Once you’ve finished a book what do you do with it? Shelve it away so it can barely be seen?
How about, instead, exhibiting it on a window sill or mantelpiece to invite comment, to become an ever present part of your life?
Not all books lend themselves to this of course, but High Times: A History of Aviation by Golden Cosmos, and Swan Lake by Ping Zhu are not your everyday sort of book.
An almost wordless, non-fiction accordion book, High Times: A History of Aviation takes you on a journey from Icarus via Leonardo da Vinci, to the Wright Brothers, through the Second World War on to Concorde and the Space Shuttle. Key dates and inventions are picked out and briefly explained in the book’s wrap-around cover, which acts as a key for details to spot in the exciting and broad landscape presented as the book opens out.
Ping Zhu’s Swan Lake, which takes the same format, is entirely wordless. One side of the book shows the audience watching a performance of the ballet, whilst on the reverse you can see behind the scenes as the ballerinas prepare themselves to go on stage.
Both books are wonderfully tactile to hold and interact with. Printed on heavy-weight card these are books you really want to feel between your fingers.
Swan Lake‘s illustrations reminded me of 1960s illustrations, and the girls really enjoyed exploring the audience and making up stories about the different characters they could see, from the bored looking lady with a pearl necklace to the rather mysterious animals who have somehow snuck in to the theatre (they made me think of a Finnish illustrator I like, Hannamari Ruohonen, who also creates fabulous wordless picture books).
The printing technique and bold colour scheme of High Times ensures the book feels both retro and modern. Again, there is lots of fun to be had looking for details, from the family going on holiday with their rubber duck, to the zoo animal being transported by Boeing 747. This book is a great example of how science (in this case, engineering and inventions) can also be explored through art. Team it up with The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont by Victoria Griffith, illustrated by Eva Montanari (which I reviewed here) and The Story of Inventions, by Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Adam Larkum (which I reviewed here) and you’ve got a terrific trio of books to inspire the next generation of flying machine inventors.
But these books are not just for the young. Both NoBrow books are immensely stylish, and as such, will no doubt appeal to adults as well as children. I can easily imagine them unfolded and on display in beautiful, architect designed houses. And why not?
Displaying stories and illustration on your walls is great way to integrate books into your lives, and at £10 a pop I can’t think of a cheaper way to get some eye catching, discussion-inducing art up on your walls.
Inspired by the idea of displaying an illustrated story, the girls set about making their own “mural book”. I blu-tacked a length of fax paper (yes, such a thing still exists, I got mine from Rymans) up our staircase and the girls took turns to illustrate a story chinese-whisper style.
M would illustrate a stretch of paper, then J would take over the story and add her twists and turns. Because I was nervous about pen marks going on the wall I illustrated a simple border along the length of the paper and explained that the girls had to draw inside the border. This worked really well and The HWA (Humane Wall Association) can confirm “No walls were harmed during the making of this book”.
The story grew and grew…
The narrative was somewhat complex, with lots of free association going on, but some of my favourite cameos were these:
“Zeus sent down thunderbolts onto the dinosaurs escaping by bicycle.”
“The dragon and the unicorn came to the magic castle.”
The girls’ mural book is still up on the wall and it’s the first thing anyone sees when we open our front door. I rather like how a story welcomes people into our home.
Whilst we were all illustrating we listened to
Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky (although dancing on stairs is not to be encouraged…)
Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines
The Flying Machine by The Sippy Cups
Making an accordion book. Here’s a tutorial from Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord.
Watching Swan lake ballet clips. making peg doll ballerinas and more – as per our Swan Lake round up from last year.
Creating a cardboard airplane you can fly in – I love this one from Joe’s Secret Lab.
Other activities which could be fun to get up to alongside reading High Times: A History of Aviation or Swan Lake include:
What books have you enjoyed recently that are gorgeous enough for you to want to display them as art?
Disclosure: I received free copies of High Times: A History of Aviation by Golden Cosmos, and Swan Lake by Ping Zhu from NoBrow Press. I was under no obligation to review the books and I received no money for this post.
I love to fly, but I very rarely enjoy reading books about flying, especially while in an airplane: all too often they tend involve words like “plummet”, “screaming”, “disaster” and “splatted”. Nothing like reading a sentence that combines all four and then spending a few tense hours at several thousand feet listening to every change in engine pitch and staring out the windows trying to work out if the wing normally wobbles that much.
Books that should never appear in airport booksellers (that I have actually see stocked) include all the various “air crash investigations” series, any of the 4 books I have seen with “air disaster” in their title and – of course - Alive, the infamous story of 16 blokes crashed in the Andes eating the unthinkable, which will not only put you off flying but right off your inflight meal.
Ideally in-flight books should be diverting enough to distract you from the plane, not remind you you’re on one. So you would imagine that reading Qf32: The Captain’s Extraordinary Account Of How One Of The World’s Worst Air Disasters Was Averted by Qantas pilot Richard De Crespigny would be right out.
