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Hello, Larry! In this season for reflection, the time has come for the annual best-of reading lists, continuing with children's books after the year's best science books. The regular newsletter will arrive, as always, on Sunday. If you're enjoying it, please consider supporting my labor of love with a donation â€“ I spend countless hours and tremendous resources on it, and every little bit of support helps enormously.
NOTE: Some email programs can't display messages beyond a certain length. Yours might truncate this long reading list. You can see all sixteen books here.
â€œEach day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead,â€ John Updike wrote, â€œso why â€¦ be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?â€ Half a millennium earlier, Montaigne posed the same question somewhat differently in his magnificent meditation on death and the art of living: â€œTo lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago.â€
Yet mortality continues to petrify us â€” our own, and perhaps even more so that of our loved ones. And if the adult consciousness is so thoroughly unsettled by the notion of death, despite intellectually recognizing it as a necessary and inevitable part of life, how is the child consciousness to settle into comprehension and comfort?
Now comes a fine addition to the most intelligent and imaginative childrenâ€™s books about making sense of death â€” the crowning jewel of them all, even, and not only because it bears what might be the most beautiful childrenâ€™s book title ever conceived: Cry, Heart, But Never Break (public library) by beloved Danish childrenâ€™s book author Glenn Ringtved and illustrator Charlotte Pardi, translated into English by Robert Moulthrop.
Although Ringtved is celebrated for his humorous and mischievous stories, this contemplative tale sprang from the depths of his own experience â€” when his mother was dying and he struggled to explain what was happening to his young children, she offered some words of comfort: â€œCry, Heart, but never break.â€ It was the grandmotherâ€™s way of assuring the children that the profound sadness of loss is to be allowed rather than resisted, then folded into the wholeness of life, which continues to unfold. (Iâ€™m reminded of Maria Kalmanâ€™s unforgettable words: â€œWhen Tibor died, the world came to an end. And the world did not come to an end. That is something you learn.â€)
This warmly wistful story begins outside the â€œsmall snug houseâ€ where four children live with their beloved grandmother. Not wanting to scare the young ones, Death, who has come for the old lady, has left his scythe by the door. Immediately, in this small and enormously thoughtful gesture, we are met with Deathâ€™s unexpected tenderness.
Inside, he sits down at the kitchen table, where only the youngest of the kids, little Leah, dares look straight at him.
What makes the book particularly touching, thanks to Pardiâ€™s immensely expressive illustration, is just how crestfallen â€” broken, even â€” Death himself looks the entire time he is executing his mission, choked up with some indiscernible fusion of resignation and recompense.
â€œIf you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work,â€ Muriel Spark counseled, â€œyou should acquire a cat.â€ Long before the cat became a modern literary muse, a monk whose identity remains a mystery immortalized his beloved white cat named Pangur. Sometime in the ninth century, somewhere in present-day southern Germany, this solitary scholar penned a beautiful short poem in Old Irish, titled â€œPangur BÃ¡nâ€ â€” an ode to the parallel pleasures of man and feline as one pursues knowledge and the other prey, and to how their quiet companionship amplifies their respective joys.
The poem has been translated and adapted many times over the centuries (perhaps most famously by W.H. Auden), but nowhere more delightfully than in The White Cat and the Monk (public library) by writer Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrator Sydney Smith â€” one of four wonderful childrenâ€™s books about the creative life, which I recently reviewed for The New York Times.
Smith, who has previously illustrated the immeasurably wonderful Sidewalk Flowers, imbues the ancient text with contemporary visual language through his singular, elegantly minimalist graphic novel aesthetic.
We see the old monk poring over his manuscripts in search of wisdom as Pangur prances around their spartan shared abode, chasing after a mouse and a butterfly. Each is totally absorbed in his task.
In a subtle story-with-a-story, one of the monkâ€™s manuscripts contains an even more ancient depiction of another monk and another cat â€” a reminder that this creaturely communion is a primal joy of the human experience.
At the end of each day, the two rest into their respective gladnesses in quiet camaraderie.
Written as a playful ode in the ninth century, today the poem lives partway between lamentation and celebration â€” it stands as counterpoint to our culture of competitive striving and ceaseless self-comparisons, but it also reminds us that the accomplishments of others arenâ€™t to the detriment of our own; that we can remain purposeful about our pursuits while rejoicing in those of others; that we can choose to amplify each otherâ€™s felicity because there is, after all, enough to go around even in the austerest of circumstances.
