Archive for December, 2010

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Dr. Seuss | Random House 1957

It’s impossible to write a proper review of  How the Grinch Stole Christmas in this forum—so I won’t try. I only want to mention a few observations that I think contribute to the long and timeless life of this super-duper book. I picked it up from my kid’s book collection for the first time in a decade and was surprised to realize that the Grinch—as originally depicted in 1957—was not actually green. In fact, the only green in the whole book is the burst on the cover and the solid green back cover. It was rendered entirely in red and black. It was the 1966 animated version—the collaboration of Chuck Jones and Theodor Seuss Geisel—that gave the Grinch his acid green hue. This is probably one of the best-animated versions of a kid’s book in existence. As I read the book the other day, the words came out in my head in the sinister voice of Boris Karloff—no doubt from the years of consuming the TV production every year about this time. You can just hear the Boris/Grinch snarling, “ I MUST find some way to stop Christmas from coming.”

Lest we forget why this book (like and all of the Dr.’s) is so transporting—his extraordinary pen-and-inkmanship. It’s the marriage of his zany mind’s eye and the mastery of his pen’s line. Knowing where to put it and where to leave it out. When to make the shadow jet black and when to apply a few wispy cross-hatches. And then there are those eyes, and those expressions, and hands with those signature cocktail pinkies. And don’t forget his sense of perspective that never renders a wall straight or a ground flat—his world is enormous and extends miles beyond the edges of the page and our kid’s beds. His Who-ville is everyone’s Who-ville and a place we never tire of.

Tall City, Wide Country

A Book to Read Forward and Backward

Seymour Chwast | The Viking Press 1983

If Tall City, Wide Country just appeared in my local bookstore, I would snatch it up in a New York minute—for two reasons—brilliant concept, brilliant illustrations. It has every quality of the books I like that are occasionally being produced today. Only thing is it was produced in 1983! It happens to have been created by the renowned Seymour Chwast and Push Pin Studios. Why it isn’t in print today is another example of what’s confounds me about publishing, (probably Seymour as well).

This book has it all. Scale, perspective, color, wild animals, dogs, buildings, nature, streets, cars, airplanes, farmers, upper east-siders, clowns and two curious kids. Every spread is full of out-of-whack juxtaposed elements in a way that is classic Chwast—and resoundingly playful. I’m pretty sure these illustrations were created laboriously with green ink line drawings colored with hand-cut Cello-Tac (colored film). They feel every bit as graphic and contemporary as anything done today. No mistake that they came from the mind and hand of a man that loves to draw.

As this book is hard to find new today, I am posting it in its entirety in hopes that Seymour doesn’t mind. I want to share it with creators and consumers as a book to aspire to. Reprint, reprint!

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