Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Isn't it funny how sometimes you end up back where you began?

When we were back in Minnesota in October, my mom and I paid a visit to the Museum of Russian Art to see their show "Raising the Banner: The Art of Geli Korzhev". The building looks to be a converted Spanish style Church, and it is really very beautiful inside and out.

We also checked out their gift shop which was a fantastic treasure trove of delicately embroidered linens, matryoshka dolls, slippers, painted eggs and amber jewelery. Several of the Children's books caught my eye as well. I remembered that the artist Masha Dayans is Russian and that many of her paintings are inspired by Russian fairy tales. The gift shop had the children's book Babushka Baba Yaga, and as I paged through it I couldn't help but notice some distinct similarities in the work. The crazy wild stick hair, the striped stockings, the colors all reminded me of Masha Dayans. I made a mental note to remember the illustrator's name and then forgot all about it.

A week later my Aunt and I went on an expedition to the charming and wonderful children's bookstore The Wild Rumpus and I purchased a wonderful book called "Ginger and Petunia" by Patricia Polocco which is the story of a very fancy Liza Minnelli look alike named Ginger who has a pet pot bellied pig called Petunia who is very spoiled and loves to take mud baths. When the Ginger goes out of town and forgets to cancel all her social engagements, the pig takes her place. Not only does no one notice that the pig is posing as the lady, the pig becomes the toast of the town. (A reminder about the power of fashion people!) Anyway, I bought the book and brought it back to China in my suitcase and then forgot about it.

And then yesterday on the Writer's Almanac they featured the famous Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and while I was adding one of his books to my Amazon wish list, I remembered that I'd been meaning to do some research on Russian Fairy tales. So I began poking around on Amazon and found Babushka Baba Yaga once again.

And can you believe that it is by Patricia Polacco? I find it amazing that "taste" can be so true, I mean, I am always surprised at how consistently you can choose the same things that resonate with you.

I've been pouring over her illustrations and just love them. Patricia says that she loves Norman Rockwell and I think you can see his influence (especially in the little girl playing piano...) but they have a lot of zest and energy that I think Mr. Rockwell ended up working out a bit. If you look closely you can see that she sketches them in pencil and then uses markers to color them in. They have such vitality and humor and a real sense of playfulness. Important characteristics for children's literature if you ask me. It should just look fun. Note to self...

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