Saturday, June 30, 2007

This post has pretty much nothing at all to do with comics (although drawing is involved in the things discussed within it)

I was walking through my local library the other day when the cover of this children's book caught my eye, and I checked it out on the strength of that image alone.

I'm glad I did; it was a fun read, and a really beautifully designed and illustrated book. 365 Penguins (Abrams Books; 2006) is written by Jean-Luc Fromental and illustrated by Joƫlle Jolivet, both of whom are apparently rather productive in the world of children's books (I don't recognize their names, and I don't think I've seen any of their previous least not that I can remember. But then, I don't read a lot of children's books).

This is a nice, big, sturdy hardcover, with a nice spine; it would look nice on a coffee table, and nice on a bookshelf, two things I look for in books because, well, I'm shallow.

As for the story, it's first-person-narrated by a little boy who lives with his mother, father and older sister Amy. It starts on New Year's Day, when they receive a delivery of a a penguin in the mail. They get one penguin a day for the rest of the year (hence the title). The book deals with the frustrations of having multiple penguins living in one's house, and how having 365 of them is pretty much impossible.

Jolivet limits her palette to just black, white, orange and blue and brown, and it works out quite lovely. The pages are all big and airy, which makes the encroachment of the hundreds of penguins seem all the more dramatic, and her penguin designs are killer. Each has a blank expression, only really betraying emotion when in the act of running towards or away from something, with its flippers back and beak open.

As problematic as the penguins prove, it could be a lot worse. The story refers to the cost of feeding them, and obliquely to the problem of penguin waste ("We can't stand the smell! Find a solution!" the family complains, after the boy tells us, "Let's not talk about the other problems...") But they are fairly docile, reamining motionless and going along with the father's attempts to organize them by stacking them in pyramids or cubes and, later, in boxes of a dozen, like eggs.

This works fine when there are only 144 of them, but then they all rush out to greet the 145th. I could actually relate pretty well to the whole "how do we organize these hundreds of things which increase in nuber with every passing day and are completely crowding us out of our home?!" conflict, since it parallels my own ongoing struggle to share my one-bedroom apartment with hundreds of comics and graphic novels.

Thank God I don't have to feed my comics.

Anyway, a really fun book. At $17.95, I probably won't buy a copy of my own, because it's repeated entertainment value is kinda low, but it is an all around well-designed, well-illustrated children's book.

And while I'm not really talking about comics at all, here are three animated music videos I really like, to songs that have spent a significant portion of time stuck in my head...

Peter, Bjorn & John; "Young Folks"

Well, they do use dialogue bubbles in this, so I guess it's kinda comic book-y.

I don't know why exactly, but this video really makes me think of the Legion of Super-Heroes. I think it's maybe because when I close my eyes and imagine Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy, they totally look like the couple doing the singing here. Or that there's a real Mike Allred-ness about the character designs, and Allred's the artist I'd like to see draw the LOSH more than any other.

Los Campesinos; "You! Me! Dancing!"

I happened upon this video purely by accident, and it was my first exposure to Los Campesinos, and, as it turns out, they're a pretty great band. The video itself contains may of my favorite things—laser guns, giant monsters, rocket ships, flying surfboards—and it's cool that it has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics at all. I really love the song though too, from the Sonic Youth-y slow build at the beginning to the chorus that will embed itself in your brain. See also "We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives." (That seems to be it for videos, but you can hear more music at their myspace page).

New York Dolls; "Dance Like a Monkey"

Dozens of dancing primates, Darwin thrusting his pelvis, Hanuman, Dick Cheney's sneer, King Kong, dinosaurs, a mammoth, an orangutan pope, a hot creationist, a monkey with a jetpack, a gorilla with a top hat, skeletons, Bigfoot... it's like a buffet of awesomeness.

Note the bear who's haning out amidst all the monkeys all the time. He is a terrible, terrible dancer.


Bryce said...

Thanks for the recommendation Caleb — as a new dad, I'm shifting gears into the kids-book world. I'll definitely keep this one in mind. (Also.. you should get an Amazon affiliates account and link up some of the stuff that you review here. I for sure would've impulse-bought the penguin book just now and happily thrown a couple'a ducats your way, if it keeps EDILW running!)

Ami Angelwings said...

THAT SOUNDS LIKE THE GREATEST BOOK EVAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope that there is a happy ending tho since I feel bad that the family is prolly going broke :(