“Care granted to the sick, welcome offered to the banished, forgiveness itself are worth nothing without a smile enlightening the deed.” Though researchers since Darwin may have spent considerable effort on the science of smiles, at the heart of that simple human expression remains a metaphysical art — one captured nowhere more beautifully and grippingly than in a short account by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, found in Letter to a Hostage (public library) — the same exquisite short memoir he began writing in December of 1940, a little more than two years before he created The Little Prince on American soil, which also gave us his poignant reflection on what the Sahara desert teaches us about the meaning of life.
“‘What color?’ said Mr. Binks. ‘Bright yellow,’ said Mr. Bliss, ‘inside and out.’” J.R.R. Tolkien firmly believed that there is no such thing as writing “for children” and yet, unbeknownst to most, he joined the ranks of famous authors of literature for grown-ups who wrote little-known children’s books — including Mark Twain, Maya Angelou, James Joyce, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf, and Gertrude Stein — and actually penned a book specifically for kids.
A beautiful illustrated celebration of women’s journey toward creative freedom and mobility. Amid a children’s book ecosystem marked by a lamentable lack of ethnic diversity and gobsmacking presence of female protagonists in only 31% of books, here comes Hope Is a Girl Selling Fruit (public library) — a heartening antidote from the young artist-storyteller Amrita Das and Tara Books, the remarkable Indian independent publisher who for the past two decades has been giving voice to marginalized storytelling through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on beautiful books based on Indian folk traditions.
Simple verses with a thoughtful message. Ruth Krauss (July 25, 1901–July 10, 1993) is one of the most inspired and imaginative children’s storytellers of the twentieth century.
“Asserting oneself … doesn’t mean asserting a name and a person. It means asserting oneself with all that one has inside, and what he has inside, underneath that pigeon chest, is taking on more and more precise contours.” “A classic is a work which constantly generates a pulviscular cloud of critical discourse around it, but which always shakes the particles off,” Italo Calvino observed in one of his 14 definitions of what makes a classic.
“Teaching, may I say, is the noblest profession of all in a democracy.” Kurt Vonnegut was a man of discipline, a champion of literary style, a kind of modern sage and poetic shaman of happiness, and one wise dad.
An enchanting and original vision for L. Frank Baum’s classic ode to wonderment and joy. As a lover of vintage children’s books, especially ones that have elicited exquisite illustrated reimaginings over the years, I was thrilled to come upon an extraordinary 1996 edition of The Wizard of Oz (public library), illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger — one of the most remarkable, original, and imaginative illustrators of our time, whose soft yet irreverent aesthetic calls to mind the sensitivity of Maurice Sendak, the visual poetics of Sophie Blackall, and the conceptual eeriness of Edward Gorey, and yet is gasp-gorgeous and decidedly distinctive in its own right.
“Our life has become so mechanized and electronified that one needs some kind of an elixir to make it bearable at all.
From James Joyce to Maurice Sendak, by way of weep-worthy jelly and gifted chickens. Food and literature have a long and arduous relationship, from the Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook to Jane Austen reimagined in recipes to Alice B.
From Alice in Wonderland to Times Square, a delicate dance of the imagination. When Zelda Sayre married legendary Jazz Age novelist F.
“It’s just like how you used to be a baby and now you’re older, but there was no single day when you went to bed young and woke up old.” We live in a culture where 40% of people don’t believe the world is more than 6,000 years old.
On the mystical mastery of wrestling with the angel. “Art holds out the promise of inner wholeness,” philosopher Alain de Botton assured in Art as Therapy, one of the best art books of 2013.
What a 13,000-year-old eucalyptus tree reveals about the meaning of human life. “Our overblown intellectual faculties seem to be telling us both that we are eternal and that we are not,” philosopher Stephen Cave observed in his poignant meditation on our mortality paradox And yet we continue to long for the secrets of the secrets of that ever-elusive eternity.
“We can’t understand ourselves as frozen in time. Self-understanding is a narrative construction.” “It’s insulting to imply that only a system of rewards and punishments can keep you a decent human being,” Isaac Asimov told Bill Moyers in their magnificent 1988 conversation on science and religion.
A charming exercise in metaphorical thinking and symbolic representation. Rodin believed that his art was about removing the stone not part of the sculpture to reveal the essence of his artistic vision.
The science behind what every pet-parent knows. “What were the secrets of the animal’s likeness with, and unlikeness from man?
Watercolors and whimsy for hearts of all ages. Journey (public library), the debut children’s book by illustrator Aaron Becker, is a charming and empowering wordless story about a lonely little girl who finds herself in an imaginary world and learns to bend it to her own imagination by drawing with a magical red marker.
An ode to the unflinching comfort of the bed, our most reliable sanctuary of safety. Celebrated writer, humorist, poet, dramatist, and literary critic Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893–June 7, 1967) was in many ways the sad clown of literature — she survived an unhappy childhood, three troubled marriages (two of them to the same person, who eventually committed suicide by drug overdose), her own suicide attempts, and being blacklisted by the FBI with a 1,000-page dossier.
“We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them.
“Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue.