Waterloo and Trafalgar

Waterloo & Trafalgar

Tonight was for writing this post and watching some football and thinking about orange and blue. And then this commercial comes on TV. (Well, this one is a few years old. Same flavor, though.)

breakerRemember this. It means something in a bit. I promise I don’t care where you buy your life insurance.breakerWaterloo and Trafalgar

by Olivier Tallec

{published 2012, by Enchanted Lion Books}

Waterloo & Trafalgar is at once spare and very much not. It’s a book about unnecessary fighting and the two stubborn sides who forget why they are even at odds. They are suspicious, bored, but always staid. Until. A snail, a bird, a different perspective. Different looks a little bit the same after all.Waterloo and TrafalgarTallec’s goofy little men end up as a charming shout for peace. They are absurd. They are us.

Waterloo. Blue. Trafalgar. Orange. Opposites. Enemies.Waterloo and TrafalgarcolorwheelThere they are, as far from one another on the color wheel as possible. Direct opposites. Complementary colors.

Orange and blue are a combination of dominance, because each is competing for the attention of your eye. One cool, one warm, constant attention-grabbers. Because of their stark contrast, each truly shouts.Waterloo and TrafalgarThat’s why it’s a duo you see in a lot of advertising for banks, credit cards, and other Important Things. Would that Northwestern Mutual commercial be as strong if it were in a different color palette? Probably not. They want to imply strength, power, and – well, life.

And, ahem. I’m a fan of these two colors. Note my blog header and the rest of this thing’s design. Those design decisions were intentional, and since you are reading this and hanging out here with me, it might just be working.Waterloo and TrafalgarPerfect choices for Waterloo and Trafalgar, right? It wouldn’t make sense for those two ridiculous little men to be represented by closer together hues. Their orange and blues are a tenuous balance.

Besides a color scheme that works, that sings, and that smacks you in the gut, this is just a darn beautiful book. The paper is thick and rich to the touch, and some split pages inside extend the stories and heighten the division at hand.Waterloo and TrafalgarI love the die cuts on the cover – those clever windows reveal these two nuts and their telescopes at the ready. And the endpapers’ narrative is subtle as it holds the story in place. The carved out holes close up by the end, and the stream of blue and orange smash right up against each other.Waterloo and TrafalgarStill different, still far apart on that wheel. Transformed into something lovely together.chMoreToRead

Ok, ok. One more orange and blue moment I love is the opening title sequence to the James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace.

breaker(These titles are created by a studio whose motion design work is just spectacular, MK12. They are the creative minds behind the visuals in Stranger Than Fiction and the gorgeous end titles of The Kite Runner. By the way, notice the colors in the first minute of that one!)

breakerAnd! A whole slew of orange and blue on movie posters. You won’t un-see this color palette once you start noticing it. That’s a promise prefaced with a slight apology! Here’s just one:Hugo_FilmPosters

Downpour

written by Emily Martin, illustrated by Mara Shaughnessy

{published 2013, by Sky Pony Press}

An enchanting premise, lyrical language, and dreamy-dainty pictures. Downpour is a love letter to the storm and the question of what happens to color as the rain drips down.The water falls first on bright red poppies, washing that hue over everything else in the world – from the birds’ pointed beaks to the black ram’s horns and ‘red, the mosses, lichen, and fern.’And so color here is as much a storyteller as the words and the forms. It’s not the rain that saturates as much as the red. There’s no room and no need on these pages for a fresh green or blue sky as the rain clears up. Would it be as lovely if more friends on the color wheel were tapped?

No. Because ‘red, the fish, their shiny scales. Red, the foam on the sandy shore.’ From red in the puddle and gravel to red in the hedgehog’s kettle corn snack, color matters. Contrast between the red of the poppies, shared through the pages, and that grayscale world is stark and fresh and really, really beautiful.And a trailer! I find this one especially remarkable because of the melancholy music which was a real surprise to me. That wasn’t a mood that I felt as a reader, but now that I’ve heard and felt that vibe, it feels right, too. Isn’t that a magical thing?

