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As you may have observed we are big fans of a Warsaw illustrator Marianna Oklejak. During a trip to Warsaw two years ago we found her wonderful illustrated history of the city of Warsaw that we determined to buy but before we got to it (long story, doesn’t matter) it turned out to be sold out. We discovered they were considering a reprint but not really actually doing it. So imagine our delight when looking half-heartedly for a gift for a niece in a small, chain bookstore we found a forgotten copy of the book. Maybe it got overlooked because it was somewhat warped or maybe because the cover doesn’t entirely do justice to the great contents but the more lucky us. We bought it and we can share it with you today.

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It’s a large-format, cardboard book and each spread presents a dense illustration of the map of Warsaw in a particular historical moment. Detail-heavy drawings provide a wealth of details that you can look at for quite a long time, admiring subtle sense of humor. We particularly like that some characters, for instance the siren of Warsaw (the symbol of the city) or a pair of bears, resurface in every spread in various roles.

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The oldest history of Warsaw, full of pagans and missionaries and wild animals.

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The time when quarrelsome nobles ruled the country.

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The charming 20s.

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Rebuilding of the city after the war (a personal favorite spread).

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The gray early 1980s.

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Modern Warsaw, full of traffic jams and billboards (but also cultural events).

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Guys, we have so many ideas for fun, time-consuming posts and for some of them we even have all the illustrations (sort-of) ready. But today is not the day we will share one of those. Instead here’s a sneak peek of two illustrations from our current project, a very exciting one for us, a book for children about local architecture. It’s keeping us occupied now, together with an extensive house repairs project (ugh, aren’t those the worst?), and so the big posts have to wait a little longer.

Of course, we’ll share more of the book once it’s ready.

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re-walk-01While we’re still swamped with a ton of work, we took a (very short) break to share with you one more book we bought after our trip to London and it might be actually our favorite. It is called Walk This World by Lotta Nieminen and it shows a walk through various cities of the world in one day. Each spread is given to one city that the children should guess, using such clues as clothing, bits of language, famous monuments and even colors. Some are harder, some easier but all very pretty.

But that’s not even the best part, cool as it is! The best part is that it has those flaps of paper you can open to peek underneath and see what’s inside the buildings. I’m sure we’re well past the target age but we thoroughly enjoyed opening those windows and doors and chuckled at the humorous illustrations. Combined with nice illustrations, an exquisite sense of color and good production values, this is another book on our long list that we recommend to all you book aficionados out there, whether you have children or not.

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The whole journey starts in New York. (Sorry for the gif-y graininess but we wanted to show you the hidden illustrations.)

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This is Sydney spread with its lovely color palette and whatever’s hiding in a kangaroo:

re-walk-03re-walk-05Of course we couldn’t overlook Paris, with Mona Lisa hidden in the Louvre:

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And here’s Italy and the insides of a volcano:

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(Italy actually looks like a mix of several cities, which is a bit surprising at least to our European sensitivities but whatever, it’s still gorgeous.)

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As we keep working on our not-yet-to-be-shown projects, we use the opportunity to continue with the awesome books we have recently bought. We could be doing it for a year and more but we’re planning to actually return to showing our creative efforts soon. However, for today enjoy these.

In one of the previous book-related posts we showed you a catalog for Gierymski’s exhibition in Warsaw but that wasn’t all we brought from that show. The museum also published quite a charming companion publication for children. Now, we’re great fans of this kind of part-educational, part-entertaining materials accompanying exhibitions (hint, hint, we’d love to make some) and are often a little disappointed by their quality and lack of original ideas. But this one is actually what we might expect, with nice design and illustrations, tasks that make sense and even a pleasant kind of paper.