â€œTo be an artist is a guarantee to your fellow humans that the wear and tear of living will not let you become a murderer,â€ the great French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (December 11, 1911â€“ May 31, 2010) wrote in her diary toward the end of her long and illustrious life. That perfect fabric metaphor is not coincidental. Psychologists now know that metaphorical thinking is the birthplace of the imagination, â€œessential to how we communicate, learn, discover, and invent,â€ and it begins in childhood as young minds transmute the namable things that surround them into fresh metaphors for the unnamable things that they experience inside.
Born into a family that restored tapestries for a living, Bourgeois wove the world of colorful textiles into her imagination and into the very work that would establish her as one of the most important and influential artists of the twentieth century. It was in this family trade that she came to see her beloved mother as a deft, patient spider repairing broken threads â€” the metaphor at the heart of the iconic large-scale spider sculptures for which Bourgeois is best known and which earned her the moniker Spiderwoman.
Novesky, who has previously authored a childrenâ€™s book about Billie Holiday, tells the story of Bourgeoisâ€™s life in a wonderfully lyrical way. Arsenault â€” whom I have longconsidered one of the most gifted and unrepeatable artists of our time, the kind whose books will be cherished a century from now â€” carries the story with her soft yet vibrantly expressive illustrations.
Louise kept diaries of her days. And in a cloth tent pitched in the garden, she and her siblings would stay till the dark surprised them, the light from the house, and the sound of a Verdi opera, far away through the trees.
Sometimes, theyâ€™d spend the night, and Louise would study the web of stars, imagine her place in the universe, and weep, then fall asleep to the rhythmic rock and murmur of river water.
The ever-flowing blue strand of the river becomes the thread of continuity across Bourgeoisâ€™s life. It flows into the Siene and takes young Louise along to Paris, where she attends university studying mathematics and astronomy.
Bourgeoisâ€™s studies are severed by her motherâ€™s sudden death, the devastation of which drives the young woman to abandon science and turn to the certain uncertainty of art. She cuts up all the fabric she owns â€” her dresses, her bed linens, her new husbandâ€™s handkerchiefs â€” and spends the remainder of her life making it and making herself whole again, putting it all together into cloth sculptures, colorful hand-sewn spirals, cloth drawings, cloth books, and many, many, many spiders.
â€œIt is almost banal to say so yet it needs to be stressed continually: all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis,â€ Henry Miller wrote in contemplating art and the human future. The beautiful Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi invites us to find meaning and comfort in impermanence, and yet so much of our suffering stems from our deep resistance to the ruling law of the universe â€” that of impermanence and constant change. How, then, are we to accept the one orbit we each have along the cycle of life and inhabit it with wholeheartedness rather than despair?
Thatâ€™s what illustrator and author Carson Ellisexplores with great subtlety and warmth in Du Iz Tak?(public library) â€” a lyrical and imaginative tale about the cycle of life and the inexorable interdependence of joy and sorrow, trial and triumph, growth and decay.
The marvelously illustrated story is written in the imagined language of bugs, the meaning of which the reader deduces with delight from the familiar human emotions they experience throughout the story â€” surprise, exhilaration, fear, despair, pride, joy. We take the title to mean â€œWhat is that?â€ â€” the exclamation which the ento-protagonists issue upon discovering a swirling shoot of new growth, which becomes the centerpiece of the story as the bugs try to make sense, then make use, of this mysterious addition to their homeland. â€œMa nazoot,â€ answers another â€” â€œI donâ€™t know.â€
The discoverers of the shoot enlist the help of a wise and many-legged elder who lives inside a tree stump â€” a character reminiscent in spirit of Owl in Winnie-the-Pooh. He lends the operation his ladder and the team begins building an elaborate fort onto the speedily growing plant.
But their joyful plan is unceremoniously interrupted by a giant spider, who envelops their new playground in a web â€” a reminder that in nature, where one creatureâ€™s loss is anotherâ€™s gain and vice versa, gain and loss are always counterbalanced in perfect equilibrium with no ultimate right and ultimate wrong.
As the bugs witness the spiderâ€™s doing in dejected disbelief, a bird â€” a creature even huger and more formidable â€” swoops in to eat the spider and further devastates the stalk-fort. At its base, we see the bugs grow from disheartened to heartbroken.