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Review copy provided by Sky Pony Press.

Color + Colors

I have no children. I have board books. Is this weird? Maybe. But these in particular are little graphic design studies. I will not literally try to chew them, but they are definitely droolworthy.

Do you know Alexander Girard? He was a midcentury designer, specializing in color and textiles. I’m crazy about the Nativity set at that link. And while most people have heard of Herman Miller, Girard was the designer that sizzled up their furniture line with his palettes. He said this, which made me fall in love a little: “People got fainting fits if they saw bright, pure color.” 

He did it anyway.

So this little book is a huge celebration of his style, color, and desire to make you faint and fall in it.


How about Charley Harper? He took a vibrant love of color from the natural world, and distilled that into his pictures. I adore that on first glance, whimsy and delight dances around, but a longer gaze reveals storytelling ingenuity. He said, “When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see feathers, fur, scapulars, or tail coverts—none of that. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior, and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures.”

And this tiny treasure explodes with his search for endless possibilities. And it’s lovely.


Was I right about that whole droolworthy thing? I know.

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Fish On A Walk

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by Eva Muggenthaler

{published 2012, by Enchanted Lion Books}

I’ve mentioned my bookshelf issues before, right? As in not nearly enough space to put all the books? In my head, picture books are so skinny! They’ll take up no space at all, right? But rather than on shelves, I have stacks. Everywhere.

Well, this book bowled me over when I first laid eyes on it. You’ll see. But the stack it was in? Covered by a throw pillow on the couch. Not anymore, I promise. Please send shelves.

Anyway. Let’s talk about this book, because I think you will adore it.

An intriguing title that gives away the delightful dichotomies to come – unusual instances, and a billion bitty details to love.

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The cover hints at all of this, with its mossy greens and a muddy red – complementary colors on the good old color wheel. As far a part as they can get from one another, and a great use of contrast in design framing a book all about sometimes absurd differences.

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I adore the way the green line of the cover dangles down along the stark red endpapers! Love.

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Inside, each spread contains one glorious illustration holding all of those billion bitty details. And each spread holds only two contrasting words which can explain or guide or drive the pictures. You figure it out, you get into the story, you make sense of the contrasting duo.

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It’s like Eva Muggenthaler gave your imagination a diving board and didn’t tell you that the pool was so deep that you’ll shoot out of the other side of the globe. Extreme? I don’t think so.

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A hint! Such a tease.

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Wonder and ooh and ahh with this one. This is one of those books that needs to stay out all the time, not ever stuck on a bookshelf. And definitely never ever ever under a throw pillow.

PS – Valentine’s Day is charging forward. Do you need a good book for your sweetie? Check out my Top Ten over at Design Mom!

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Pepi Sings A New Song

  by Laura Ljungkvist

{published 2010 by Beach Lane Books}

I’m a huge fan of Laura Ljungkvist’s sophisticated and playful style. Remember Follow the Line?

Pepi Sings a New Song is a delightful romp through a world of words. Pepi meets and greets his neighbors, from Manuel at the bakery to Cynthia at the dog park, all in search of stanzas for a new song.

ElementOfDesign.ColorThe vibrant color on each page adds life and zest to Pepi’s journey. It separates each pit stop, and subtly references the full circle journey Pepi makes in search of a song. And? It’s just darn beautiful.

That baker, Manuel, lives on pretty pastry pink pages.

Aurora’s art studio is framed by a cool, creative, blue.

Clive’s music studio is on a brassy, golden orange, which perfectly echoes his trumpet. (And his awesome plaid pants.)

Love this book, love Pepi, and once again — love Laura Ljungkvist.

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A Penguin Story

{by Antoinette Portis}

I heard Antoinette Portis speak this summer at SCBWI in LA and she was a sheer delight — funny, smart, and so willing to share her creative process. I missed an opportunity to pick up a signed copy of this book earlier this summer at Once Upon A Time in Montrose, and have been kicking myself ever since. I’d say soaking up her picture book brain in person was a worthy replacement.

