Show and Tell by Dilys Evans (Chronicle Books, 2008) carries the subtitle “Exploring the fine art of children’s book illustration,” and that is what it is: a full-color coffee table style book that highlights a few of the best children’s book illustrators by examining what makes their art “fine art.” Because I love reading picture books, I really appreciated the analysis of great children’s book illustration, as well as the discussion of the illustrators’ lives, from the beginning of their interest in art to where they found their inspiration for their illustration.
I am not personally attached to any physical volume or edition of literature, but I certainly appreciate a nicely bound book, and the history (or marginalia) of old works can be quite interesting.
The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios by Eric Rasmussen (Palgrave Macmillian 2011) is a personal account of Mr Rasmussen’s work with a committee to track down and record the condition of the less-than-300 remaining first portfolios of Shakespeare (originally printed 1623) in the world. The book is part general history of the creation and issue of Shakespeare’s folio (including a history of the thefts of this most expensive book), part detective work in trying to determine which copies are genuine and where they are (including the personal histories of the owners over the past four centuries), and part bibliophilic adoration of 400 years of marginalia on one of the world’s greatest writer’s first edition (this discussion of the marginalia was the most interesting to me).
It sounds like a lot to cover, but the author’s personal tone (he regularly refers to himself and the things he loves about searching and examining these Shakespeare volumes) gives it a memoir-ish feel, all the while imparting a general appreciation for 400 years of history as found in a particular first edition (or, rather, in the many different first editions that still are in existence). It’s a rather brief work (less than 200 widely spaced pages), but not much more is needed to infuse the reader with a greater appreciation of Shakespeare and where we’ve come since he first was writing. If anything, I wish some of the stories were a bit more drawn out. Most of the chapters were just a few pages long so the stories tended to run together in retrospect. But in general, it was fascinating to learn a bit more about the first readers of the author who would become legendary.
I received a complimentary review copy The Shakespeare Thefts from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A post for Allie’s Shakespeare Month.
When my son and this blog were newborns, I purchased a copy of Seth Lerer’s Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History and began reading some of the classic children’s books that I loved as a child and/or that have been influential in creating children’s literature as we know it. My project through the classics in that book got rather derailed as my baby became a toddler.
Now he’s a preschooler and I’m expecting another baby. I still don’t have the time (or the motivation, to be honest) to follow a progressive approach to reading through classic stories of the past1, but I certainly enjoy reading literary criticism of literature and the history of the stories that are the foundation for children’s literature today.
Enchanted Hunters, Maria Tatar’s volume on “The Power of Stories in Childhood,” is enjoyable and informative for the reader of children’s literature, for the parent who reads to a child, and for the reader who enjoys fairy tales. She discusses children’s literature from a few different approaches, including literary criticism, history, and personal opinions.
- I’ve found that my reading needs to be a bit more of an “escape” than an assignment given my busy life ↩
At one point in my life, I thought I was destined to be a writer: a writer of fiction, that is. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that writing fiction was not my forte. I still love to write, but it took the direction of literary criticism (in college) and now, blogging about books.
Bloggers near and far have mentioned, at various times in the life of my book blogging career, the writing help book Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose (first published 2006). Subtitled “A guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them,” it was just the literary criticism reminder that I needed to retrain my reading. It reminded me to look at literature – both classics and modern literature – as the writer I’ve always dreamed of becoming. Just what, about a work of fiction, makes it a specimen of great writing?
Prolific novelist Francine Prose examines classic works of literature – both new and old – with a critical eye. She examines the word choice, sentence structure, paragraphing choices, narration techniques, methods of developing characters, the significance of dialogue, details that make a work sincere, and the gestures that add or detract from a scene. As she quotes from the great works, we come to believe her initial claim: there is no such thing as rules when it comes to what makes writing good writing. (more…)
Part ghost story and part mystery, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (published 2006) captures the power of stories and books in a lonely life. Amateur biographer Margret Lea is invited to write the story of Vita Winter, aging popular writer with more than fifty published works to her name. Although the two women are very different and begin as strangers, as the novel progresses and their friendship grows, their stories come together. They have much more in common than they realized, and it all goes back to the universal power of stories.
It was a perfect read for a windy, rainy fall evening. (more…)