Thursday, March 11, 2010

Top Ten (February 2010)

Yes, I am slow in getting this list out. Yes, it matters not cause it ain't like anybody's biting nails in anticipation here.

1. GRANT WOOD, NORMAN ROCKWELL. In prep for my current book work (my 2nd author-illustrator picture book), I've decided to go with an old school rural backdrop (a la Virgina Lee Burton). Buried in my subconcious for rolling hills, small towns and humble living, were these two painters. Wood's take, a slightly high brow one. Rockwell is the obvious everyman. I was surprised at how much and how well I responded to seeing this work again. Wood, is neat and surreal about it. Rockwell takes a sometime knee slap approach. I don't like it too much when he got silly with the rubbery faces. But wow, what a painter! And I do love an artist who makes for the people. I like it when you find something years, years later that you thought you never liked, and now you like it.

2. DEAR GENIUS: THE LETTERS OF URSULA NORDSTROM. Julie gave me this for Valentine's Day. A must read for any author, illustrator, editor, agent (or aspiring all of the above) working in the world of children's books. I will be long affected by this book. What an amazing peek inside the world of children's book publishing in a very turning-point time of the 50's, 60's, 70's. And by a central turning-point player, legendary kid book editor, Ursula Nordstrom. Responsible for groundbreakers and classics like and from Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak, E.B. White, and many others of this golden era of books. I would've liked to have known her. One cool, hip, sweet, hard (when need be) lady.

3. ABIDE. Another gift from m'lady. This shirt (an obvious tip 'o the hat to Shepard Fairey's Obama poster) pays homage to one of my all-time favorite movies, The Big Lebowski.

4. DRAWN! I've been following this illustration and cartooning blog for years. The contributors always have something very worthy to share. And I like that it's Canadian.

5. AVATAR. I know. How boring, to come here and talk up Avatar. But I did like it. The plot was, at times, very Hollywood formula, but what I most responded to was Pandora. I love Pandora. I want to go to Pandora and plug into an Avatar and hang with the Na'vi and be one with nature and fly giant bird-dragon things.

6. CRISPIN. My first Avi novel. Avi being, for those not in the know, the one-named versatile and beloved kids novelist. I was reading this in anticipation of seeing him speak at kid lit pal, Esme Raji Codell's bookroom. Alas, it didn't work out with the babysitter and I missed it. But I'm glad it made me read CRISPIN.

7. CHARLOTTE'S WEB. I'm now reading several books mentioned in DEAR GENIUS. And I started here. When I was a kid, the movie (1973, animated) left a huge mark on me. It was deeply saddening. I only watched it once. That really says something when something can move you like that. Reading it really took me back there. Beautiful, beautiful book with beautiful, beautiful classic pen/ink work by Garth Williams. And yes, (spoiler alert!) I cried when Charlotte died.

8. OLYMPICS. There's something comforting about the Olympic Games. Watching countries from around the globe come together and play nice (that's the idea anyhow). And many of the things they do (both summer and winter) are, well, insane. I also very much enjoyed watching Neil Young play out the flames at the closing ceremony. With a song he wrote, allegedly, for his car.

9. ANDERSON'S BOOKSHOP CHILDREN'S LITERATURE BREAKFAST. Every year, local bookstore Anderson's hosts an awesome breakfast inviting hundreds of Chicago-area educators, librarians, and book lovers, as well as Illinois-based authors and illustrators of books for children. They also always have wonderful speakers. Highlights this year were Fran├žoise Mouly and Richard Peck.

10. ROMY WALKS! Romy has initiated Phase I of walking sequence. Meaning she is now standing up independently and attempts to move forward and then...plunk. But she confidently walks hand in hand with her Mama or her Dada or with both. It's new and exciting to us and to her, as she constantly demands to "walk!".


Frank Dormer said...

Thanks for the top ten, Matt! I too enjoy Norman Rockwell's work. We live close enough that as a kid I walked by Norman Rockwell in his museum. My dad had to tell me who he was. I, at the tender age of 8, had no idea. Just a man sitting on a stool smoking a pipe.


Frank Dormer

Matthew Cordell said...

Hi Frank! Great to hear from you. And thanks for looking in at the blog.

Chloe Donile said...

Have to agree with you on the website Drawn! Who doesn't love a canadian website?!

Matthew Cordell said...

I hear that, Chloe. Drawn! is such a great place to look for what's cool and new in illustration and cartooning.