Take note of these bright, beautiful endpapers. We’ll be back for these.

Edna, our penguin heroine, sees endless white, black, and blue. She doesn’t complain or act like a brat about it, but she is convinced there is something else. And off she goes in search of it.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this illustration. She’s been shimmying up and down icebergs and sliding long distances through the Antarctic snow, and she won’t give up. And here, you, the reader, can rally for her because SHE’S RIGHT! She doesn’t know it yet, but you do, and even though you loved her before, you love her a billion times more now.

Can we talk about color again? I know we just went all tetradic-fancy-color-scheme-boom last time, but I just can’t help myself.

Ok, so after Edna flies through the air with some fish bones, she lands face first in a snow drift. NEXT TO THE SOMETHING ELSE. (Sorry for yelling, it’s just so…something else!) The page turn here is out of control amazing, so I’m not gonna spoil it for you. But trust me, when she digs her little penguin head out of this bank and realizes where she is and what she sees? Exhilarating.

This something else is orange. ORANGE. Of course! Antoinette Portis could have made it red or yellow or green, but orange! The Antarctic scientists have orange gear, orange planes, and orange homes.

Colors in a complementary color scheme exist directly opposite one another on the color wheel. Here, blue and orange. Edna’s real world and her something else. Design schemes utilizing complementary colors are especially vibrant and strong, because when paired together, each makes its complement appear brighter. And isn’t this Edna’s realization? That her world is brighter because she knows of the something else? What Antoinette Portis did visually to carry this story is nothing short of dazzling.

But why is this endpaper green? No spoilers. Read this one, watch this one, experience this one.

rapido

Rapido’s Next Stop

by Joëlle Jolivet and Jean-Luc Fromental; published in English by Abrams Books For Young Readers.

Rapido’s Next Stop is slightly odd, sure, but it’s wholly mesmerizing. Its size and heavily weighted cover and pages are the first indicators of something a bit unusual.

The title page reveals a list of Rapido’s deliveries, and slyly asks you to join him on his route.

No, really…join him on his route! Following his red van on each page leads to the discovery of flaps to lift and riddles to solve. Remember those items from the title page? Each of them is delivered, but its word is replaced with a symbol. The rhyme on the flaps is sometimes a bit rusty, but I’d blame that on translation. Even still, it’s entertaining and smartly done.

The reader gets to work in this book, helping Rapido at each stop, and puzzling out the riddle as well. That experience, paired with the oversize nature of this book, leads to a very tactile interactivity.

And the color palette! Oh man. I adore Joëlle Jolivet’s strong style. The thick stroked black lines, filled in with vibrant and saturated hues (but not too many!) are so beautiful. (And her book Coloriages is just plain whoa. My rusty French tells me that means coloring pages? It’s a lift-the-flap coloring book, with the same weighted black lines and it is stunning.)

I love that there isn’t too much color to compete with the hustle and bustle of Rapido’s city. The rhythm and pattern and noise of the city is enhanced by the color, rather than confused by it. Here’s one full (drop dead gorgeous) spread:

And the colors used? Red, Green, Blue, Orange. That’s it. Red and Green are complements, as are Blue and Orange. They live directly opposite one another on the color wheel.

That’s so yesterday’s color news. Have you ever heard of a tetrad color scheme? Sure, everyone knows complementary, maybe even analogous, but if you’re ever at a cocktail party and need to sound really fancy, just drop some tetrad knowledge on them.

If you place a rectangle or a square onto the color wheel, the colors at the resulting corners can be used to create a tetrad color scheme.

Boom. Red, Green, Blue, Orange. It’s balanced, pleasing, and increases the amount of color contrast found in just a plain old complementary color scheme. Perfect for Rapido’s ride.

(And now Rapido has made me hungry for fancy French breakfast.)

Freight Train Trip!