But when the bird leaves, one of them discovers â€” with the excited exclamation â€œSu!,â€ which we take to mean â€œLook!â€ â€” that the plant has not only survived the invasion but has managed, in the meantime, to produce a glorious, colorful bud.
As the bugs resume repair and construction, the bud blossoms into invigorating beauty. Drawn to the small miracle of the flower, other tiny forest creatures join the joyful labor â€” the ants interrupt their own industry, the slug slides over in wide-eyed wonder, the bees and the butterflies hover in admiration, and even the elderâ€™s wife emerges from the tree trunk, huffing a pipe as she marvels at the new blossom.
But then, nature once again asserts her central dictum of impermanence and constant change: The flower begins to wilt.
The fort collapses and the bugs, looking not terribly distraught â€” perhaps because they know that this is natureâ€™s way, perhaps because they know that they too will soon follow the flowerâ€™s fate in this unstoppable cycle of life â€” say farewell and walk off.
Night comes, then autumn, bringing their own magic as the world silently performs its eternal duty of churning the cycle of growth and decay.
The remnants of the wilted flower sink into the forest bed as a nocturnal serenade unfolds overhead before a blanket of snow stills the forest.
In the final pages, we see spring arrive with its redemptive bounty to reveal not one shoot but the promise of an entire flower garden. â€œDu iz tak?â€ exclaims a new bug who walks onto the scene â€” a gentle invitation to reflect on where the others have gone as the seasons turned, presenting a subtle opportunity for parents to broach the cycle of life.
At the hour when our imagination and our ability to associate are at their height, we really no longer read what is printed on the paper but swim in a stream of impulses and inspirations that reach us from what we are reading.
That transcendent stream is what London-based typographic fine artist Sam Winston and Belfast-born, Brooklyn-based artist and childrenâ€™s book maestro Oliver Jeffers plunge us into with A Child of Books (public library) â€” a serenading invitation into the joyful wonderland of reading, extended by a courageous little girl besotted with books to a little boy timorous to take the dive.
An homage to literary classics carries the story as an undercurrent of affectionate appreciation for the way in which literature carves our interior landscapes. Jeffers is no stranger to appropriating existing art in original storytelling. Here, his unmistakable illustrations animate Winstonâ€™s landscapes, crafted from the texts of classic childrenâ€™s stories, nursery rhymes, and lullabies â€” typographic topographies composed of multigenerational cultural treasures like Aliceâ€™s Adventures in Wonderland, Gulliverâ€™s Travels, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Frankenstein.
In what remains the greatest definition of love, Tom Stoppard described the real thing as â€œknowledge of each other, not of the flesh but through the flesh, knowledge of self, the real him, the real her, in extremis, the mask slipped from the face.â€ And yet the grandest paradox of love â€” the source of its necessary frustration, the root of the inescapable loverâ€™s sulk â€” is our insistence on crafting and putting on ever more elaborate masks under the mistaken belief that these idealized selves, presented to the object of our infatuation, would render us more desirable and worthier of love. We tuck our messy real selves behind polished veneers, orchestrate grand gestures, and perform various psychoemotional acrobatics driven by the illusion that love is something we must earn by what we do, rather than something that comes to us unbidden simply for who we are.
The deconditioning of that dangerous delusion is what French childrenâ€™s book author Ingrid Chabbert and Spanish artist Guridi explore with imaginative subtlety in The Day I Became a Bird (public library).
The protagonist of this minimalist, maximally expressive story is a tenderhearted little boy who falls in love for the first time the day he starts school.
Because love always sneaks in through the backdoor of our awareness before it makes a home in the heart, not until a few pages into the book do we find out that the object of his affection is a classmate named Sylvia â€” a passionate bird enthusiast who seems to only have eyes for feathered creatures.
This â€œdiscovering facultyâ€ of the imagination, which breathes life into both the most captivating myths and the deepest layers of reality, is what animated Italian artist Alessandro Sanna one winter afternoon when he glimpsed a most unusual tree branch from the window of a moving train â€” a branch that looked like a sensitive human silhouette, mid-fall or mid-embrace.
