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This month’s re:commendation comes illustrated as we are sharing a beautiful picture book by Coralie Bickford-Smith, The Song of the Tree. Ms. Bickford-Smith is the incredibly talented designer behind our beloved Penguin Clothbound Classics, many of which decorate our bookshelves (still not as many as we would like). She uses her skill with ornaments here as well to tell a poetic story of a bird, a tree and the tree’s other inhabitants.

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This is a lovely story about growing up and opening up to one’s surroundings. And we are especially awed by the design and illustrative skill exhibited here as well as by the careful attention paid to the print production. The book is printed with three spot colors creating a vivid, yet minimalist color palette. (It is also clothbound.) Each spread is a carefully planned composition, wowing with the level of detail and reminiscent of the work of a printmaking artist. Finally, something both we and our older son enjoyed immensely, the spreads reward the reader for paying close attention: various characters of the story – the different animals inhabiting the tree – appear and reappear throughout the pages. Sometimes you need to look for them more closely, which recreates the excitement of the explorer in a wilderness (or how we imagine it, anyway). This is one of the prettiest books we’ve acquired for a long time.

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We were saddened to hear of the passing of Milton Glaser, one of the icons of the twentieth and twenty first century design. He’s been one of our idols and we’ve been admiring some of his work at least since design school. Milton Glaser was an accomplished teacher and spoke wisely about design and other issues. We were particularly impressed with his adherence to the philosophy of abundance (honestly, something we could all use more of). Even though we understand why some people call for a new approach to the history of design, less focused on individual creators and more on movements and communities, giants like Milton Glaser prove that it will always be necessary to celebrate the genius of individual people. We hope Milton’s heaven is beautifully designed!

And here are some of the most iconic (or most fun) Glaser designs.

Our favorite bar none, the celebrated Dylan poster for Columbia Records. Not only is it a wonderfully memorable image, it’s about Dylan.

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A pasta ad poster which looks better than a whole lot of fine art we’ve seen.

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A poster for the School of Visual Arts, with such a smart use of the very matter of poster.

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Of course Glaser’s probably most famous design is his I ♥ NY logo that he used for this 2001 poster calling for solidarity in New York.

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An identity for Minneapolis Institute of Arts that recalls the architecture of the school.redesign-glaser-mia_logo

Glaser created a bunch of fun typefaces that played with the modernist letter. This is his famous Glaser Stencil:

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And Baby Teeth, the more experimental one, was used for instance on the Dylan poster.

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Finally, Glaser was one of several (but not many) designers who created the full set of Shakespeare covers. His illustrations have a poetic quality.

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(And a little tribute to the Dylan poster. Here‘s our original Dylan artwork to make the context clear.)

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Happy summer, everyone! To celebrate the turning of the seasons today we’re sharing the book that deals exactly with that: seasons, how they change and what natural and cultural phenomena go with each one of them.

The book is another masterwork by Blexbolex, a French illustrator whose splendid Romance we already shared with you. His work betrays fine arts origins as almost every page would make a wonderful print. The author captures the poetry and magic of changing seasons, not so much with a plot, as in Romance, as with smart, often funny juxtapositions (and masterful drawing). On top of all this goodness there are also impressive printing solutions, using spot colors and great awareness of the possibilities of print which helps achive the richness of the illustrations. Highly recommended!

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Every now and then we like to share with you work of one of the favorite illustrators of our childhood, Jerzy Flisak. After books on manners we continue with one teaching youngsters How to Study. The book itself is an interesting study of the customs of a bygone era (it’s a couple of decades old) – personally we love this aspect of the old advice books, how they record the history of manners. But from the graphic point of view the illustrations are the most exciting part.

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Flisak was great at balancing: concision with detail, realism with humor. This is perhaps what we’ve always found the most charming part of his work. This book is full of lovely examples. (Note: the colors are added by us, originally the illustrations were printed in black.)

