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Our Bookshelf

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Coming back from a meeting a few weeks ago we stopped by a nice bookshop full of artsy treasures and, of course, we impulse-bought a children’s book we want to share with you today. It’s by William Grill and it’s called The Wolves of Currumpaw. Fair warning: it’s not exactly a happy book, more of a cautionary tale, as it tells the story of a wolf hunter and how his biggest catch made him turn into a preservation activist (I guess this is the happy part in the end; but first there’s wolf-killing and we honestly found it hard to read).

The loveliest part of the book is the illustration style: how it cites Native American art but also makes it very approachable and child-friendly. The use of crayons for the drawings makes them softer, almost like a blanket, and we feel this softening is quite welcome, considering the subject matter.

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(The wolf starring in the photos is our son’s, from a series of plush toys that help support  WWF.)

An example of the lovely sense of space the book creates.

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The illustrator creates masterful variations between spreads. Some are panoramic views of the landscape, some resemble infographics while others are dynamic action scenes. The color palette is lively and hushed at the same time.

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And this one is somewhere in between an infographic and an action scene.

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(The wolf is called “Oww.”)

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The two wolves eternally happy in the wolf heaven.

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We were quite touched by the book because, well, we love wolves. The issue of  preservation of our local ones is very dear to us and we try to support it as much as we can. (And if you feel similarly, you may always consider donating to WWF or another similar organization. Just saying.)

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Last week we showed you a lovely Animalium book and promised that there are two. As you might already know or at least expect, the other one deals with the exciting world of plants and is called Botanicum. Having already enjoyed the one about animals, we were delighted to get the second part for last Christmas.

Just like the one about animals, Botanicum presents various families and groups of plants with gorgeous illustrations reminiscent of old encyclopedias. It’s both decorative and inspiring scientific interest.

Introduction.

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Elaeis guineensis (says Google Translate).

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Palms and cycads. (We love the little ideas, e.g. how one-color illustrations begin to form an ornamental pattern while in full color they are informative.)

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Rain forests.

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Trees. The pattern again and also this typeface works really well in this design.

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Fruit trees.

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Today we want to share with you the first one of two lovely books from our bookshelf. We got it a little bit by accident and really loved it. It’s illustrated by Katie Scott and called Animalium because, you know, it’s about animals. (Also, we got it in Polish so look at the margins for the translation of the spreads’ titles but you can easily get in it English.)

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The book recreates a natural history museum and present all sorts of animals in an educational (and lovely) way. On the cover you can even see a golden hotstamped ticket (in the top right-hand corner), which says “Animal Museum Ticket” (it says “Welcome to the Museum / Admit All” in the original version but I like the Polish version better, I think? by a narrow margin) and this little detail sets the tone for the whole book.

Welcome to Animalium. Introduction

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Inside you will find illustrations and descriptions of all kinds of creatures from across the whole animal kingdom, arranged according to clear criteria. There are so many things to love about the book:

  • Illustrations. They are obviously inspired by old scientific encyclopedic etchings, only more colorful and partly modernized
  • Title typeface, a pretty one by Hipopotam Studio
  • Lushness. The book is just full of gorgeous details and, as the ticket on the cover suggests, has a certain luxurious quality to it (also because it’s really big, format-wise)
  • No age limit. It can be exciting both for kids and adults. Our son loved Animalium even if he was technically too little for books
  • Educational value, no duh

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Cnidaria (admittedly, not a word I knew before)

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Amphibians

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Natural environment: woods

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Penguins

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Bats

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Rodents

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Library

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As you may or may not remember, we are big fans of the illustrator Emilia Dziubak and her detailed, colored style, which plays with flat design but goes far beyond it. But her book that we’re sharing with you today, Rok w lesie (A Year in the Woods) is even more than we would have any right to expect. It combines pretty much everything that we love in children’s illustration: details, narration, humor and forest animals.

