In an exciting first, this month we want to recommend a book. You might have heard of it already because it’s definitely not a new book, but we’d still like to add our personal praise to whatever you already know.
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
What is it? A 1992 Pulitzer winner, it retells the story of King Lear, placing his quarreling family in rural Iowa. Basically, it’s Shakespeare among Iowan farmers, with all the passions, feuds and dark psychological insights. It also has a powerful ecological undertone, which is hard to ignore.
Why we love it? Smiley takes the spotlight away from the traditional protagonists of King Lear and instead focuses on the original villains who lose their villainy in the process (there is a villain, just not who Shakespeare envisioned). The narrator is the oldest daughter and her relationship with her younger sister (they’re named appropriately Ginny and Rose) creates the core of the story. The characters are drawn with insight and compassion and the reinterpretation of the classic feels very timely. A great read for any fan of a retelling (which we certainly are).
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.
Hang in there, people, this too shall pass. Do something fun inside!
As promised last week, we are sharing with you one of our favorite designs of the last year: the book for the Castle Museum in Malbork, Sapientia Aedificavit Sibi Domum.
The book tells a story of the State of the Teutonic Order in Prussia in over a dozen scientific articles, both in Polish and in English. It accompanied a large exhibition organized by the Museum last year (exhibition design, elements of which we used for the book design, was created by Maciej Bychowski).
The book’s limited color scheme of black, white and silver is derived from the imagery of the Order, including the famous white coats with black crosses on the back that inspired our design of the dust jacket. When the dust jacket is unfolded, it doubles as a two-sided poster. On the silver cover the title is hotstamped in brighter silver and the exhibition logo is printed with spot varnish (only visible after removing the dust jacket). Inside we also used silver extensively, including in the photos and for title pages of the chapters. The proportions of the page are golden ratio. We allowed the elegant, classic typography to be the main design element in most of the pages.
Dust jacket unfolded into a poster.
Title page for a Polish version of an article with two bookmarks visible.
The beginning of an article.
Silver photo on black.
Title page of an English version of an article (silver on white).
We loved working on this book and hope it shows in the design.
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.
Further pages describe the animals and explain the reasons for their endangered status (spoiler alert: it’s mostly environmental damage and loss of habitats).
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.