Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Books of Wonder Hosts William Joyce

Bill Joyce in the Books of Wonder Gallery (and an N.C. Wyeth Behind Him)

During our recent (too long) hiatus, readers have asked where we have been keeping ourselves.

One of the many answers is Books of Wonder, an oasis for bibliophiles, art collectors, and people – both young and old – interested in children’s literature.  For your correspondent, who has been dutifully tracing the history of children’s literature from its Victorian Golden Age to its kaleidoscopic present, it is paradise.  For those who love this often neglected realm of literary and artistic endeavor, or who wish to share wondrous creations with the young, there is simply no better place. 

Books of Wonder has been around since 1980 – it’s an independent store owned and operated by Peter Glassman, who has managed to create a space with something for everybody.

Our recent trips have left us marveling at original illustrations by N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945) and Wizard of Oz illustrators John R. Neill (1877-1943) and W.W. Denslow (1856-1915), as well as original Disney animation cells, in the back gallery.  Also there are glorious first editions of the Oz books, along with facsimile reproductions of Andrew Lang’s (1844-1912) fairy books, as well as brand new books by today’s leading lights in the field.

The staff is always friendly and extremely knowledgeable; there is rarely a Christmas shopping trip when I do not come home laden with treasures, many often for myself.  With the holidays approaching, you cannot have a better resource.

Another great plus for the shop is the frequent appearance of the world’s finest illustrators and writers of today’s children’s books.  Recent guests have included such luminaries as Oliver Jeffers and Garth Nix.  This past weekend, Books of Wonder played host to the doyen of the field, William Joyce.

It is a tribute to his considerable artistry that an equal number of adults attend his public appearances as do children, and his recent appearance was no exception.  He spoke to a capacity crowd, regaling them with stories of his adventures at the Academy Awards (where he won an Oscar, along with Brandon Oldenburg, for his short, The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore); his adventures in school; the creation of his company, Moonbot; his efforts to launch young artists and animators into the field; and, his love of story-telling and images.

Joyce had the crowd gather closer as he showed his recent animated short, the Numberlys, chatted with aspiring artists and writers, and even provided a sneak-preview of his next animated short, an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado.  This was a stunning piece of work – daringly conceived in its overall design and dramatically streamlined to deliver maximum impact.  Be on the lookout for this, as it will rank as the finest animated adaptation of Poe, ever.

Joyce was also in town for a screening of The Numberlys at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, where it was included as part of its permanent collection, and to talk about his new book, A Bean, A Stalk and a Boy Named Jack, which he created with Kenny Callicutt.  (Watch these pages for a review next week.)  And next year, the 2015 holiday season will also see the new installments in his Guardians of Childhood series.  It would seem as if this protean talent is entering a new era of growth and creativity.

William Joyce has been a consistently energetic and enjoyable artist since his debut on the scene more than 20 years ago.  His love of fun and dedication to his craft has provided a much-needed joyous note in these days of “dark and gritty.”  The world of William Joyce is one where everyone is happy, and is a tonic (if not a benediction) young and old alike.  He is, as an artist and a man, someone who matters.

Tomorrow – Bambi. 

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