Book: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig
Eugene Trivizas
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
1993

This is a retelling of the story of the “Three Little Pigs”, but with the roles reversed. The three little wolves keep building houses out of bigger and better materials and the Big Bad Pig keeps destroying them. Unlike the wolf in the classic tale, this pig does more than just huff and puff. He pulls out all the stops with a sledgehammer and even dynamite! Each house is systematically destroyed and the wolves only just escape each time. After their reinforced steel house is blown up, they come to the conclusion that the problem lies in their building materials and they try building a house from a radical material – flowers! The ending is cheesy, but cute and very appropriate!

The story in this book is wonderful. It has lots of character, energy and originality. There are so many retellings of fairy tales out there that few stand out any more. This one takes the original tale and, rather than trying to make it realistic (which is the most common tactic these days), it makes it even bigger and more unbelievable. The result is a fairy tale that few could forget. The wolves are both more innocent and more wise than the pigs in the original tale, and the pig is much worse than the wolf ever was (if for no other reason than his resourcefulness). The writing is very standard for fairy tales with lots of parallel structures and repetition, rhythms and even a sort of melody. It sounds wonderful read aloud, and encourages you to do so! It all adds up to an excellently crafted story.

The pictures complement the story well. They aren’t as memorable as the story itself, but they almost don’t have to be. While it would have been nice to have illustrations that match the text in originality and memorability, it would have been hard to achieve them without competing with the story. They work because they frame the story, allowing the reader to focus on the text and the tale rather than the bright colours or fantastically detailed characters. While I would have liked to see amazing illustrations for such a great story, it wasn’t bad to have understated ones that allow the story to shine on it’s own.

This is a great book. It will amuse adults as much as children, if they allow it too. It is rare to find a retold tale that stands up to the original, and while I doubt that this book is timeless, it does manage to do so. It may end up seeming dated in fifty years, but considering we still tell the pigs’ story with straw and stick houses, it may not. Regardless, for the moment it doesn’t matter. It is a fun story excellently told. The illustrations aren’t memorable, but the book more than makes up for it in other ways! I highly recommend this book.

Publisher’s Description
Buy it from Amazon

Gaming Quotes

Eva has a page of quotes up from a Dungeons and Dragons game that I ran a while back called Prophesies and Choices. It’s pretty funny. Players say the darndest things!

Runway Thoughts: Preen

Today I’m looking at the fall 2006 collection from Preen. After the collection yesterday, I was ready for some real clothing again. Unfortunately, I’m apparently not done with science fiction costumes. Today was less dystopian and more space station.

PreenDress1

See! Totally space station wear. The silver metalic fabric and odd straps, even the cut outs on the sides of the skirt, are all science fiction standards. All it needs is a clear plastic panel. The problem is that it looks really uncomfortable. It seems too tight around the bust (I don’t think it has any darts or anything) and the strap across the throat hits at a very strange place. She looks like the dress is trying to choke her! I just couldn’t handle this dress. There were several pieces in the collection that looked worse too.

PreenDress2

This dress looks like a robe to me. It just doesn’t look like a dress. There were several coat-dresses like this. I just don’t know where I would wear this. It looks like a robe that might show up on Star Trek.

PreenDress3

I have no idea what to say about this dress. The top is bad enough, but the feathers just put it over the top. And the two tufts of feathers on the breasts just add to the strangeness. I really have no idea who would wear this or where. It’s just so incredibly weird! It’s stranger than the feather dresses from Heatherette! At least those dresses looked like you *could* wear them in public, you’d just be stared at a lot. This one is all but unwearable! I have no idea what the designer was thinking!

Overall I was pretty unimpressed with this collection. Everything was in solid colors and many pieces seemed to rely on the silver fabric to make them different. I just felt like I was watching the costume designs from “Zenon 4″ walk by or something!

Book: Suki’s Kimono


Suki’s Kimono
Chieri Uegaki
Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
2003

This book follows a little girl on her first day of first grade. She insists on wearing her traditional kimono to school because it is her very favourite outfit. Her older sisters warn her that she will be laughed at, but she wears the kimono anyway. When she gets to school, the other children do indeed laugh at her, except for her friend who just kind of keeps quiet. The teachers asks Suki about the kimono and she talks about how her obachan (grandmother) took her to a traditional festival and gave her the kimono. She dances for the class the way she danced with her obachan that day and the teacher and class enjoy her performance. They don’t suddenly accept her, or at least, there is no evidence of it, but they do stop laughing and Suki is happy. On the way home from school, her sisters mourn that no one noticed their cool new outfits. The story is fairly simple, but pretty cute.

