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Archive for October 1st, 2017

by Sam Juliano

There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.                                          -Sarah Kay

There are few settings on the planet to match the shoreline when it comes to sensory overload.   A splashing trek though the sand as the ankle is gently nudged by the foamy caress of an expiring wave, and more often than not the traveler will taste the salt from the water particles that permeate the air at the place where land and water converge.  The splashing sound that provides the audio accompaniment for the most ravishing of sight lines fully validates what the esteemed Japanese-American poet Sarah Kay meant when she describes this singular elemental rendezvous.  Of course the renowned author of The Seashore Book, Charlotte Zolotow employs her own inimitable measure of lyricism to one of life’s more invigorating experiences, one first encountered during childhood and then recalled later in elegiac terms.  Zolotow, who passed away nearly four years ago at the age of 98 is a seminal figure in children’s literature, one who famously collaborated with Maurice Sendak on the Caldecott Honor winning Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, brings a descriptive delicacy and unobtrusive prose to a wholly intimate immersion of nature, armed with her masterful similes and expert delineation of size, color and temperature.  Zolotow invites the reader to feel what her fictional protagonists are experiencing, helping them along with pitch-perfect words, which are more than ably enhanced by the remarkable watercolor art by national treasure Wendell Minor.

Minor did the original art for the first release of the book in the early 90’s.  He has revisited the work with a kind of carefree wistfulness, imbuing his realistic tapestries with the impressionist grandeur he is known for.  The design of this aquatic encore is fittingly negotiated in shades of blue, aquamarine and cresting whites, all subject only to the time of day.  The famed illustrator has long specialized in nature settings, though the variety and breath of his work has featured artists (Edward Hopper Paints His World), presidents and astronauts, literary figures (Willa Cather and Thoreau), animals and holidays.  His breathtaking canvasses have appeared in best-selling works by David McCollough and Harper Lee, and some of his most popular titles are in collaboration with his wife Florence Friedman Minor (2017’s magnificent How to Be a Bigger Bunny among them).  Though his books have been wildly popular with children, adults and collectors, and have received superlative reviews from Kirkus, The Horn Book, The School Library Journal and numerous other publications, he has yet to score with the American Library Association’s Caldecott committees.  Much like Cary Grant, who despite being one of the greatest actors in movie history, failed to receive an Oscar due to bad timing, competition or competing against himself in a calendar year, Minor, who has created over fifty children’s book in his illustrious career is still looking for the lucky break that has in some instances propelled a number of artists with far less prolific catalogs. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

October already?  Hard to believe, but here we are looking at Halloween decoration full front and getting some weather that seems to suggest summer has spent its oppressive resources.  Movie fans can expect the cream of the crop, baseball fans the playoffs, NFL football aficionados the season in full swing.  The opera and classical music seasons have now launched in their famous homes, classes are almost a month old and even Christmas countdowns have started up.

Here at Wonders in the Dark we have just concluded one of the most remarkable ventures in the site’s history, though in reality the other part of this project won’t be commencing again until December 11th or so.  Do to the unprecedented enthusiasm to our Top 80, we have decided to go deeper into the balloting, so deep in fact that in a burst of insanity the site has resolved to countdown from Number 236 to 81.  This means we will be covering or highlighting (in the event full reviews can’t quite be managed on certain days) 155 more shows.  I know.  I know.  This is utter lunacy, and an example of the extent enthusiasm can lead one.  How can this possibly work?  At this point I am really uncertain.  Yes Adam Ferenz, Dennis Polifroni, Brian Wilson, Robert Hornak and myself have volunteered together for an incredible number of essays, but others have also pledged contributions.  All I can say is that we will take it one day at a time.  As if that proposition crosses the line of mental stability, I will still have the latter part of my Caldecott Medal Contender series to complete.  It started this past weekend, and will be continuing through October, November, December and January.  Yes it will for that last section run concurrently with the television countdown, but that kind of thing has never really been a problem.  There will just be more posts, that’s all.

Some of the most spectacular/superlative essays ever published at this site were accomplished for this countdown.  Many thanks to Adam Ferenz, Dennis Polifroni, Brandie Ashe, Brian Wilson, Robert Hornak, John Greco, Jon Warner, Stephen Mullen, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pierre de Plume, Patricia Perry, Lucille Juliano, J.D. Lafrance, Joel Bocko, Maurizio Roca, Samuel Juliano IV, Jillian Juliano and David Schleicher for manning up the writing brigade so brilliantly.  Yes, Yours Truly ended up penning the most essays of all, but I’m much too busy now pondering how I can possibly juggle my even greater workload for Part 2 while doing the Caldecott series at the same time.  I must set up an appointment to visit a psychiatrist soon. (more…)

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