Monday, July 08, 2013

Octopus Alone

Divya Srinivasan's charming first picture book, Little Owl's Night, featured a wide-eyed young owl in a dark forest.

Her second, out recently from Viking, brings the same kind of gentle whimsy to an ocean setting. A contented octopus watches a whole lot of chasing going on, as she peers out of her safe and cozy cave. When the seahorses intrude, she ventures out, and we're off on a nicely paced adventure with just the right amount of mildly scary possibility mixed in. Lucky for Octopus, she has a secret weapon!

Deceptively simple and visually appealing, Octopus Alone carries subtext related to safety and comfort, and making your choices about them. The book should lend itself well to repeated readings. Just for starters, the end-papers alone deserve some dedicated perusing.

Watch the trailer here 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Guided Dreams

Graciela Boulanger is a Bolivian painter. When I first saw her work in an art gallery, I wondered where I'd seen it before. It had a kind of odd familiarity about it, with its stylized renderings of chubby children staring out of the paintings, walking multiple dogs, riding bikes--no, wait, are those unicycles?--and keeping company with cats.

Image source:

Then I realized where I'd seen her work before--on the 1979 UNICEF poster for the International Year of the Child. Why that image stamped itself on my mind and stayed there for so long I will never know. But there it was, and when I saw other paintings from her hand, it felt as if I'd come home in a way, as if I were meeting up with an old friend once again.

Stories can be like that sometimes. They take root in the mind and you don't even know it. Then the patterns begin to form but only after the passage of time can you possibly catch glimpses of what they mean. If you try too hard the image blurs and the whole thing can disintegrate.

I have a card on my desk sent by a friend. It carries a quote from Jorge Luis Borges: "Writing is nothing more than a guided dream." My own dreams mostly feel chaotic and unguided, on the unusual occasions when I can even remember them. But sometimes an image, a sound, a smell, can generate an entire narrative. It's just how the brain works, making connections a person may have overlooked or forgotten, or suppressed.

The Brennen Gallery in Santa Fe is announcing a Boulanger show in  August. I plan to go and spend time dreaming in the company of those images.