The writing is simple and unembellished. It works well to create a believable and memorable story. There are few details given about anything but the kimono itself, about which we hear a great deal. The story isn’t exactly from Suki’s point of view, but it does let us hear what she is thinking. The descriptions of her dance for the class are wonderful and the memories of the festival are descriptive and full of childlike excitement. The writer clearly has a great appreciation for beauty.

The illustrations are very nice. They are very understated so that the bright blue kimono is always the most colourful thing in every picture. There is a wonderful sense of movement in the illustrations of Suki dancing and the pictures of the festival are bright and cheerful. The illustrations are completely enchanting and do a lot for the book.

This is a cute book that I would definitely recommend. It would make a great read for a class or a good book for a child that needs reassurance that being different is ok. It is especially nice that the “difference” isn’t Suki’s race, it’s her costume. That is a lot easier for a child to relate to and a lot less likely to offend anyone. The book is excellent and many children (as well as adults) would very much enjoy it.

Publisher’s Description
Buy it from Amazon

Runway Thoughts: Richard Nicoll

The collection I’m looking at today is from Richard Nicoll, whom I know next to nothing about. This was his first solo collection. I see potential, and some of the pieces were cool, but overall the collection confused me a lot. I just wasn’t sure what he was trying to achieve.

RichardNicollDress1

I have no idea what Nicoll wanted from this outfit. The apron and sleeve puffs and contrasting panels and the military colar all just seem like random things thrown onto the same outfit and the overall effect is just confusing! Why would I want to wear this?

RichardNicollDress2

Look, it’s Maria Von Trapp! The color combinations and sleeve puffs and trim details of the early parts of this collection all screamed German or Austrian maidens to me. I mean, it is cute, but also rather costumey. I just can’t say I’d wear it. If I wanted to look like an Austrian maiden I’d by an authentic Austrian dress.

RichardNicollDress3

Nicoll said that he was inspired by Victorian housemaids. That’s pretty clear in this one. The high necked blue and white blouse, white apron, and small tie are all pretty classic Victorian housemaid things. And if you look in the background at the model leaving, she has rubber gloves on. Um… ok. The outfits are kinda cute, but why exactly would I want to dress like a Victorian housemaid? I mean, there are great pieces, but it’s hard to see them under aprons and sleeve puffs! I just don’t see what is marketable or practical about this collection.

There were parts of this collection that I thought were cute, but for the most part I didn’t get it. It just didn’t seem like things real women would want to wear.

Book: My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things

My Mama Says There Aren’t Any Zombies, Ghosts, Vampires, Creatures, Demons, Monsters, Fiends, Goblins, or Things
Judith Viorst
Illustrated by Kay Chorao
1973

This is a cute little book told from the point of view of a small boy who is pretty convinced that there are monsters of varying kinds lurking around his house. His mother keeps assuring him that there are no such things as monsters of any of the kinds he sees, but he doesn’t believe her. After all, he knows that even mothers make mistakes. And like any little kid, he has a list of instances when she was wrong about one thing or another. The story is basic, but adorable.

The writing is excellent, which is much what I have come to expect from Judith Viorst. The child telling the story has a very consistent and very realistic voice. Viorst is mimicking a child’s voice, but she does it with great respect for children. The boy narrating the story never sounds silly or like the adult writing his words is looking down on him. In fact, it feels like Viorst very much sympathises with the boy and believes that he has a very real thing to say. Her story is very real and anyone who remembers being that young will remember the feeling of being faced with injustices from supposedly all-knowing sources (moms) as well as the feeling of doubting those sources because of past mistakes. How can you ever really believe someone who makes so many mistakes not in your favour, even if most of the time they are right? And those monsters seem awfully real at that age! It’s almost a better book for adults than children in that it will remind them of how it feels to be a small child. That said, it is more than accessible to children, who will completely identify with the hero and delight in the pictures.

The pictures are all black and white line drawings and certainly don’t stand out very much, but they are fun to look at just the same. The pictures of the child’s every day life are full of details that infuse that life – shelves spilling over with toys, kitchens full of dishes, games stashed under beds and family pictures cluttering the walls. The monster pictures are even better. They show a small child offset by impossibly large monsters with cartoon like, but scary features. Every kid imagined a monster like that at some point. Mine was purple and lived under the bed and would try and grab my feet if I stepped on the floor when the light was out. Each monster is unique and highly detailed. They really are wonderful illustrations.