But as near-disaster stories go, it’s a very reassuring one, and this is down in no small measure to the calm and clear explanations of what does happen onboard when things start to go badly wrong. And Richard should know. He was the captain on what should have been a routine long-haul flight from Singapore to Sydney, piloting one of Qantas’s new A380 aircraft. It should have been a routine flight but shortly after leaving Changi Airport, an explosion shattered engine 2, sending hundreds of pieces of shrapnel ripping through the wing and fuselage, and creating chaos as vital flight systems and back-ups were damaged or destroyed.
The flight, with nearly 500 people on board, had the potential to be one of history’s worst aviation disasters. Some advance reports even stated that the plane had crashed but the experienced flight crew, led by De Crespigny, managed to land and safely disembark their passengers after hours of nerve-wracking effort.
The book doesn’t just shed light on what happened on that flight. It follows Richard’s life and career, from his time with the RAAF through over 20 years and Qantas, and explains the skills and training of a top-level airline pilot. Richard clearly loves to fly and is confident in the air, but he’s sympathetic to those of us who aren’t, as he explained in an interview with Escape’s Doc Holiday.
I have and will always be sympathetic to nervous flyers; this is why the QF32 crew behaved the way they did, informing and debriefing the passengers. I can’t emphasise enough that the crew have extraordinary skills and are trained to look after you in the case of an emergency. Whatever the emergency, the pilots and crew in the good airlines have been trained for every contingency and you are in the best hands! They know what they are doing. They have been trained, they are knowledgeable and they will not panic.
And is he confident that training is backed up by
Cole had a secret.. he could fly with the help of balloons. Where will he go? What will he see? Adventures lay beyond his little street. This is my submission for IF.. haven't participated in a loooong time. I'm working on the painting now and hopefully will be finished before Friday! Happy Illustrating!
Inspired by Peonies my half hour warm up sketch for today.
Perfect Mother's Day Gifts!
An Illustration Friday submission for the word “return”. Duck is all nice and tanned from his stay in the sunny south!
If I were to ask you who was the inventor of human flight, how would you answer? Would you rack your brain for school memories and then come up with the Wright brothers? Would you be surprised and interested if you then found out that perhaps it wasn’t the Wright brothers after all, but someone else entirely?
The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont by Victoria Griffith, illustrated by Eva Montanari is one of the most enjoyable nonfiction picture books I’ve read this year and it tells the story of one Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian living in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, who, it turns out, has a very good claim on being the inventor of the airplane.
Alberto Santos-Dumont, inspired by a childhood passion for Jules Vernes, was crazy about inventing flying machines. He was famous across Paris for his preferred mode of city transport – his own private airship, a dirigible, which he used like an airborne taxi to take him to cafes and shops around town. But like many inventors Santos-Dumont didn’t sit still; he was knew “even the best inventions can be improved” and so he set about designing an airplane.
One chilly morning in November 1906, on the outskirts of Paris, Santos-Dumont promised to make the world’s first public airplane flight. Things didn’t get off to a good start when a rival would-be pilot turned up with his own airplane. But when this plane failed to make it off the ground, it was Santos-Dumont’s turn….
And he was off! Although he flew for barely more than 20 seconds, Santos-Dumont became the first person to lift off and land a completely self-propelled plane. Santos-Dumont was of course delighted: “these machines will mean the end of all wars. Once people are able to fly to different countries, they will see how much we have in common. We will all be friends.”
Victoria Griffith must have been jumping with delight as she gradually learned about Alberto Santos-Dumont; what better hero for a story could there be? He was a larger-than-life gentleman (he gave away most of the money he earned for his inventions), an eccentric, he played an important role in a world changing invention and he left a lasting legacy that you may well have heard of, even if you didn’t associate it with Alberto or had never knowingly heard his name before (there’s a clue in the picture below, but I’ll leave it for you to read the book to enjoy the story associated with it!)
Now it’s one thing to unearth a great story waiting to be told, but it’s quite another to weave it all together to create a narrative that grabs you from the outset, captures your imagination and makes you want to know more about the facts in question. Griffith does all of this perfectly, showing us a very important scientific truth along the way – that facts are often far more complicated than the received wisdom about them.
Eva Montanari’s illustrations, with e
The prompt for this month on the CBIG blog is, Happy. I recently finished this piece for my new portfolio. It’s from a sketch I did last year of a witch girl and her puppy. They’re both happy because it’s the puppy’s first broom ride. Not only is he managing to hold on, he’s also loving every minute of the ride. It’s even better than being in the car because he doesn’t have to stick his head out a window to get air.
I also have a black and white version.
p.s. Halloween is only 77 days away
Guest blogging over at the Barn Door today. Join me for a snarky look at a recent flight back from Florida.