Friday, March 20, 2009

Pictures + Words = MAGIC!

I love children's books. They are like little accessible works of art. Originally I am drawn to the illustrations. Some graphic with crisp lines and bold colors, others hand illustrated with soft lines and flowy watercolor. The art is always so endearing to me. Then the title and story line captivate me. Children's stories always take you to a safe happy place. As a child you read and imagine you're part of the story, you're a character, or you're empowered to be whatever you want to be. As an adult you read and are transported back to childhood. Such a magical place.

It is such a craft to write and/or illustrate children's books. I'm not sure most people appreciate it like I do. True, the 'Mona Lisa', is quintessentially what people think of as 'real' art and classic works like 'Pride and Prejudice' may be on the forefront of peoples' minds when they think of 'literature', but I hold children's books in high regard. There is just something awe-inspiring about a little bound book with fanciful images and perfectly timed stories that can capture (and keep!) the attention of young little minds.

Today Google honors one of the all-time greats, Eric Carle. It is the 40th anniversary of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar'. It has sold more than 29 million copies, is published in 47 languages and sells somewhere in the world every 30 seconds. I ask you - who doesn't know the story of the Hungry Caterpillar? Not only do I remember the story - a little caterpillar that ate and ate, turned into a beautiful butterfly and spread it's wings to fly - but I remember being mesmerized by the illustration. The depth of patterns, the vibrant yet soft colors, and the layered textures had me touching the pages trying to feel the artwork as my mother read the story. Oh, and let's not forget the holes in the pages! That caterpillar was REALLY eating that book!

Now, I'm sure that prints of 'Mona Lisa' and copies of 'Pride and Prejudice' have equally impressive selling statistics, but there is something about capturing the imagination of a child, that lasts into adulthood, that is impressive beyond comprehension.

Brilliant art is all around, sometimes it just takes the magic of childhood to discover it...and appreciate it. I encourage everyone to have their own collection of children's picture books stashed away on the shelf. Novels are a great escape, as are trips to the museum of fine art, but there is no greater escape than turning the pages of a picture book. What else can so simply put a smile on your face, give you hope and bring back childhood memories???

Happy anniversary Hungry Caterpillar...and many more...

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