This is a fun book to read. It isn’t nearly as memorable as some of Viorst’s other books, but it is pretty good. It’s hard not to sympathise with the little boy (or his mother) and would be as much fun to read to a room full of parents as a room full of kindergarteners!

- Publisher’s Description
- Buy it from Amazon

Runway Thoughts: Basso & Brooke

Today I’m looking at the collection from Basso & Brooke, a design team who usually make not so wearable 80′s inspired clothing covered in crazy coloured prints. Many of those hallmarks are still present in this collection, but we’ve apparently left the eighties for a distopian future and they seem to have gotten a little more wearable in general. Strange combination, but what did I expect from a team that always shows slightly strange collections?

Basso&BrookeOutfit1

This is totally what the Mad Hatter would wear if he was in the world of the Matrix. Why they opened the show with this, I don’t know. It did make me sit up and take notice. It’s not a forgettable piece. That said, it’s also not that flattering (at least, it wouldn’t be on a real woman). I’m not a big fan of the bright green and black spandex pants. The coat could be cool, but it would need something else paired with it. Like jeans or something. And I just can’t get past the Matrix print.

Basso&BrookeDress1

Every outfit down the runway made me think that it belonged in a crazy dystopian future where technology is amazing and those in power are completely corrupt. There’s probably an underground movement to fight against the Man or against the evil machines that have oppressed the humans. Maybe it’s an alien race that’s oppressing them? Regardless, the humans are largely oppressed and there is a scrappy and resourceful resistance movement in the underground. This dress is some woman’s corporate work outfit. She’s a cog in a much larger evil company that she is only just realizing is evil. She’s going to either die or join the resistance in a scene or two. Doesn’t she look suitably downtrodden and broken by tediousness?

Basso&BrookeOutfit2

This is our scrappy heroine. She goes on dangerous missions that she has no right to survive, but she somehow does. Maybe she’s geneticly engeneered, or maybe she’s just destined to succeed. Either way, you know that while she may die in the process, she will eventally succeed. This is her “stealthing through the populous” outfit. She blends in wearing it, even though no one else is dressed remotely similarly. It’s the hood that tips you off that she’s stealthing. The open skirt is the sexy detail (because every outfit she wears must have one overtly sexy detail). She’s from a tribe that lives in the badlands and she has a tragic background where her family all died and she had to basically raise herself in a horrible environment. She always looks a little tribal and bitchy as a result. No one but her partner is rude enough to notice. And it’s black because she’s too cool to wear any other colour.

Basso&BrookeDress2

This is the heroine’s partner. She’s the brains of the opperation, but she is useless in a fight. She sabatoges the computer while the scrappy heroine kicks the guards’ butts or creates a loud, bloody distraction three floors down. This is her “infiltration” costume. She’s supposed to be a buisnesswoman at a fancy party for the rich people who control the dystopian community. You know that she works for the underground resistance because her dress is black and slightly edgy, just like you know the powerful evil femme will be in a skin-tight red number with a high slit and the innocent wife of the conniving politician who has no idea what is going on will be in a white goddess gown that isn’t too low-cut and doesn’t have a slit. All the evil high powered men think our infiltrator here is hot, but otherwise she blends in seamlessly (despite standing out like a sore thumb, but she has the same magic the heroine does).

Clearly I had trouble taking this collection seriously. Every attempt that I made to do a serious discussion of the pieces in this collection failed spectacularly, so you get this. Sorry. I hope you got what I thought of each piece anyway. I had a story for most of the pieces in the collection. I don’t think I would wear any of them as presented. I kind of like the Hatter coat in the first picture, but it’s hard to imagine in a different setting and with different pieces. Overall, this was a memorable collection in a not so good way. I’ll go look at it when I need to think about science fiction dystopian costumes, but not for real clothing I might ever wear. Oh well. It was a fun review to write!

Article on E. H. Shepard

The BBC news ran an interesting article on E. H. Shepard, the man who illustrated A. A. Milne’s poetry collections and Winnie-the-Pooh stories. It is being run because there will be a show featuring his political cartoons at the Political Cartoon Gallery in London soon. The article is interesting because it talks about Shepard’s career as a political cartoonist for Punch, his inspiration for Pooh and the fact that he somewhat resented the silly old bear. It isn’t uncommon for children’s book artists to have their work for a famous book or set of books overshadow anything else they ever did. Dr. Seuss drew scathing political cartoons, but few people remember them because of his wonderful books. And John R. Neill, who illustrated the Oz books, will always be remembered for his illustrations for Baum’s books despite the fact that the majority of his time and effort was spent on beautiful drawings for magazines (lots of fashion plates and such). I understand that it must be frustrating to have what you consider your best or most important work largely forgotten, but at the same time I can’t help but think that it must be nice to be loved forever in a way that the artists of political cartoons or fashion plates will otherwise never know.

