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February 2011

Now and Then

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The other day my husband’s friend Jamie sent a link to a beautiful photo project called “Back to the Future.” Buenos Aires-based photographer Irina Werning has taken a series of portraits in which her subjects re-enact a photograph from their childhood. The resulting diptychs are completely enthralling, poignant and funny.

As I looked through the photos, I kept thinking of my eldest son (who recently turned 10!) and the fact that we sometimes share clothes and how bizarre it is when puny humans become larger humans. What aspects of ourselves remain constant? What changes? Some days I feel like the ten-year-old I once was is largely intact—she is just one among many sheaths of ‘me’.

I love how precisely Irina has captured the expressions and moods of her subjects. I love the very idea of “re-doing” awkward and ill-dressed childhood moments as a kind of existential yardstick. I am in awe of Irina on a formal level but what really keeps me looking is the way her portraits seem to point towards the unseen story, how the external sameness piques my curiosity about internal shifts in her subjects lives. (Does Cecile, shown above in the white T-shirt, still have the same moxy and confidence she once did? Have the Morita sisters, below, retained their sisterly bond and taste for smock frocks?)

To see more from the series, please click through to Irina’s (very fun) website:

p.s. Happy Birthday Nancy! How about re-staging one of our old pics?

A Sneak Peek

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I am extremely excited to be collaborating with Isabelle Arsenault on another picture book, scheduled for release in Spring 2012. (She recently mentioned the project on her blog, so I am taking liberty to re-blog one of her preliminary sketches.)

A few months ago I received a magical “mood board” featuring sketches for the book. Isabelle has been developing the most beautifully original approach to the characters and palette. She is such an intelligent and subtle artist and I always feel amazed by what she does. Illustration often works on the principle of correspondence—i.e. a “one-to-one” relationship between text and image. But Isabelle is a masterful riffer, a consummate interpreter. She adds a whole new dimension to every story.

The Late, Great Leo Lionni

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“I believe that a good children’s book should appeal to all people who have not completely lost their original joy and wonder in life. The fact is that I don’t make books for children at all. I make them for that part of us, of myself and of my friends, which has never changed, which is still a child.” — Leo Lionni (May 5, 1910 – October 11, 1999)

Little Blue and Little Yellow

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This tale by the masterful Leo Lionni follows two splotches of color. One is blue. The other is yellow. Little blue and little yellow have a wonderful and adventurous friendship. One day, they can’t find one another. When they are finally reunited, they are so overjoyed that they hug until they become green.

“But where did little blue and little yellow go? Are they lost?” At first their parents don’t recognize them but eventually they realize what actually happened.

This beautifully layered story is minimally illustrated with torn pieces of brightly colored paper—simple shapes against a white field (reminiscent of other books by Leo Lionni). It can be read as an abstract lesson in colour theory or as something deeper…