Archive for December 11th, 2017

by Sam Juliano

Construction on Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan commenced in 1931, with the finishing touches applied in 1939. Workers unwittingly inaugurating a tradition in that first year when they decorated a 20 foot balsam fir with all kinds of items including cranberries, paper garlands, tin cans and foil gum wrappers.  Two years later a 50 foot tree was installed as a holiday beacon for workers and Big Apple tourists, and the tradition was officially launched.  Each year the center’s head gardener heads up an investigative mission to find a most ideal specimen of the object famously described Upon whose bosom snow has lain/Who intimately lives with rain.  Crews are annually dispatched during the fall to search for super size evergreens from states as far away as Vermont and Ohio, though the history reveals that New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have provided by far the most since the practice was instituted.  The largest tree ever showcased was a 100 footer from Killingworth, Connecticut, chosen for the 1999 yuletide season.  No tree higher would qualify because of city street width specifications around the complex.  Last year’s tree at 30,000 pounds and 56 feet wide was a record breaker in both departments.  The Mayor of New York City traditionally lights it at a ceremony now televised by NBC.

A newly released picture book by Matt Tavaras, Red & Lulu is a glorious celebration of one of America’s most cherished institutions, and by way of concept, design and beauty, not to mention an irresistible dramatic hook,  it appears destined for an indefinite tenure on the holiday shelves in bookstores.  Tavares is a veteran picture book maker who has produced some of the most distinguished biographies of baseball legends like Ted Williams, Pedro Martinez, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.  His output though has been diverse, and with Red & Lulu he has crafted his masterpiece, a book as aesthetically beautiful as it is dramatically touching.  It is not remotely a long shot to conclude that this striking and colorfully vivid work is surely one of the most beautiful from any country, and that Caldecott Medal discussion is assured.  Red & Lulu is also that rarest of books, one as artful as it is popular and as thematically soulful as it is artistically captivating. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

What’s that sound in the distance?  I could swear sleigh bells and caroling are wafting through the air.  Even the white stuff has made its first appearance in the metropolitan area, and some of us are getting our annual yuletide DVDs ready for holiday week viewings.  Just on Thursday evening we watched the 1951 A Christmas Carol for the eight-hundredth time, and yet another viewing of the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street is imminent. In any case, traveling by car has been a daunting proposition, and decorating has been a prime order of business.  Here at Wonders in the Dark, our annual Caldecott Medal series soliders onward, though at a bit more leisured pace than it has in the past.  Jim Clark’s magisterial film essays are posted every third week.  Part 2 of the Greatest Television Series Countdown will resume on or around February 14th.

A major book event was staged on Sunday at Manhattan’s Books of Wonder.  I posted on Facebook on the three children’s book luminaries who appeared, and will repeat them here

Renowned picture book illustrator extraordinaire Raul Colon appeared this afternoon at Manhattan’s premiere children’s mecca, Books of Wonder to discuss the extraordinary “Miguel’s Brave Knight” which was reviewed as part of my “Caldecott Medal Contender” series. He is seen here with my son Jeremy and speaking to the gathering about Cervantes, his collaboration with the great Margarita Engle and the advent of the book’s unique cover, one of the year’s two or three most spectacular.

One of the greatest of children’s book illustrators, Czech-American Peter Sis appeared today to discuss his major Caldecott Medal contender “Robinson” at Books of Wonder this afternoon in Manhattan. As always Sis gave a comprehensive account of his art and the advent of his latest sublime work, one of many in a distinguished career that has brought him three Caldecott honors. I dare say I believe “Robinson” is his masterpiece. Sis is seen here with my son Jeremy and speaking to the gathering.

Esteemed illustrator Charles Santore appeared today at Books of Wonder to promote his new fairy tale interpretation of “Alice in Wonderland.” Not a Caldecott contender as this like most of his other work is a chapter book, but it is a sublime work and Santore engagingly addressed the gathering, later responding to my question about the time it took to complete the intricate assignment. “Three years” he answered. Santore is shown here with Jeremy and speaking.


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