Monday, August 3, 2015

Brian Wildsmith :: Summer Author Binge

Brian Wildsmith :: Summertime Author Binge 

We do this summertime author binge-ing, where we read as much as we can by some of our favorite authors.  In case you missed the authors we binged on last month, you can catch up on our June reading of Dahlov Ipcar, here and Jim Arnosky, here.  

Ok, let's not waste anymore time.  I *heart* Brian Wildsmith.  I don't know how or when I was first introduced to this author/illustrator, but I wish I could remember because since that time his books have become a significant part of our home library as well as our public library addiction (for which there happily is no recovery program ;) )  

My love for Brian Wildsmith springs primarily from the fact that he's one of those phenomenal illustrators who makes the point that even kids deserve real artwork.  His books are clearly written for children, but his artwork is proof that he would never skimp on or fudge an illustration because "bah, it's just for kids."  No, no, no.  His artwork is top notch and gorgeous to look at even apart from the stories it often accompanies.  I think it's a good policy to simply buy, without hesitation, any Wildsmith book you may come across at a library sale because even if you find the story less than compelling, you can frame the illustrations and have fabulous Wildsmith artwork in every room of your home.

Why??  Why are you getting rid of these, libraries??
His work is easily identifiable - he paints animals, lots of animals.  He uses bright and brighter colors.  He effortlessly combines realistic-looking animals with abstract designs and geometric shapes.  His work is detailed.  And there are always animals.  Did I mention that already?   

My very, very favorite Brian Wildsmith books are his re-tellings of the Old Testament stories of Joseph and the Exodus.   If you check out no other picture books this summer, check out these.  He tells both stories well, shortened to accommodate a picture book, obviously, but not dumbed down, watered down, or anything-ed down.  And the illustrations!!  Oh!  They are a feast for the eyes!!  

Wildsmith has several other faith-based books, and of all his books these tend to be our favorites (and the ones we own).  His books  Jesus and  Mary are beautiful accounts of the significant life events of Christ and the Blessed Mother.  He has also written a delightful picture book on the life of Saint Francis as if it were Francis himself telling the story.  Finally, I've never seen it, it but he has a pop-version of The Creation, which I'm sure is gorgeous.  

In the same vein, Wildsmith also has written a few stories that tell the Christmas and Easter story.   A Christmas StoryThe Road to Bethlehem and The Easter Story are great additions for your holiday book collections!   They're a little quirky, though, so beware - you'll be disappointed if you're expecting a straight ahead Nativity or Passion/Ressurection account.

Because I just love his illustrations, we have a few Wildsmith's ABC books:  Brian Wildsmith's ABC and  Brian Wildsmith's Amazing Animal Alphabet.  He also has a book of Animals to Count, as well as a book of Opposites, which make nice gifts for parents who love giving lovely illustrations even to their little ones.

As for everything else Wildsmith has written... well, there's a lot!  So many picture books -- most of them sweet and enjoyable.  My older boys (7 and 9) still like to listen to these, but for the most part, I'd say Wildsmith's stories are well suited to the 6 and under crowd.  They're often simple and silly tales of foolish animals or little critters learning a lesson, etc...  Some of the titles the kids and I have enjoyed more than others are The Owl And the Woodpecker,   Python's Party,   Circus,   Give a Dog a Bone,   Squirrels,   The Miller, the Boy and the Donkey, The Bremen Town Musicians, and his books such as Birds and Fishes, which aren't stories, but are illustrations of many varieties of each animal and the names given to groups of each (like "a rafter of turkeys" and "a company of archer fish")  

As with most authors, Brian Wildsmith's come up with a few that I just can't love...  My kids like reading  Carousel, but it's one of those stories that I thought could have been great but it wasn't, quite.   And finally, one of the most ridiculous books on the planet, was unfortunately written by Wildsmith (and I think his wife).   Jack and the Meanstalk is the story of Professor Jack who was dabbling in the genetic engineering of plants before it was cool and grew a bean plant that grew so big it threatened to take over the world.  TV  news crews came, the fighter pilots couldn't take down the giant plant, it crashed through the ozone layer, life as we know it was about to cease... and the rodents of the world saved civilization from certain death by chewing through the roots and the pieces of dead plant were scattered into space.  Needless to say, Jack spent the rest of his days tending his garden where he "let nature take its course."  Please, don't bother getting this book out of the library.  Your kids will inevitably love it and you will be stuck reading one of the most absurd books over and over.  Believe me.  I know. 

As long as you avoid the Meanstalk, I'm pretty sure you can just request any Wildsmith title from your local library and you're sure to be delighted by his simple and sweet stories and his illustrations, which are a delightful combination of cozy and vibrant (he makes it work, believe me!)  Unless you get the Bible stories - then the stories are Scriptural and the illustrations are epic.  Either way, you can't go wrong!  

Happy Reading!  

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  1. I love the idea of binge reading an author-- what a fabulous idea!

    I've never heard of Brian Wildsmith before, but I'm intrigued. And I agree--kids deserve real art! You wouldn't know it by the looks around my house these days (sheepish grin). I've got something to strive for, eh? ;)

  2. I actually read your post while I was at the library, so I pulled the ones of his I could find. I am excited to request some more. I love when you do posts like this.

    1. Thanks, Ann-Marie! Hope you and your girls like them!


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