Book: Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful
Sharon Dennis Wyeth
Illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet
1998

This is a simple picture book about a little girl living in a very poor neighbourhood looking for beautiful things in the world around her. The story follows her as she walks around the neighbourhood talking to people and asking them what they find beautiful in their lives. People find simple things beautiful – diner food, a baby’s laugh, or music. The little girl decides that she needs to find her own beauty, but her neighbourhood is so dirty and poor she doesn’t know where to find it. Then she realizes that she can make some beauty where there isn’t any and cleans up her front stoop. The story is very simple, but extremely strong. It is hard not to feel bad for the little girl living in squalor and not to feel good when she overcomes it in her own little way.

The writing in this book is good. Each character has a distinct voice which gives the book a good sense of realism. I think that the message wouldn’t work nearly as well without that sense that the whole thing is real. I like that the book doesn’t shy away from things that often get sterilized out of children’s books, like the homeless woman who sleeps covered in plastic wrap or the spray painted “die” on the little girl’s front door. I think that while a lot of children would have no experience with such things, they can appreciate the difficulty the girl has finding beauty when surrounded by these things and possibly even learn to empathise or desire to help.

The pictures are every bit as good as the story. They are blurred, but gritty and real as well. The little girl visits many places in her wandering, from a laundromat to a pavement jump rope game, and each one looks very real, as if the illustrator spent time wandering around in such a neighbourhood looking at each place in detail. The brown bricks of the buildings, the garbage on the streets, and even the faces of the people are realistic. The neighbourhood is also fairly generic, I got a New York City vibe from it, but nothing in the pictures or text said that it was New York and it could as easily have been Chicago or some other big city. It was simply a poorer, mostly African American neighbourhood in a big city. The pictures really were wonderful and paint the scene. Without them, I doubt that the awfulness of some of the girl’s surroundings (like her front stoop) would have had the same kind of impact.

I thought this book was excellent. It’s a well done book that could easily raise the community awareness of children if presented in the right way. I like the realism and the grittiness. It didn’t shy away from anything, and that is often a rare thing in picture books. I definitely recommend this book!

Publisher’s Description
Sharon Dennis Wyeth’s Website
Chris K. Soentpiet’s Website
Buy it from Amazon

Runway Thoughts: Miu Miu

Today I am going to look at the fall 2006 runway collection from Miu Miu. This is a sub-brand of Prada, their “little sister” brand. They said that they wanted this collection to epitomize the “Miu Miu Girl” who is youthful and “angelic”. I can see the youthful, but the angelic part completely escapes me.

MiuMiuDress1

I like the shape of this dress and the fabric, but I can’t figure out why there is a bulky sweater under it. It just looks odd (and a little uncomfortable). And is she carrying a lunch box? Do you really want the girls to look *that* youthful? That’s seriously jailbait territory.

MiuMiuDress2

Ok, so they weren’t going for subtle or elegant. Remember how I said I missed the whole “angelic” part of the show? It was because of the outfits like this one. One had a coat over it, but the scary top was still visible. I don’t know, this outfit just scares me. It kind of screams “prostitute” to me.

MiuMiuDress3

A whole bunch of the models were dressed like this in cute dresses with floppy tops or sweaters under them and everything falling off one shoulder. First off, this does a terrible job of showing people what the clothes look like (which is, in theory, the purpose of a runway show). Besides that, it looks sloppy and unappealing. Of course, the makeup and hair does that too. What’s with the dark lips and stringy hair? What on earth were they going for here?

MiuMiuOutfit1

It seems like if anyone in the fashion world says they were going for youthful you can almost count on their collection having a school girl outfit. In this case, it has way more of an anime schoolgirl feel than a Catholic schoolgirl feel. Again with the scary hypersexualized jailbait thing. It kind of bothers me. Youthful I get, childish I really don’t and the fact that so many designers can’t seem to tell the difference is really scary on a level I never wanted to think about.

Overall, as I’m sure is pretty clear, I didn’t like or really understand this collection. It felt like the designer was going for ten year old prostitute wear. Why would you want that? There are pieces that I could see being great if you put them by themselves and didn’t have the scary freaked out little girl vibe from the makeup and hair, but for the most part the collection is really not up my alley. I’d rather look like a youthful 24-year old than a ten year old with breasts.

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