the book There’s Going To Be A Baby was born (pun fully intended)!
Image Via Amazon
From two of the world’s best-loved picture-book creators, an absolute gem for new-siblings-to-be. When is the baby coming? What will we call it? What will the baby do? We don’t really need the baby, do we? As the arrival of a new sibling draws nearer, the questions that stream through a young child’s mind are followed with sensitivity and humour in this enchanting book. Exquisitely illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, these pages brim with love, excitement and reassurance as the child in the story imagines all kinds of colourful futures for the brother or sister he is waiting to meet. Full of warmth and promise, this is an instant and timeless classic.
This incredibly endearing story book is perfect for ever-growing families, and for the past eight years has been helping parents explain to their children that new baby is on the way. I can imagine it being the perfect project for the Burningham and Oxenbury!
Since his start from college as a poster illustrator for his community, he skyrocketed to famous children’s book author and illustrator. John Burman has brought whimsy, joy, and inspiration to the people of London and across the world! In honor of all his work in children’s books, John was awarded with the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award last year. His imaginitive and unique stories and charming illustrations will be remembered!
John with his wife Helen. | Image via Nursery World
Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, has just released her debut book, Useless Magic. Published under Penguin Random House and released yesterday, July 5th, this collection of personal poems, illustrations, and more is stunningly unique, and something you definitely don’t want to miss!
Since the start of her career, Welch has always brought something entirely otherworldly to the table; her voice acting as an instrument all it’s own, on par with the voices of artists like Kate Bush or Björk, giving her music a dream-like quality and creating a sound you recognize as hers the moment you hear it. Her past work has had a much bigger instrumental sound (including the use of wind chimes, drumming on multiple surfaces, bells, electric guitars, etc.) while her newest release, High as Hope, feels more stripped-down and raw; her voice feels more conversational, her lyrics more poetic. This is also the first album on which Welch herself is listed as the producer.
Listening to this album feels more personal; Welch has been open about much of the lyrics deriving directly from poems and journal entries (Hungersmacks you right from the get-go with it’s opening line, as does Sky Full Of Songwith the bridge “I thought I was flying but maybe I’m dying tonight“) creating a listening experience that feels completely relatable and entirely human.
And now, with the release of Useless Magic, Florence Welch has taken the full dive into letting us truly see her inner world. Reading this collection feels as though you’re reading someone’s journal filled with their direct and most personal thoughts; not to mention the mystical, ethereal quality Welch is famous for seems to pour from within the pages, giving the collection a prophetic-like feel.
Image via Amazon
This book is beautiful in how it shows someone as their most realistic, not-always-put-together self. Welch is open about her struggles with eating disorders, alcoholism, anxiety, and more; she writes of those who’ve hurt her, of the things she feels afraid of, of the things she feels ashamed for having done. There is no sugar-coating here, no rose colored glasses, nor smoke or mirrors. It’s the sort of work you’ll read and think, “oh my god, I’ve felt that way, too!”
Useless Magic is the more than simply another inside look at a successful artist and her musical process; it’s a look at someone in all of her graceless, messy, miserable, terrified, and fallible humanity. It’s clouded and scribbled and just so, completely gorgeous in how heartbreakingly relatable every word, note, poem, and illustration are. (Being a person is scary; none of us really have any idea what we’re doing or why we’re here or if we’re living our lives the way we were meant to, and Welch has been fearless in opening up about that.)
Image via Amazon
Watching an artist blend poetry with music, and openly speak about the power poems and writing and words can hold, is so exciting. I’m a big believer that reading poems and writing your own (in whatever way feels right) can cause you to grow, shift, change, and realize thoughts and you feelings you never knew you had. Poetry can sometimes tend to gain a bit of a bad reputation as something boring and difficult to understand because of the way many school systems teach us to read poems from a technical, as opposed to emotional, standpoint; it’s refreshing to see someone who holds such a powerful place in the mainstream media release poems; now fans of Welch who may not have necessarily considered themselves fans of poetry before will be buying and reading a book of poems, and that’s insanely cool. (This all part of the poetry-community’s plan to get everyone in the world to read poetry, obviously. We’re after a poetry-ruled world, baby!)
Useless Magic will allow you to see someone in an intimate light we are rarely granted. You don’t want to miss this, order here! Also, be sure to check out Florence Welch’s Instagram-based book club, Between Two Books, now!
…a prediction comes true and I couldn’t do anything to stop it, so it seems like a kind of useless magic.
Originally published in 2008, J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard is getting a gorgeous illustrated revamp in October of this year. Originally mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this new edition will feature full-color illustrations alongside the original stories.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard include five short stories, “The Wizard in the Hopping Pot,” “The Fortune of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Crackling Stump,” and most notably, “The Tale of the Three Brothers,” which was featured in both the Deathly Hallows book and movie.
Illustrator Chris Riddell has recently posted on his Instagram some previews of his upcoming work in the form of giant, colorful prints at an undisclosed book fair.
She has asked her Instagram followers to send her ideas of beasts to draw at firstname.lastname@example.org, and has received and drawn suggestions spanning many time periods and cultures, as well as several characters from fiction such as a porg from Star Wars: The Last Jedi and an Owlbear from Dungeons & Dragons.
El Shami-Mader began the project as a stress reliever while working five jobs.
I felt extremely drained and worn-out all the time. I really needed something to balance out the lack of creative expression I was feeling and to get my mind off things, at least for an hour a day… A few years back I did a series of fairytale illustrations and came across many amazing creatures, like the Bøyg in Per Gynt. Since I always wanted to deepen my knowledge about these creatures, I ordered the book Phantasmagoria by Terry Beverton and it arrived on my doorstep on September 30, just in time for me to begin a daily monster-drawing challenge I’d set myself for the month of October.
She says that she feels mythical creatures show “humanity’s need to have a reason for both good and bad things happening. Sometimes they are a ray of hope, the only thing able to cure an incurable illness; other times they bring plagues and death. They are wise helpful spirits, and they are malicious tricksters. It can also be really funny—you can tell that some only exist because of the bad descriptions the scholars wrote down.”
El Shami-Mader told Atlas Obscura that she would love to turn her illustration into a series of books, adding, “For now there is only an idea, but a friend of mine is a composer and we were thinking of collaborating on a trilingual ‘monsters set to music’ book. My current priority, however, is finding as many mythical creatures as possible.”
Read the full interview here, and check out her Instagram here!