Archive for November 24th, 2014

the iridescence of birds

by Sam Juliano

From the moment one first lays eyes on the ravishing dust jacket cover of Patricia MacLachlan’s wholly sublime  The Iridescence of Birds there is a real sense of mission for educators wishing to expand a young child’s scholastic horizons in a single day, indeed during the course of a single reading.  The often arresting picture book is the third much-heralded release in the past two years  to focus on a celebrated painter, (Jennifer Bryant and Melissa Sweet collaborated on A Splash of Red in 2013, and this year Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor published a picture book on Edward Hopper), though the famed Ms. MacLachlan – a Newbery Medal winner for the beloved Sarah, Plain and Tall – lovingly relates a childhood of maternal inspiration and the telling contrast of a damp and dreary town that gives way to natural beauty and rich palettes behind closed doors.  Her subject is the renowned painter Henri Matisse, who actually took up painting while recovering from appendicitis, and while MacLachlan isn’t specific.  her prose, spare and poetic, persuasively frames his art as something both inherent and nurtured.  Yet the mission is a simpler one than just introducing children to a venerated artist.  It is one of learning a new and challenging word, that lies at the center of the book’s theme: what is the meaning of iridescence? (more…)

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In 1998, 22 year-old Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, beaten, and tied to a fence on a Wyoming prairie and left to die because he was gay. His death a week later incited outrage worldwide, and he is now a public symbol of prejudice and intolerance. A wrenching documentary by Michele Josue was the closing feature at the NYDC Festival, and Shepard’s parents Judy and Dennis were there to offer a Q & A. They are pictured here flanking my 12 year-old son Jeremy, and our friend Broadway Bob Eagleson. Lucille, Jeremy, Bob and I attended the screening of the film Thursday.



by Sam Juliano

Turkey Day is upon us, though some of our friends in the midwest are mired in high inch snow totals.  Winter may be a month away, but it has made some unwelcome early appearances around the nation.  In any event the staff here at Wonders in the Dark would like to wish all our friends and associates a wonderful holiday.  For the 22nd year consecutively our own family will be traveling up to Butler, New Jersey, the home of Lucille’s sister and her family.  The gathering up there totals about 60 people, but the house is practically mansion-size.

Posts at the site for the coming months are pretty much set–Jim Clark’s superlative film essays every other Wednesday, a continuing roll out of the Allan Fish Bonanza Encore Series and the Caldecott Contender picture book series until the awards are announced around mid-January.  The next film countdown is tentatively planned for May of 2015 -Greatest/Favorite Films About Childhood – but we have a long way to go and won’t be even dealing with ballots until late March.

As December approaches we can expect all the critics’ ten-best lists, year-end awards and some long-awaited prestigious hits set to open in theaters.  I have been keeping abreast of the openings and have accelerated my movie-going pace. (more…)

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