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Our Bookshelf

It’s this season again! The season to talk about seasons. Last year we showed you the amazing book by Blexbolex, this year a different one, but just as much of a treat: My Four Seasons by one of the most recognizable and recognized Polish illustrators, Dawid Ryski.

The book can serve as a season primer, telling a story of a five-person family (the fifth person being the dog) and how they experience all the seasons of the year. It’s told through simple yet lavish illustrations in Dawid Ryski’s characteristic style, which includes masterful simplification that does not eliminate detail and beautiful color palettes. We especially appreciate the ability to make all the seasons seem appealing because, let’s face it, they’re not all created equal. Don’t even try to convince us they are. But at least they all fuel gorgeous illustrations!

As you can see, there are so many things to love about this book: how all the environments, while different, are consistent when it comes to colors and the level of details, how there’s something fun to do in every season and the sweet, idyllic picture of a family life.

Continuing our post-Christmas nostalgia, this week we want to share a lovely picture book that our son got from Santa, Lots by Marc Martin (it’s translated as “A Million Things” into Polish so the cover looks rather different).

Each spread shows an interesting place on Earth: some are about cities, some about natural territories, picking out curios, fascinating animals and memorable constructions for an idiosyncratic, personal catalog of the wonders of the world. The illustrations are painted with a mix of lightness and precision, with distinct color palettes that don’t shy away from gray (as watercolor painters sometimes do). The author’s enthusiasm (if not uncritical) for the variety and richness of the things that make up our world is contagious.

Antarctic, water paints work great to show ice and water.
I have a feeling that in the original book everything was written by hand but the typeface chosen for translation actually works surprisingly well.
The wonders of Asia.
Paris, how we miss you!

As Santa was generous with our book gifts this year, we are happy to share the first one: a monograph on Stockholm Design Lab, a studio from, you guessed it, Stockholm, who we’ve been admiring for a while. Their truly impressive portfolio of work includes nothing less than the identity for the Nobel Prize.

The book is also impressive in its own right: solid, hefty, generous with white space, leaving you a lot of air to admire the designs. It is not afraid to spend an entire spread on a single blown-out image and it even uses hotstamping inside the book. Yes, inside. SDL’s designs are characterized by a certain austerity, minimalism and focus on ideas that is sometimes hard to pull off in client work and that makes it all the more impressive that these designs came into existence.

A case of the beautiful golden hotstamping inside. There are more.

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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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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.)