Everything You Need for a Celebration


It’s been a busy few weeks around here. I’m still trying to figure out where the summer part of summer is!


It’s all been fantastic things.


Sparkle and Spin


By Ann and Paul Rand

{originally published 1957 by Harcourt, Brace, and World. Reprinted 2006 by Chronicle Books.} Sometimes pictures are just that: eye-catching and whimsical, without being packed with meaning or message. That spirit dances across the page in Sparkle and Spin, written by Ann Rand and illustrated by her husband Paul.

Paul Rand is an iconic American graphic designer. A problem solver. A storyteller. A communicator.

He said this about design:

“Good design adds value of some kind, gives meaning, and, not incidentally, can be sheer pleasure to behold.” breaker His biographer, Steven Heller, said this:

“Paul Rand did not set out to create classic children’s books, he simply wanted to make pictures that were playful. Like the alchemist of old, he transformed unlikely abstract forms into icons that inspired children and adults and laid the foundation for two books that have indeed become children’s classics.”

Maybe he didn’t intend to be a creator of legendary books for kids, but his love for beautiful work shines in this one. That’s the magic of Sparkle and Spin: harmony, wit, and playfulness. And Ann’s words are a delightful match to Paul’s pictures. There’s a rhythm, song, and honor to these words that represent the joy of learning. Harmony, captured perfectly.

In graphic design, harmony is the magic that happens when all of the individual elements complement one another. It’s when small parts of pretty make up a more lovely whole. breaker iceCreamHere’s a detail I really love. This bold, graphic ice cream cone comes at the beginning, and with the inscription: To all children who like ice cream. And at The End, that scoop’s been slurped, chomped, and devoured. That’s what the experience of this book is. Tasty.

The book sparkles and spins. You’ll see what I mean.


The Woods

I was unfamiliar with Paul Hoppe before I picked this up on a recent trip to Vroman’s. (Which, by the way, has the greatest kids’ department EVER. Forget Disneyland on your trip to Southern California, hit up Vroman’s!)

But back to Paul Hoppe. The Woods is a bedtime adventure with a delightful twist. The page turns add suspense, the art creates texture and warmth, and the end is wholly satisfying. A bit of Where The Wild Things Are hops around through the pages too, which is especially sweet now given Mr. Sendak’s recent passing.

What initially attracted me to this book was the striking cover and how it wraps around to the back as well. It’s almost cyclical, with the fearless boy charging to the right, and a hint of what’s to come reaching in from the left.

And because I’m a sucker for endpapers, this got me:

Black is such an unusual choice for a dominant color on a picture book cover, and what made it jump off the shelf to me at Vroman’s. But for a bedtime story, for a little boy who is fearful of the dark, this choice allows space for him to act, to tremble a little, and to ultimately be BRAVE! The contrast between the stark black and the bright lime green is gorgeous.

The same is true within the illustrations — not in two very different colors, but in the bigness of the characters he meets and his own small size.

When we first meet the big scary brown bear and the two scary giants, they are larger than life on the page. The composition is so striking here, and the texture of the watercolor paper softens their big scary blow, should you need a little comforting.

And as it turns out, those big scary nighttime creatures aren’t so big and scary at all. Contrast helps to exaggerate what he sees in his imagination, and contrast serves to wrap up the words and pictures in a very dear bedtime package.

Reading the pictures closely throughout the book makes this initial page especially exciting on a return trip to it. Lots of fantastic moments exist in this early illustration, foreshadowing all of the exciting events to come. Enjoy this one — put a trashcan on your head and embrace the darkness!