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Alice in Wonderland and the Moomin series are some of these books that you don’t even have to come across in early childhood and you will still enjoy them and then the magic just stays with you forever. They are even not so much about storylines – though we love those too – as about the atmosphere. So finding a combination of both in Tate’s bookstore in the form of Alice illustrated by Tove Jansson left us dumbfounded with delight. Apparently this was originally a Swedish edition then published by Tate in English and Jansson’s illustrating style matches wonderfully the dreamy nature of Carroll’s story. We’ve seen many versions of Alice‘s illustrations and normally we will always pick the classic version by John Tenniel, but this one is definitely worth having. Maybe because it has this nostalgic quality that books from childhood will have for adults.

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And the last book is perhaps the most stunning of all. The High Street by Alice Melvin apparently won some sort of award for best new illustrator and no wonder at all. We also found it in Tate and fell in love with it but when we read it our fascination increased even. It tells a story of a girl gone shopping through an array of old-fashioned little shops, each selling one type of products rather than everything, mall-style. In this it basks in the passing (or maybe returning? that would be awesome) glory of small shops. The illustrating style is lovely in that it combines a bit of theme-becoming old-fashioned-ness with modern clarity. This is exactly what we love, especially seeing as each illustration has a lot of details and you can look at it over and over. But the best part is that the illustrations showing shops can be folded out to reveal the inside of the shop! Now, I’m quite secure in saying that many of you must share our fascination with the inside of buildings that you only see from the outside. As children we loved this kind of drawings and we still do. So, this is a perfect little book, both in idea and execution (it even has a plot twist!), and we encourage you to buy it, should you have a chance (no, no one is paying us for all these recommendations though they may, if they want to).

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We didn’t see as much of London as we had planned but we did visit a whole lot of museum gift stores and today we’ll show you how our collections of pocket pop-up books is growing. We bought the first ones in Paris but Britain has more of them: we found five (to Paris’ three). However, sorry but the French name Petit pop-up panoramique wins with English A Three-Dimensional Expanding Guide. No challenge there.

Still, the illustrations are just as charming (by the same illustrators, mostly) and we were thrilled each time we found a new one in a bookstore. We’re easily amused people.

re-popup-02 We didn’t see a whole lot of royal palaces but we liked the book.

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We did manage to visit Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey (the square quite a few times because we went to the National Gallery twice and also you always seem to end up there when you start doing touristy things).

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And of course we’ve already told you about Tate Modern a few times. We enjoyed the bookstore there too.

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We didn’t hope for much from the Tower of London but we were pleasantly surprised: what an entertaining place it actually is. And the ravens were awesome.

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But our favorite was the last find, Shakespeare, which we only discovered at the Globe, where we just dropped in for a few minutes on our last day. One side shows places connected with Shakespeare’s biography but the other one shows scenes from various plays, which is very refreshing after all the architecture of the other volumes. It helps that we’re currently re-reading all of Shakespeare, probably.

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Things are so hectic here these days (or, you know, just exhaustingly, monotonously filled with work, which is not the same as hectic, I guess) that we didn’t even get to show you the books we bought during our recent trips. We bought a lot, especially in London, but for today we only shot catalogs for two amazing exhibitions we saw.

Matisse’s cut-outs in Tate Modern (more info here) is possibly the best exhibition we’ve ever seen or definitely up there with the best. It’s still on till September so if you can make it to London by then, you won’t regret it. It’s emotional, exciting and just freaking great. There is also a huge catalog published for the occasion, which tells you a lot about Matisse’s late years and the process of the cut-outs (we’re assuming; it’s not like we have time for reading or anything) and it has plenty of pictures: everything you see on the exhibition and some more.

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In Warsaw, on the other hand, we saw a more locally known painter, but one of Poland’s best, Aleksander Gierymski, whose impressively comprehensive collection is on show in the National Museum. This exhibition is also accompanied by a large catalog, very professionally assembled, presenting a large collection of his works with such interesting details as the paintings’ background  (and such uninteresting ones as the history of all exhibitions where they were shown; TMI for us but I’m sure it’s useful for someone). We also like the layout of the catalog – it might be a bit too modern for the subject matter, from a puristic point of view, but it’s refreshing and makes the catalog a pretty object to look at.

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