Susanna Leonard Hill crafted this little romp of a book, illustrated by Ana Martin Larrañaga. Susanna is a kind, giving, and hilarious part of my online writing community, and her books are just as sweet. I’m a bunch of months late for Phyllis’ World Tour, but Freight Train Trip! caught my eye…

…For two big reasons:

 

Without being an outright concept book for either color or shape, Freight Train Trip! manages to explore both while spilling a thunderous story along its tracks.   This is a sturdy, bigger board book, and it’s cut in the shape of a train. Already cool. When you open it, it’s a long skinny rectangle, also mimicking the snaking lengths of a train. It’s not such an extreme design that little ones won’t be able to maneuver the book, but the subtle nod to its content is smart.

I’m a grown woman, getting older by the nanosecond, but I went through each page and lifted the flaps. I hope this type of interactivity outlasts the iThings. The flaps reveal reactions, animations, or just fun surprises. Each one is a really nice use of shape to add physical dimension to the pages.

And the colors in Freight Train Trip! are buzzing and alive with saturation. I love how Ana Martin Larrañaga sparingly uses texture to allow the full, solid colors to stand alone.

The pages remind me of that fresh, smelly, brand new 8-pack of sharp Crayolas on the first day of school…before the paper rips and the nubs wear down and they break in two from coloring too much.

Pure hues and punchy flaps breathe vibrancy into this book. Know a little one? Know a little one who loves trains? Or colors? Or has little fingers to play with shapes? Freight Train Trip! is a fine tour.

And! If you are a writer or just love words, check out this post on Susanna’s blog revealing some edits she made in creating this book. It’s a master class in revision, pace, and pulse. And plus, her blog is just plain fun to poke.

Oh No, George!

I love this book. I love lots and lots of books, but I really love this book.

Chris Haughton is the author/illustrator of Oh No, George! and he’s especially awesome because he tweeted me this link once:

You’re welcome.

Anyway. George is just as dear as Denver and Macy. He just loves cake so much! And dirt! And Cat! Despite George being a mischievous soul, Harry loves him unconditionally. Who doesn’t need assurance from the people we love every once in a while?

And the colors…oh, the colors.

Warm oranges, maroons, magentas, and purples dominate the color palette. So rich and gorgeous.

And check out this color wheel. See how those oranges, reds, and purples are next to each other? Those are called analogous colors, and so this color scheme is called an analogous color harmony. These colors work beautifully together because of their location on the color wheel.

And Harry is also created in an analogous color harmony, with greens, turquoise and navy. So is the cake-eating couple in the park. {I love her hat.}

Together, these harmonies create a soothing and very appealing palette. Whether color palette is the first thing that makes you pick up a book or not, the colors in Oh No, George! create a unique reading experience.

Of course, George does that, too. He’s so sweet.

AND! How fun are the endpapers? I love how they bookend the action in the pages.

And if you’re not entirely convinced to read this book, maybe this trailer will push you over the edge:

George. You rascal.

The House In The Night

Written by Susan Marie Swanson + Illustrated by Beth Krommes, and winner of the 2009 Caldecott Medal

Here is the key to the house.

In the house burns a light.

This book is just plain stunning. No other words will describe it as well. The words are sparse and poetic, and the scratchboard patterns of the illustrations echo the rhythmic beat of those words.

And check this out, Krommes’ storyboard for the book:

 source.  {a great read on an illustrator’s creative process.}

Two different elements create contrast. In The House  in the Night, Krommes’ black and white engravings are punctuated only by the yellow light. Maintaining this throughout the book is unifying and beautiful, but also a really lovely use of contrast. The warmth of the house, of the bird, of the sun, of the little girls’ imagination glow even brighter due to contrast. Wouldn’t that warmth be dulled if it was competing with warm grays and other colors against the black and white?

The answer? YES!

Pretty is an understatement, right? Stunning.

PS: A HAPPY BIRTHDAY shout to my sister, Sallie! Where I got words and pictures, she got math and music. I love her. And Sallie…I got a guppy.