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As promised, today we want to share a few wonderful books we found in Paris. We spent a lot of time in museum bookstores and, as if that wasn’t enough to run out of money, we lived near a wonderful little bookstore specializing in art books and children books. I’m sure it was put there specifically to bankrupt us and it nearly did. But our collection grew again. In the post we will show you a few more French finds of our stay.

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As usual we enlarged our collection of Petit pop-up Panoramiques, which we keep showing you every time. In addition to Paris and Louvre, which we already had, this time we found the whole of France compressed into a small book of pop-ups. This one has more painterly, delicate illustrations than other books in the series, less humorous and more fashion-like, which we find refreshing. It also has so many places we’ve yet to see.

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In Musée d’Orsay’s bookstore we found a whimsical and quite charming comic Moderne Olympia, a story of Manet’s Olympia and her ambitions to become an actress. We haven’t read the whole story yet (our French might not be enough to get all the jokes, sadly) but the most lovely idea is that the story happens among famous pictures from the museum. Various scenes and characters are recreated from the paintings but, of course, in a different context. This is the kind of illustrative and intellectual fun that we always look for in art books and only sometimes manage to find.

re-paris-02 re-paris-03 re-paris-04And if one is not quite an art history expert the code at the last page is supposed to give you a list of all the paintings used in the story (we haven’t tested that yet but it’s certainly a good idea).

re-paris-10Now, I’ll admit at first sight I overlooked Romance. But once you give this book a few minutes of your time and take care to understand its concept, it’s quite breathtaking. It’s an entirely fresh experiment in storytelling, married with gorgeous illustrations and impressive technical savoir-faire (heh).

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The story expands from chapter to chapter and invites you to participate in telling it. Illustrations, words, even typography combine to add to the history, which makes it incredibly intriguing. It’s like a fairy tale that you heard million times as a child but always managed to find something new in it.

Additionally, and this is explained by the fact that the author has a silkscreen experience, it employes a neat technical trick. All the colors are special colors instead of regular CMYK and four special colors – applied with amazing understanding of how halftone works – create the whole color scheme of the book, including all the tints. This might not seem very exciting if you don’t think about the technical side of printing much but for us it was quite awe-inspiring.

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And finally our possibly favorite new acquisition, Oh! Mon chapeau. You certainly noticed the little fact that we are suckers for pop-up books but more often than not we are disappointed to find them matched with bland illustrations and lacking in creativity. None of this applies to Chapeau. It’s as creative as books get, with a wonderful understanding of what pop-ups can add to the story (for instance, it uses very well the simple fact that something can hide behind a pop-up). The illustrations (as, if fact, the whole technical part of the book) are deceptively simple but it’s rare to see simplicity matched with such charm and lightness. Many illustrators try to achieve it as it is, clearly, a trend of today but few manage in such a seemingly effortless way.

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In addition to the lovely Mondrianesque color scheme, the book has a difficult to define Parisian feel. Instant love.

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Aaand we’re back. As was obvious from the illustrations, we spent this year’s holiday in Paris (again), where we had a great time (again). We also bought a few books we will want to share with you but first, as promised before our leave, we want to share a few unique finds from Warsaw Book Fair. Because many of the books we bought tempted us with their canine heroes, we decided to make them the theme of today’s post.

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This one by Beatrice Rodriguez is called The Chicken Thief and it is created completely without words. In fact, the only way the title appears is on an additional sleeve, so that the book can remain word-free. It’s an exciting picaresque about a kidnapping and a chase, including themes of friendship and forbidden love. The level of wordless storytelling is truly impressive and the author makes great use of the panoramic size of the book, which gives illustrations their unique character and structure.

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Chien Fou is another little gem about perseverance and the rewards of hope. It’s also about a little dog that runs a lot. The illustrations are guaranteed to make you a little sad and then quite happy. Also, do notice the lovely colors and masterful page compositions.

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Attention, voila Grand loup! is a simpler books for smaller children but it makes a great use of paper flaps where small animals hide from the big wolf (unnecessarily, it will turn out in an optimistic ending). Also, even though the illustrations are clearly much simpler, they manage not to be bland and boring. We enjoyed discovering who’s hiding behind the curtain or in the closet quite a lot and I’m sure for a small kid it must be quite an adventure.

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Finally, Le Petit Loup Rouge is a book we first saw online a while ago and we didn’t even know if it was actually published. We loved it back then and we loved it even more when we saw it in all its paper glory. It’s a marvelously illustrated tale in the best tradition of surrealist fairy-telling. It also has gorgeous typography and lovely atmosphere. There’s nothing not to adore about this one.

