Thursday, October 30, 2008

Splendor's Spooky Children's Books

May your Halloween be wicked and wonderful, dear readers! Here is a glimpse as to why every day is a little like Halloween to me…

As the story goes after the rebellion the fallen angels were cast into the fiery abyss for all eternity. Luckily for me the abyss turned out to be the gloomy Pacific Northwest and a sublime and disheveled Victorian near the shores of Lake Washington. As for fiery pits, the most I had to contend with were gigantic fireplaces, as well as hidden rooms and haunted closets.

I was a tomboy to the bitter end the only things I hated more than dolls was having my hair brushed or wearing a dress. Although I have reformed my ways in several aspects (OK, I haven’t reformed anything, I’ve just become more subversive…) dolls STILL TO THIS DAY make me queasy. And even though my mother insisted (FORCED) me to take ballet lessons, I still manage to sharpen my budding horns on some rather interesting books…

Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee (above)
© 1978 Henry N. Abrams New York

This book was like a child’s faerie guidebook to me. I spent hours studying the illustrations and will admit that some of the pictures scared me to death. Alan Lee’s artwork truly evokes the world of the fey. His illustrations are at once haunting and sensual, full of dreary mists, gnarled trees and exquisite beings. He has also illustrates J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Children of Húrin. Brian Froud’s work might be recognized as the inspiration for characters in the movies The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth (in collaboration with Jim Henson)

Kay Nielsen edited by David Larkin (above)
© 1975 Peacock Press / Bantam Books New York

As a child I had literally dozens of fairy tale book ranging from the mundane Americanized volumes to the crumbling Victorian books found at thrift stores by my parents. Some of my very favorites (still to this day) were illustrated by the Danish artist Kay Nielsen (1886-1957). His work brings to life an old world essence and a deep sense of European grandeur that I find missing in the American versions of the same stories. Nielsen’s characters are expressive, heroic and passionate. Definitely not to be missed.

Ratsmagic illustrated by Wayne Anderson / story by Christopher Logue (above)
© 1976 Pantheon Books New York

This is the truly wonderful story of The Valley of Peace and the imprisonment (and inevitable rescue) of Bluebird and her Magic Egg. I HIGHLY recommend this book to lovers of fantasy and illustration as well as collectors of children’s book. To me Wayne Anderson epitomizes a more modern day approach to children’s book illustrating (although I do realize the book was published in 1976, I am fan of the Golden Age of illustration, so it still modern to me!) His work is slightly edgy and over scale and departure from more tradition styles.

Splendor as a Cherub (and or the last time I left the house not wearing black…)

I was born in the cemetery
Under the sign of the moon
Raised from my grave by the dead
I was made a mercenary in the legions of hell

(“Evil” by Mercyful Fate)



Gorgeous illustrations Splendor. And you might not be wearing black but those are sassy red tights!
Lisa & Alfie

jason said...

I had a stolen copy of East of the Sun West of the Moon by Kay Nielsen that I treasure too. The hours I would spend looking at those illustrations!

And then Faeries too, later on...

Michael said...

Gothic architecture is very nice
utah garage doors

Dorian Wallace said...

You would love a book called "Fantastic People." I've had a copy from the time I was 9 years old.

Laura Morrigan said...

I love Alan Lee and Brian Froud and Kay Nielsen's art. I love Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, although the latter scares me a bit.

I think that Wayne Anderson might have illustrated the Cadbury Creme Egg mystery book. It was full of poems and puzzles. I read it over and over as a child, drawn to the rather creepy illustration style which still haunts my mind!

And I will never forget my favourite story in the book, about a hand of glory and highwaymen! <3

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