As Sanna cradled the enchanting image in his mind and began sketching it, he realized that something about the â€œbody languageâ€ of the branch reminded him of a small, delicate, terminally ill child heâ€™d gotten to know during his visits to Turinâ€™s Pediatric Hospital. In beholding this common ground of tender fragility, Sannaâ€™s imagination leapt to a foundational myth of his nationâ€™s storytelling â€” the Pinocchio story.
In the astonishingly beautiful and tenderhearted Pinocchio: The Origin Story (public library), Sanna imagines an alternative prequel to the beloved story, a wordless genesis myth of the wood that became Pinocchio, radiating a larger cosmogony of life, death, and the transcendent continuity between the two.
A fitting follow-up to The River â€” Sannaâ€™s exquisite visual memoir of life on the Po River in Northern Italy, reflecting on the seasonality of human existence â€” this imaginative masterwork dances with the cosmic unknowns that eclipse human life and the human mind with their enormity: questions like what life is, how it began, and what happens when it ends.
Origin myths have been our oldest sensemaking mechanism for wresting meaning out of these as-yet-unanswered, perhaps unanswerable questions. But rather than an argument with science and our secular sensibility, Sannaâ€™s lyrical celebration of myth embodies Margaret Meadâ€™s insistence on the importance of poetic truth in the age of facts.
It is both a pity and a strange comfort that Sannaâ€™s luminous, buoyant watercolors and his masterful subtlety of scale donâ€™t fully translate onto this screen â€” his analog and deeply humane art is of a different order, almost of a different time, and yet woven of the timeless and the eternal.
â€œThere are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout,â€Henry David Thoreau observed in contemplating how silence ennobles speech. A year earlier, he had written in his journal: â€œI wish to hear the silence of the night, for the silence is something positive and to be heard.â€ Itâ€™s a sentiment of almost unbearable bittersweetness today, a century and a half later, as we find ourselves immersed in a culture that increasingly mistakes loudness for authority, vociferousness for voice, screaming for substance. We seem to have forgotten what Susan Sontag reminded us half a century ago â€” that â€œsilence remains, inescapably, a form of speech,â€ that it has its own aesthetic, and that learning to wield it is among the great arts of living.
Of the nine kinds of silence that Sontagâ€™s contemporary and friend Paul Goodman outlined, â€œthe fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soulâ€ is the kind we seem to have most hastily forsaken â€” and yet it is also the one we most urgently need if we are to reclaim the aesthetic of silence in the art of living.
That ennobling, endangered kind of silence is what writer Katrina Goldsaito and illustrator Julia Kuo celebrate in The Sound of Silence (public library) â€” the story of a little boy named Yoshio, who awakens to the elusive beauty of silence amid Tokyoâ€™s bustle and teaches himself its secret language.
Conceptually, the book is a trans-temporal counterpart to In Praise of Shadows â€” that magnificent 1933 serenade to ancient Japanese aesthetics, lamenting how excessive illumination obscures so many of lifeâ€™s most beautiful dimensions, just as todayâ€™s excessive noise silences lifeâ€™s subtlest and most beautiful signals.
Goldsaitoâ€™s lyrical writing, part ballad and part haiku, and Kuoâ€™s illustrations, midway between manga and Chris Ware yet thoroughly original, carry the story with effortless poetic enchantment.
We follow Yoshio as he leaves home one rainy morning and steps into the symphony of urban sounds cascading through the city â€” â€œraindrops pattering on his umbrella,â€ â€œboots squishing and squashing through the puddles.â€
As he makes his way through this aural wonderland, he is suddenly enthralled by a most magical sound. He follows it to discover a koto player tuning her instrument.
Then the koto player played. The notes were twangy and twinkling; they tickled Yoshioâ€™s ears! When the song finished, Yoshio said, â€œSensei, I love sounds, but Iâ€™ve never heard a sound like that!â€
The koto player laughed, and it sounded like the metal bell that swayed in the wind in Mamaâ€™s garden.
â€œSensei,â€ Yoshio said, â€œdo you have a favorite sound?â€
â€œThe most beautiful sound,â€ the koto player said, â€œis the sound of ma, of silence.â€
â€œSilence?â€ Yoshio asked. But the koto player just smiled a mysterious smile and went back to playing.
Puzzled and vitalized by the cryptic message, the little boy sets out to find the sound of silence.
