October is my favorite holiday! Day 1

great pumpkin

I decided, since I basically celebrate the whole month of October, I should follow my heart and revel in what I love about Autumn. Today will be a book recommendation and and list of what I don’t actually like about this season. I view myself as a traditionalist.

First the list. Things I don’t like about Halloween season:

  1. Depictions of blood, gore and death. It is almost like people revel in it.
  2. Skimpy Halloween costumes
  3. HORROR MOVIES. Not a fan of evil being given a winning hand. Not a fan at all.
  4. Anything to do with zombies.
  5. Most Tim Burton movies. (Exceptions: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, the short film Vincent)
  6. Wiji boards
  7. Ghost shows or basically ANYTHING to do with possession
  8. The movie Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island (1998)
  9. Anything depicting children as evil
  10. CANNIBALISM shown or described at all.

And there you have it. Now, Halloween is my favorite holiday. After seeing this list you are probably thinking how on earth this is the case. Quite simply, I celebrate the traditional Halloween. But I will get to that later!

Book recommendation #1!

the girl who circumnavigated

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (2011)

Actually, I recommend this entire five book series by esteemed author Catherynne M. Valente. Though not a fan of her adult novels, I fell in love with this beautiful book from its first chapter. It follows a girl September who is taken to fairyland and has her heart grow to fill it. She meets a Wyvern, who is part library, saves the Madrid Saturday from his lobster cage, gives away her shadow and travels throughout a land which is always Autumn! A lot more than that transpires which makes reading it all the more wonderful!

What I like so much about this story is how much it broadened my vision and caught my imagination on fire! Valente has a way of painting with words which I find altogether charming. For Autumn lovers I say read the entire series! It is utterly delightful.

“Of course not. No one is chosen. Not ever. Not in the real world. You chose to climb out of your window and ride on a leopard. You chose to get a witch’s Spoon back, and to make friends with a wyvern. You chose to trade your shadow for a child’s life. You chose not to let the Marquess hurt your friend–you chose to smash her cages! You chose to face your own Death, not to balk at a great sea to cross and no ship to cross it in. And twice now you have chosen not to go home when you might have, if only you abandoned your friends.You are not the chosen one, September. Fairyland did not choose you–you chose yourself. You could have had a lovely holiday in Fairyland and never met the Marquess, never worried yourself with local politics, had a romp with a few brownies and gone home with enough memories for a lifetime’s worth of novels. But you didn’t. You chose. You chose it all. Just like you chose your path on the beach: to lose your heart is not a path for the faint and fainting.”

Month of Art: Day 19 Ana Juan and the Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland Series

(Part of me wonders if I will ever finish my month of art posts. My mind is scattered in SO many directions.) 

For today, I picked an artist deeply connected to my present mood. Born in Valencia, Spain in 1961, Ana Juan has illustrated for magazines like La Luna, Madriz and The New Yorker, storybooks and created worldwide art exhibitions, even as far as Japan for the Kodansha publishing house. In 1998 and 1999 the Society of Newspaper Design gave her a gold medal for her contributions and in 2010 The Spanish Ministry of Culture awarded her the “Premio Nacional de Ilustración”. 

I often wonder how such famous artists slip into my beloved books. This particular children series, written by the phenomenal writer Catherynne M. Valente, has a quirky style. As Neil Gaiman put it, all the books showcase the “glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale” born from her unique cultural background that even extended to her life in Japan. I first read the series four or five years ago and have since fallen in love with her young adult and children’s literature. (Note: I avoid her adult novels as they tend to be very…. Overtly sensual. Ahem.) 

This series is also peculiar because it started as a crowd funded project released online. The first book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making won the Nebula/Andre Norton Award in 2009 BEFORE its official publication. Finally in 2011, after an overwhelming demand for its publication, it was published peaking at #8 on the New York Times Bestselling list. 

The sequels that followed, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Les the Revels There (2012), The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (2013), and The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (2015) met equal praise and adoration from fans of all ages who complimented the series wit and insight into politics, ethics, love and perspective. 

Now to the art. True to the series tone and setting, Ana Juan gave the books an older 1940s look both in their covers and chapter headings. The dimensions of the characters varies but the overall feel remains otherworldly.  Reading the series I felt that Juan had captured how I always imagined places of magic to look and feel. 

Each picture is purely magical to me. They seem to say “come away with us for this is where the magic is”. Something inside me bitterly wishes I could have read these books as a child. I can only imagine myself pouring over the images and dreaming of a never ending Fall. (FYI I love love LOVE everything about Autumn and October. Yet another reason my these books appeal to me so readily.) 

I think that in regards to a book’s ambiance, illustrations pay an enormous part in giving the book’s magic a face to remember. For example, I remember very distinctly each chapter picture in the Harry Potter series and still gush over Alan Lee’s talented visions for Tolkiens Lord of the Rings and other works. MY view of each of these series centered on their illustrations because it brought the book to life. The same definitely applies to these magical books. 

Someday I will talk about them in greater length. But for now, let Ana Juan’s imaginative drawings for Valente’s works be remembered fondly as a doorway into the wonder and enchantment of literature. As always, here are multiple examples of Ana Juan’s works.