Monday, March 7, 2011

30 days of books - chris van allsburg and .... the end of the world.

i've been waiting for this post for a few days now, and am psyched to bring it to you all. 
today's author (on whom i've had an artist-crush since i was about eight) is the disgustingly talented, Chris Van Allsburg

creator of The Polar ExpressJumanji, and Zathura, which have all been made into movies (as if you didn't know), as well as The Z was ZappedThe Wretched Stone, and The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, just to name a few. 
his stories are inventive and remind me of a modern-day childrens-book-writing O'Henry; and his illustrations are absolutely breathtaking. take a look:

aren't they gorgeous!

for our book project, we chose Just a Dream, the story of a boy named walter who doesn't think littering is anything to get all worked-up about. 

instead of picking up, walter would rather spend his time imagining how great the future is going to be with all those robots and fantastic inventions. one night, however, walter has a dream. a dream of the future. and what it might really look like if we don't take the time to be responsible with our environment today. 

the illustrations in this book, as always, are captivating, and the images of a world covered in garbage make a strong impression on young readers. 

to bring the idea of responsible environmental stewardship home (even in a small sense) we rode our bikes out one fine saturday to the nearby woods, to do some clean-up.

it's a pretty little strip of woodland that borders our place, and when the snow melts, is home to this cheerful little stream. 

which looked a whole lot nicer after we cleared away all the garbage. the kids had fun hunting for trash, and tiptoeing across the water to pick it up. they kept remarking how inconsiderate the people had been who didn't pick up after themselves. (i had to bite my tongue to keep from reminding them of all the juicebox straws and paper scraps i pick up every day around the house.) 

hard work was seasoned, as always, with fun. 

and getting a little dirty doesn't mean you can't still be cute. 

at the end of the day, we had collected a fair amount of garbage, and everyone was pleased with the day's work.

and, to quote max, 'people should go outside more. nature is so beautiful. and if they see some trash on the ground, they should clean it up, 'cause the trees can't do it themselves.'

so thanks, Chris Van Allsburg for the host of lovely books, and for reminding us to do our part for the world around us and for the future. 


ok. part two of this post. i just found out about this really cool story writing contest going on at Chris Val Allsburg's site. a long time ago, he published a book with no words, called, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

the book was a series of 14 of his most intriguing pictures, and the story goes that Van Allsburg was invited to the house of a friend where he stumbled upon these drawings which were like pieces of a picture puzzle. as the website states, "But the puzzles, the mysteries, presented by these drawings, are not what we are used to. They are not solved for us, as the final pages of a book or a film's last reel. The solutions to these mysteries lie in a place at once closer to hand, yet far more remote. They lie in our imagination."  

the story contest is simple. write a story solving the mystery of one of the illustrations in the book. many people have been inspired to do so, including Stephen King (!) who wrote the story of The House on Maple Street

which was included in his book Nightmares and Dreamscapes. this contest is open for anyone, but i especially recommend it for kids. click over to The Site to read some of the story submissions sent in by other kids. 

this is an awesome way to encourage creativity and imaginative thought, and creative writing in your kids. 

so cool!


and lastly, (i know this has been long, but... worth it.... right?) :)
our grown-up book pick of the day:

another imaginative work from a fanciful writer, and one of my all-time favorites (i know, i keep saying that...), Hiruki Murikami's Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.

i can't even begin to talk about this book because when i do i don't shut up. it's inventive and original and funny and mind-bending. 

here's the blurb from the back cover:

 Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect.

What emerges is simultaneosly cooler than zero and unaffectedly affecting, a hilariously funny and deeply serious meditation on the nature and uses of the mind.

it is all that and more. 

read something today that stretches the way you think.


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