â€œIf you perceive the universe as being a universe of abundance, then it will be. If you think of the universe as one of scarcity, then it will be,â€legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser observed in his conversation with Debbie Millman. One might say that it is difficult, perhaps even delusional, to elect perception over the hard facts of physical reality â€” after all, if there is only one apple in front of you, how could you perceive your way to having two? And yet the great physicist David Bohm, a scientist grounded in the fundamental building blocks of physical reality, articulated a parallel truth in contemplating how our perceptions shape our reality:
Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends on what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.
The story follows two turtles who discover a hat together â€” a very winsome hat, they both feel â€” and are suddenly faced by a practical predicament: There is one hat to be had, and two of them who want to have it.
Carrying Klassenâ€™s minimalist, maximally expressive illustrations â€” entire worlds of emotion and intent are intimated by the turn of the turtlesâ€™ black-and-white eyes â€” are his equally spartan words, which envelop his protagonistsâ€™ interior worlds in sweetness and gentleness as he tells this touching story of covetousness transformed into generosity and justice.
We found a hat.
We found it together.
But there is only one hat.
And there are two of us.
How does it look on me?
It looks good on you.
How does it look on me?
It looks good on you too.
It looks good on both of us.
But it would not be right if one of us had a hat and the other did not.
Instead of consciously considering the semantic aspect of the images and vignettes she drew for each of the letters, Isol let the shape of the letter lead her brush toward a spontaneous burst of visual meaning â€” a sort of creative game that produced something utterly magical, more dream than dictionary, populated by kiwis and caterpillars and otherworldly creatures animated by the most inescapable emotional dimensions of human life: loneliness, gladness, petulance, tenderness, joy.
Civil rights icon and nonviolent resistance leader John Lewis(b. February 21, 1940) is rightly celebrated as a true â€œhealer of the heart of democracy.â€ He is also a testament to how the humblest beginnings can produce lives of towering heroism. Long before Congressman Lewis became a key figure in ending racial segregation in America, little John was one of nine siblings living on the familyâ€™s farm in southern Alabama. It was in that unlikely environment, heavy with labor and love, that young Lewis found his voice as a leader.
Little John Lewis loved the spring. He loved it not only because it was the time when the whole planet came alive, but also because it was the season of the chicks. Winter was too cold to bring them safely into the world, and summer was too hot. Spring was just right.
Johnâ€™s mother cooked the family meals from vegetables she grew â€” collards, tomatoes, sweet potatoes â€” and other goodies. She cleaned the familyâ€™s clothes in a big iron pot, stirring them in the boiling water and washing them with homemade soap before hanging them on the line to dry.
Yes, Lord, plenty of work on a farm.
One day, John is put in charge of the chickens and so begins his foray into leadership. His heart ablaze with the dream of becoming a preacher, the boy begins practicing before his willing â€” or, at least, tacitly agreeable â€” avian audience. E.B. Lewisâ€™s luminous watercolors are the perfect complement to Asimâ€™s lyrical prose, which together carry the story of how John Lewis incubated his talent for wielding words that move and mobilize mind, body, and spirit.
â€œIn wildness is the preservation of the world,â€Thoreau wrote 150 years ago in his ode to the spirit of sauntering. But in a world increasingly unwild, where we are in touch with nature only occasionally and only in fragments, how are we to nurture the preservation of our Pale Blue Dot?
The story follows a little girl who, in a delightful meta-touch, pulls this very book off the bookshelf and begins learning about the strange and wonderful world of the polar bear, its life, and the science behind it â€” its love of solitude, the black skin that hides beneath its yellowish-white fur, the built-in sunglasses protecting its eyes from the harsh Arctic light, why it evolved to have an unusually long neck and slightly inward paws, how it maintains the same temperature as us despite living in such extreme cold, why it doesnâ€™t hibernate.
Beyond its sheer loveliness, the book is suddenly imbued with a new layer of urgency. At a time when we can no longer count on politicians to protect the planet and educate the next generations about preserving it, the task falls on solely on parents and educators. Desmondâ€™s wonderful project alleviates that task by offering a warm, empathic invitation to care about, which is the gateway to caring for, one of the creatures most vulnerable to our changing climate and most needful of our protection.
The richness of that otherness is what Belgian artist and author Anne Herbauts came to see in a surprising and profound question from a blind child. During a bookmaking workshop she was leading, a little boy asked her whether she, as an artist, could tell him what color the wind was â€” a notion of the same trans-sensory, synesthetic quality as Helen Kellerâ€™s electrifying account of â€œhearingâ€ Beethoven.
The storyâ€™s protagonist, whom Herbauts affectionately calls â€œthe little giant,â€ goes in search of an answer to his synesthetic question. Every piece of nature he encounters gives him a different answer â€” to the bee, the wind is the warm color of the sun; the old dog, who perceives the world through smell, experiences it as â€œpink, flowery, pale whiteâ€; to the wolf, it smells of the forest; for the mountain, the wind is a bird; for the window, it is the color of time.
Herbauts paints the sensory landscape with extraordinarily inventive bookmaking techniques to which this screen can do no justice â€” appleseeds peek through a die-cut hole, raindrops gleam embossed on a laminated page, debossed grooves invite the touch of tree bark. What emerges is a parallel invitation to empathy and self-expansion in imagining the world as the unsighted experience it and exploring a different sensorial space than the one we sighted humans ordinarily inhabit. Just as the universe of smell unlocks hidden layers of reality, so does the universe of touch.
The little giant asks the bird, What colorâ€¦
But the bird has flown away.
And the enormous giant, with a slow gesture says: The color of the wind?
It is everything at once. This whole book.
Then he takes the book and, thumb against its edge, he lets the pages fly.
At a dinner some years ago, I had the good fortune of being seated next to the great graphic designer and illustrator Seymour Chwast (b. August 18, 1931). A warm but reticent conversation companion, he became, like Oliver Sacks, unusually animated when it came to his creative passions. At one point in the evening, I asked Chwast what his favorite project was from the entire span of his illustrious career. Here was a man whose work had influenced generations of designers and had received just about every imaginable accolade in the graphic arts. So I was both surprised and utterly delighted by his answer, which he offered without hesitation but with a certain wistfulness â€” an obscure vintage childrenâ€™s book by Phyllis La Farge he had illustrated in 1971, which had since fallen out of print and sunk into oblivion.
The following day, invigorated by curiosity, I set about finding a surviving copy. Victorious at last with a bedraggled book discarded by the Breton Downs Library and found at a thrift bookseller, I instantly knew why Chwast had so fondly and resolutely chosen this forgotten gem as the favorite of a lifetime â€” it was a sweet, subversive parable about the tradeoffs of creativity and commerce, the messy relationship between success and life-satisfaction, the treacherous way in which prestige can hijack our sense of purpose, and what happens when a personal labor of love becomes a â€œbrand.â€ A story, in other words, both timeless and immensely time today, when the integrity of every creative life is bending under the ever-growing pressures of bigger-better-faster.
So imagine my enormous gladness at the news that Princeton Architectural Press is bringing The Pancake King (public library) back to life as part of the same vintage childrenâ€™s book revival series that also resurrected the marvelous The Brownstone by graphic design legend (and, incidentally, Chwastâ€™s spouse of four decades) Paula Scher.
This seething cauldron of brilliant complexity is what Swiss writer, economist, historian, and psychoanalyst Corinne Maier and French illustrator Anne Simon explore in Einstein (public library) â€” the third installment in their series of illustrated biographies of thinkers who have shaped modern life, following Freud and Marx.
In the late 1950s, childrenâ€™s book author Ann Randcollaborated with her then-husband, the graphic design legend Paul Rand, on a series of unusual and imaginative childrenâ€™s books â€” Sparkle and Spin and I Know a Lot of Things. Even after they divorced in 1958, they continued working together and published the loveliest of their collaborations, Little 1, in 1961.
After Randâ€™s death in 2012, a marvelous unpublished manuscript of hers from the 1970s was discovered â€” a most unusual concept book, partway between graphic design primer, Norton Justerâ€™s The Dot and the Line, and Umberto Ecoâ€™s vintage semiotic childrenâ€™s books, exploring how our imagination combines lines and shapes to build an entire world.
Four decades later, this forgotten masterpiece is brought to life as What Can I Be? (public library) with stunning illustrations by painter and architecture professor Ingrid Fiksdahl King.
It is hardly a coincidence that King co-authored the 1977 architecture and urbanism classic A Pattern Language â€” a pioneering inquiry into how the elements of urban design and their arrangement form the patterns that compose the language of community livability. It is our ability to imagine, after all â€” to combining basic elements into a language of the possible â€” that makes life livable.
With simple, inviting words, Rand constructs a poetic game of possibility.