Each spread of the book shows the same woodland scene with the same animals doing things appropriate for every month. You can see not only the changes in the weather and plants but, most importantly, the different activities in which animals are involved. A huge level of detail means that one can return to the book many, many times, each time finding something new and delightful. The things animals do combine the educational aspect with a lot of good humor. And being very much woods-loving people who try to go for a walk there at least every two days, we find the depiction of the woods charming.

Except for the names of the months, most of the book is wordless, which makes it accessible to younger children (ones who will be able to follow the details, though). The last spread has a list of various animals with a character quirk for each so that one can look for those in the book. It’s actually quite fun to browse through the book multiple times, each time focusing on just one animal and their story.

Book cover.

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Spread for January, more appropriate now that we’ve got some snow.

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April and December

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The introduction to individual animals.

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And now for some highlights from the lady fox’s story of love and family:

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Featuring the cutest baby foxes.

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And the badger’s story of eating and sleeping.

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So yes, we’re still swamped but it’s high time for a proper post. This time we wanted to share one of our relatively recent book acquisitions, a picture book Here is the Baby by Polly Kanevsky, illustrated by Taeeyun Yoo.

The book tells a very simple story of a baby boy on his day with his family (and especially his dad) as he goes through the routine of meals, a walk, a bath, play and sleep. The very simplicity of the text underscores the actual experience of taking care of a baby, while giving it a touching, sweet quality (we saw online some people didn’t like the text but we find it both honest and poetic with the rhythm and no rhymes).

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The illustrations have a classic, deceptively simple character but manage to gorgeously capture the everyday warmth of family life. They almost shine with domestic light. If there’s one expression to describe the book heart-warming would be the closest. And yep, we probably wouldn’t have cared for it all that much before we had our own baby but now we not only admire the illustrations but find so much truth in the mood of this book. (Though, admittedly, it does not cover teething. Ugh, teething.)

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The illustrations are somewhat old-school, reminding us of really old children books we used to have in childhood.

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We have to admit though that this book might be more interesting to parents than babies. Our son always picks Walk this World over anything.

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(And as an unrelated sidenote, there are promotions all week long over on Society6, where you can buy our posters and some other gadgets.)

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Today we’re sharing a classic from our library, Saul Bass’s Henri’s Walk to Paris. You probably know Saul Bass from either his logo designs, movie posters or his iconic title sequences he created with his wife, Elaine. Those sequences remain a lasting legacy and have been revered, pastiched and parodied. As can be expected, we’re huge fans of  Bass and of his bon mot “Design is thinking made visual.” It sure should be.

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The book we’re showing today is a slightly less known work: Bass’s only children’s book. Bass’s illustration style, well-known from his posters, is quite recognizable with its vivid, flat colors and cutout shapes. This style is also quite remarkable for how it seems to anticipate the prevalent style of today’s vector illustrations with their, you guessed it, flat colors and geometric shapes.

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But Henri’s Walk is truly a designer’s work, rather than just an illustrator’s (lovely as the illustrations are). It makes a smart use of page layout and typography in a way which is intriguing and playful (see e.g. the ingenious ideas on how not to show the characters’ faces to make the story more general). Both images and the text itself tells a story that delights and makes you wonder. And, of course, the colors are simply gorgeous.

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Henri’s little house in his little town. The town of Reboul seems lovely.

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The park with five trees and one squirrel.

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Most of the people of Reboul plus one cow.

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We spent Sunday afternoon in the zoo, where our son was excited to see kangaroos and crocodiles and other animals he’d only seen in his books (or, he was actually excited to see so many other children and mildly interested in all those animals). To keep the theme, today we’re sharing a children’s book To Be Like a Tiger illustrated by Emilia Dziubak.

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The book is told by a tiger who explains all the good things he does for various animals in the jungle: how he sneaks up on them to give them gifts or ask them to dance. It’s fun and light but, most of all, it’s quite delightful visually. The tiger is friendly and playful and the jungle truly luscious, with gorgeous colors and rich mixed-media details.

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