Mention of Jan Pienkowski a while back and in the comments a reference to a favourite Christmas book which is one of our family favourites too. I'm not going to mention Christmas again for weeks and weeks because I can hardly believe that the adverts have started and the radio is revving up with sleigh bell music already. I'm really good at ignoring it all because we don't let Christmas begin here until about a week before and the tree is usually a Christmas Eve affair.
But I do love the Jan Pienkowski book Christmas with his trademark illustrations and the St James text so I expect that will feature on here a bit nearer the time.
But that's no reason to be deprived of the joy of Jan and thanks to Puffin books we have something to keep us going.
A copy of the newly published The Thousand Nights and One Night has arrived, the story retold by David Walser with illustrations by Jan Pienkowski.
Confession, I've never actually read these cover to cover and have only really gathered the whole Shahrazade (as it is spelt in this version) thing via osmosis and snippets of stories here and there. Acted in the occasional pantomime version of Aladdin, bit of Ali Baba now and again but beyond that not a lot.
There's a great introduction to this version, so now I learn they are unconnected stories woven into a whole by the familiar overarching tale of Shahrazade, staving off execution with her nightly telling of a tale to the vengeful King Shahryar.
Collected over a period of five hundred years it is thought they took their final form in the 14th century but many date back to the 7th or 8th century. Finally translated in 1704 by a Frenchman and then again by Sir Richard Burton. There's confusing for you because it's not THAT one of course but the Victorian explorer one.
Jan Pienkowski describes the allure of the tales from his childhood in Poland and the joy of travelling around the fabled cities of the stories as he gathered his sketches together for this book,
"the dappled, latticed light and shade, the brilliant splendour of the colurs of the East, these are imprinted on my mind. I hope I have conveyed hints of them to you"
What can I say?
Feast your eyes on this because the colours far surpass anything you could wish for, rich jewel-like backdrops for Jan's perfect silhouette illustrations, always so expressive and telling a story of their own. There is so much to see in each one, I loved them and think children will be equally impressed.Look at that little spider dangling outside the frame of the picture; that's what children notice and I almost missed as I scanned and cropped this picture.
Children have far more vivid imaginations than grown-ups, little fingers pointing out all those tiny details that we miss, and there is so much to see in each picture.
As if that wasn't enough there's a red silk ribbon marker and the page edges are gold blocked which gives it all a very special book feel indeed.
There is also quilting inspiration a-plenty here and I was reminded of Dilys Fronks a favourite quilter who, now I think about it, has perfected the art of Jan Pienkowski in fabric. I think Dilys deserves a blog post of her own because her work is truly inspirational and you can then have a good laugh at all the Dilys's I've started and then never quite managed to finish.
The back drop is a joy to create but the black bits are fiendishly tricky.