Friday, May 27, 2011

Life on the farm

My three daughters were all born in California. Raising young children
in America allowed me to discover lots of wonderful children's books authors
and illustrators, including classics like Doctor Seuss who at the time had
never been published in Italy. There were many family favorites, from
Jan Brett and Mercer Mayer to the lovely Catch me and kiss me and say it again.
But, maybe because we also lived in the country, I think that the most beloved 
of all was this wonderful volume by Alice and Martin Provensen describing
 the animals living on the authors' farm in upstate New York.

I love the humorous, warm and realistic depictions of the farm's many inhabitants.
The autobiographical element helps the authors to make the animals come alive
as individual characters with their unique qualities and weaknesses, from the smart 
sheep Old Eleven to the cocky rooster Big Shot.

 The books has a large format, and of our favourite spreads were the ones featuring 
many vignettes portraying the various animals' personalities and daily activities.
We could get lost for a long time looking at all the funny details in these pages.

I took these photos from our own tattered, very used copy.

The book is very sweet, but not sentimental. The narration is down to earth, 
describing the many difficulties of working with animals, and one page shows 
the "bad" dogs who had to be "put away". The spread above shows the spot in 
the forest where the beloved dogs and cats who had died lie buried. 
I recommend clicking on the pictures to view them at a larger size.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Petit Monde Sauvage

Grasshopper pull toy, painted wood, France, 1930s 

I love the website of the French cultural institution Les Arts Decoratifs
Besides organizing beautiful and unusual exhibitions (remember Les Lalanne?), 
its online documentation is generous in quantity and high in quality.
These photos showcase some of the toys featured in the 2010 exhibition
Petites et Grosses Bêtes, dedicated to animal representations in the world of toys.
Pig, France, late 19th century 

Bulldog, Paris, 1912

Celluloid frog, Petitcollin toy company, France, 1920–30

Elephant, France, 1930–40  

Ladybug (I had this one as a child) and snail tin friction toys, 
Ernst Paul Lehmann toy company, Germany, 1950–60s

Cat with ball pull toy, France, around 1950

White mouse mechanical toy, Köhler, Germany, around 1955 

Bunny by Helen Diemer, Switzerland, 1959 
OwlCEJI-Lang toy company, France, 1976 

Squirrels, Starlux toy company, France, 1985

Yorkshire, Aux Nations toy company, France, 1983

Bear by Susan Tantlinger, France, 1988


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