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How are you doing, guys? We’re fine, except when we stumble upon social media – so we basically don’t do it anymore (seriously, if you want to contact us, send us an email, not a Facebook message). We’re sitting at home, of course, but it’s nothing unusual for us (we barely notice, except we’ve moved our gaming night online). We wanted to give you some fun activities to do during house arrest but regular work got in the way so instead we searched our bookshelf for a book with something fun to do when sitting at home and voila! Let’s Bake by Clara Lindström and Annakarin Nyberg, illustrated by Katy Kimbell and Li Söderberg.

This cute book presents a number of recipes for simple sweets that can be made at home with children. The results are photographed but the ingredients and instructions are charmingly illustrated, which helps keep the kids interested and involved. Truth be told, we bought the book for its visual aspect and haven’t tried any of the recipes yet but maybe now’s a good opportunity.

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Hang in there, people, this too shall pass. Do something fun inside!

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Our recent library trip yielded yet again a lovely find: a book we’d already seen online but now had a chance to read. Eileen Gray: A House under the Sun is a graphic novel written by Charlotte Malterre-Barthes and illustrated by Zosia Dzierżawska. It tells the story of a modernist artist Eileen Gray, who was a designer, decorator and also an architect of a house in the south of France called E-1027. Her influence on modernist architecture was almost forgotten and now the memory is being rekindled. The story focuses on the building of the house but recreates other periods from Eileen’s history and teases her scandalous conflict with the much more famous Le Corbusier.

We are particularly impressed by the work Zosia Dzierżawska did on the comic. We have been fans of her simple, classic style and faultless coloring for a while, and they work particularly well in this nostalgic story. She expertly mixes moods, and gives us glimpses of Eileen’s life without the impression of ever trying to be voyeuristic. The emotions and personal relations feel real. The strong control of composition and the lack of affect compliment perfectly the subject matter of modernism.

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(Here‘s the house in question for reference.)

(Also, we heard Ms. Dzierżawska at a conference once and she seemed a perfectly lovely person so we’re happy her work is so good we can say only nice things about it.)

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We did flake a little at the beginning of the year (sorry!) but December exhausted us completely. We’re back! We’re back with another lovely book, this time by Isabella Bunnel. The book is called Disappearing Acts and it shows endagered animals of different habitats in lovely, painted search-and-find spreads.

Each spread has a unique color scheme, a richness of details and patterns and a sad message: among the variety of well-painted animals from a different terrain, the reader is asked to find some which are literally disappearing.

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Further pages describe the animals and explain the reasons for their endangered status (spoiler alert: it’s mostly environmental damage and loss of habitats).

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The activity part is easy – our four-year-old found all the animals fast – but the lovely, detailed illustrations still invite careful study. The book is educational, too, with an important message. It manages to match the kind of activity to the theme well (the animals are difficult to find because they are fewer and fewer – makes sense). And, most of all, the painting style is so charming and confident.

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Another trip to the library brought us (and J) another lovely book by Britta Teckentrup. (The previous one is here.) This time we returned with Tree, which tells the story of seasons through a tree in a forest and the animals that live within or near it. The book has a poem commenting on the seasonal changes but it’s really the illustrated part that grabs your attention. It has lovely depictions of animals in their yearly cycle (foxes are, unsurprisingly, our favorites) and a generous use of die-cuts, which make the book more playful. But we are, perhaps, most impressed with the color palettes used for every season (and particularly autumn).

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The owl in its hollow is always in the centre of the tree – and of the book – while the forest around it changes. (Below the minimalist, and lovely, endpaper.)

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Winter snowy mystery (wonder if we’re going to get it this year).

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Spring lushness (our personal favorite real-life season).

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Summer night with its richness of life.

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The beautiful autumn.

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And here we go again.

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As we enter the season of the year that we tend to unreasonably grumble about (it’s cold and it’s gray, guys), this reminder of the beauty of every season comes as very welcome.