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In case it made you wonder, most of these books happen to be in French because French literature was the theme of this year’s Fair. We bought books in English and in Polish too, they just didn’t happen to be about foxes, wolves or dogs: but we will share at least some of those at some later time. At any rate, for a moment we could’ve fooled ourselves that having already bought books in French we won’t need to buy them in Paris so maybe for once we’ll come back with not too heavy a bag but, of course, we were so, so wrong, as you will see next week.

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There might be people who shrug at graphic freebies. We neither know them nor count ourselves among their number and that’s how we got this map we’re showing you today. To celebrate 25 years of freedom the Prime Minister’s office has ordered an illustrated map of Poland with information about the history of democratic transformation. Then everyone could order a copy for free: I suppose they expected this to be mostly aimed at parents of children but we refused to be stopped by that and our map came a few days ago, close enough to Independence Day.

The map is a work of Hipopotam studio from Warsaw, who proved they can do maps by publishing one of the biggest illustrated books in our collection, with quirky maps of the world. It’s quite an impressive feat and probably gave someone the idea for this little gadget we’re presenting. (Also, if maps of the world sound like your thing, this book is quite widely exported: we saw it in London and in Paris so you can probably grab one somewhere near you.)

The map of Poland is pretty much the same style-wise, only it’s of, you know, Poland. You can find illustrations of historical figures, important buildings, food and, our favorite, animals.

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Here’s Gdynia, where we live.

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The other side presents some crucial moments in Poland’s recent history, titled What We Did Right: 25 Years of Freedom.

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I don’t exactly know how appealing this is for children but we found the whole project a lot of fun.

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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).

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.)

Last weekend we went to Warsaw to a Patti Smith concert (and yes, she rocked) and used the opportunity to visit the exhibition of the International Poster Biennale in Wilanów. Having seen at least the last six exhibitions, we feel we have a decent sense of the direction the competition is taking and, unfortunately, we didn’t love this year’s selection. Of course, there were glorious exceptions and we’ll show you a couple below but, in general, the selected group of works felt very uniform and not in a good way.

Most of the posters, especially the ones you see right after entering, shared a few characteristics: a messy all-over-the-place composition, often-pointless typographic games and, worst of all, a general lack of ingenious ideas. This goes against what we usually like in poster design, hence our disappointment. While the previous exhibitions showed enough variance to satisfy all kinds of taste, this year we felt most of the posters were similar and attacked us with their joyful chaos without satisfying our craving for smart ideas and clear design. I guess most of the jury shared similar taste, more so than during previous editions, and a little different from ours.

Enough complaining. Obviously, we also found a few great works and these are the ones we’d like to share. Disclaimer: we certainly missed a few interesting things (as well as the whole student selection) so just because something doesn’t appear here, it doesn’t mean we didn’t like it.

dmitry-mirilenko-majakowskiThis series of posters by Dmitri Mirilenko about Mayakovsky won a third prize (one of three) and we feel it could’ve won more. Seeing as this kind of dispersed typographic composition dominated this year’s selection, and was not always used successfully, we really appreciate how in these posters it’s made to click. This works in a somewhat abstract, but legible, way appropriate for the work of an avant-garde poet and we appreciate this kind of thinking. Also, the trend is made to work for the subject matter not against it.

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Among a multitude of posters which were based on filling the space with many elements (and all looked so similar), this was the only one that really stood out for us because it shows that the author controls the chaos up to every little detail (which makes it anti-chaos?). Also, it has an idea, simple as it is (young=egg), and – last but not least – it’s very pretty. This one is by Yanting Chen.

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A Polish accent, a poster by Ryszard Kaja. We appreciate this one because sometimes designers who were very strong when the Polish School of Posters dominated don’t fit in so well with newer aesthetics but not so in this case. (Also, during the last biennale Kaja charmed us with his series of posters for various regions of Poland, check them out some time.)

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Currently we’re spending way too much time on material typography so obviously we picked out all the posters which also used it and pretty lovely examples these are. The first one by Philippe Apeloig, with a nice nod to modernism and an impressive control over his medium.

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Two posters (which may or may not be our favorites of the whole exhibition) by Ariene Spanier. Nice use of materials to reflect the subject matter and great ideas.

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One more Polish accent, The Cherry Orchard poster by Homework. We’ve been fans of their minimalism for quite a while now and we add this one to the list of their posters we love.

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Finally, a couple of posters that focus on ideas rather than just playing with form. A tribute to Malevich by Youri Toreev, with a nod to the black square.

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And a poster by our friend Anita Wasik for a yearly edition of a festival of street art. This one is a continuation of her previous poster for the festival, which we love dearly and which looks like this:

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However, we’ve yet to see a poster whose joy value would equal feeding squirrels in the park, which we did after we saw the posters. So, we’ll leave you with this happy picture to wish you a good week.

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