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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: martin, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Artists that inspire me

Like Anette, looking at other illustrators work can inspire me when I'm not feeling creative. My all-time favourite illustrator is the brilliant creator of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter. But I also have many favourites among contemporary artists.

One of my favourites is Tiphanie Beeke. Her portfolio will give you just a glimpse of some of the lovely paintings from her illustrated picture books. There is so much warmth and charm in her people and animal characters and they are all set against beautiful landscapes.

I also admire the tremendously talented artist, Ryoji Arai, who has illustrated many gorgeous children's picture books. His style is naive, but his mastery of colour and composition is dazzling. Unfortunately his books aren't available in English as far as I know, but I was given several by my husband who managed to order them from the Japanese Amazon site.

I really admire the work of Greg Clarke. I love the painting technique that he uses, and the simplicity of his compositions which are perfectly designed with beautiful vintage-style colour palettes. He has a brilliantly designed website (also inspiring) here. While not a children's book artist exclusively, I've found his work on the cover of Chirp and in the sorely missed Martha Stewart Kids magazine.

When I see the work of artists I admire it sparks something inside my brain and while I often end up creating something utterly different it's that spark that can get me started.

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2. Channeling MLK in the Democratic Primaries

David Domke is Professor of Communication and Head of Journalism at the University of Washington. Kevin Coe is a doctoral candidate in Speech Communication at the University of Illinois. They are authors of the The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America. To learn more about the book check out their handy website here, to read more posts by them click here. Below Domke and Coe look at the effects of MLK’s legacy on the Democratic primaries.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day has now come and gone, but King’s presence is still being felt in the Democratic primary. (more…)

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3. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Unfortunately for many, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is simply a day off. This day off though, celebrates one of the most important men in American history, and we thought we would take a moment on the OUPblog to recognize his achievements. In the post below we have excerpted President Lyndon B. Johnson speech which announced the death of MLK Jr. to the American public, from our online resource the African American Studies Center.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, my fellow Americans:

Once again, the heart of America is heavy—the spirit of America weeps—for a tragedy that denies the very meaning of our land.

The life of a man who symbolized the freedom and faith of America has been taken. But it is the fiber and the fabric of the Republic that is being tested. (more…)

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4. Feast on Food and Sex


Martin Jones, author of Feast: Why Humans Share Food is the George Pitt-Rivers Professor of Archaeological Science at the University of Cambridge, and specializes in the study of the fragmentary archaeological remains of early food. Feast reconstructs the development of the meal from chimpanzees at a kill to university professors at a formal feast. Jones has a knack for explaining how food has affected both our society and ecology. In the excerpt below he shows how the instinct to share is more biological than we realize.

Food and sex (more…)

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5. The Shark God

by Rafe Martin
illustrated by David Shannon
Scholastic / Arthur A. Levine Books 2001

In this adaptation of a native tale from Hawaii, two children, a boy and a girl, find a shark tangled in netting on the shore. Their attempts to get adults to help them are met with derision so the decide to free the shark themselves. The shark can sense the children mean to help and once freed gives them a bit of a nod of thanks before disappearing into the ocean.

Jubilant at their rescue, the children run through the edges of the jungle, stumbling on the king's sacred drum. In their excitement they long to sound the drum, to announce their achievement to the world, but to do so would be kapu (forbidden). But they're kids, they lightly tap the drum anyway, under the watchful smirk of the king who sees it all. Having waited until they have hit the drum the king then calls out his guards to seize the children and have them held for punishment.

Their parents plea to the king, hoping to appeal to his softer side, but his heart has grown cold to the entreaties of his people. Likewise, appeals to the other members of the community are cold and the parents decide that they must make their case elsewhere.

Seeking out the cave of the Shark God they place their lives on the line as the mountain-sized god swoops them up for a snack. After hearing their story the Shark God agrees to help and sends the parents home with instructions to prepare a canoe filled with goods and to wait for a sign.

The Shark God brings about a massive wave that floods the village and frees the children from their cells. The parents, having seen the sign they were waiting for, launched their canoe before the wave hit and were well at sea when their old village was destroyed. They quickly found their children (with the aid of a friendly shark) and the king's drum and with it sail to anew island where they hoped to find (or start) a new community, one with an open heart.

The author points out in an afterword the differences between the original folk tale and the modifications made for this version. The differences mentioned appear slight and motivational and make a good case for maintaining the essence of the original. A little casual Internet research shows that this story has many variations across the South Pacific and not all of them pleasant. In one, "Kauhuhu, The Shark God of Molokai," the children belong to a priest and they are killed for beating on the drums when the chief is away, no mention of freeing a shark. There are greater details about the ordeal necessary for avenging the children's deaths and the wave brings a hoard of sharks who feast on the cold-hearted villagers.

So on the one hand we have these tales collected by a couple of German brothers that are filled with all sorts of strange dismemberings and transformations and gore, and despite there being no solid evidence they were meant for children we consider them as such. On the other hand when we get a story from a non-Western culture we see a need to make it more palatable and perhaps soften the rougher edges? True, many a Grimm tale are themselves softened to the point of innocence though they are far from their original spirit and, for the most part, have been co-opted by Disnefication. But where we have the original tales in translation for ready comparison such isn't always the case and a lesser-known tale like The Shark God, without research, becomes practically gutted and filleted from the original to a piece of nicely presented same at a sushi bar.

In the end, I'm not taking a stand on this book either way. No, really. I read it knowing nothing about its origin and enjoyed it. Had there not be the author's afterword I might not have gone searching for the original story and not known what had been changed. I think I would prefer that when we introduce stories from another culture to children -- especially if there is little to suggest they will one day be taught it's true origins -- then I guess I'd like that "one shot" to be an accurate one. I wouldn't want any child drawing all their knowledge of ancient Egypt from watching mummy movies and don't like the thought of children learning about the culture of our island state in such a sanitized manner.

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