Monday, May 25, 2009

A Child's Garden of Verses

A Child's Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson & Virginia Tiffany

I found this book a long while ago, browsing a bookstore in Eugene, Oregon with my friend Tilke. I instantly loved the crooked exuberance of the "stitchery", as the illustrations by Virginia Tiffany are termed. I think the book was published in the 1970s, but I'm traveling right now on the West Coast and can't check 'til I'm home again.

I took these photos in my garden back in mid-May. It had rained that morning and the ground was still a little damp and dewy.

The book is too big for the scanner. It's bigger than my lap, even. Do you see the joints on the pink and orange elephant? They're so cute they made me squeal.

I would like the blonde boy's tunic & hood. Maybe I'll sew my own version sometime.

The chives had just opened their flowers that week, a pungent rush of little purple fireworks.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jip and Janneke

At long last, as I promised, I'm doing a Jip and Janneke post.

Jip and Janneke are a pair of Dutch preschoolers invented and chronicled by the late, great Annie M.G. Schmidt. They were illustrated by the similarly brilliant Fiep Westendorp. In the Netherlands the two are everywhere––both as books and as merchandise--and everyone has read the short, funny, extremely Dutch stories about them at some point in childhood. A phrase derived from them has even entered the language-- "Jip-en-Janneketaal", or "Jip and Janneke language", means simple speech.

Despite their ubiquity in Holland, Jip and Janneke have barely made so much as a peep here in the States. At some point in the '60s and '70s a few translations came out in English, with Jip and Janneke appearing as "Mick and Mandy" (ugh) and then "Bob and Jilly" (double ugh. Sorry-- I just have a personal pet peeve about translations that seriously fail to preserve the names of characters). For better or worse, both the M & M and the B & J versions are now out of print.

But! On my last day in Amsterdam back in January, in a children's bookshop with J., I was psyched to discover that the Dutch publisher Querido had taken it upon itself to release a faithful English translation. I bought it and devoured it on the plane ride home. (It kept me calm and giggly on an otherwise terrifyingly turbulent flight.) So far it's not available in the States (not sure about England either). But eventually-- maybe-- I hope--!

Here's the back cover:

The first page of one of my favorite stories:

p.s.-- Wikipedia has a picture of the cover of the Finnish edition. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Summer Book

This is a meandering novel about grandmothers, islands, and parental death (...not Moomins...) by the great Tove Jansson. It's beloved to me.

In the woods, Grandmother collected a bit of tree moss, a piece of fern, and a dead moth. Sophia followed along silently, her nerves growing a little calmer with each item that Grandmother put in her pocket. The moon looked slightly red and was almost as bright as day.

I'm so grateful to The New York Review of Books for bringing it out in English after all these years. They're bringing out another non-Moomin, meant-for-grownups book by Jansson in the fall. It's called The True Deceiver. It has a great cover (also by Jansson):