Skip to main content

Willy's Stories by Anthony Browne


Anthony Browne and Willy feel like family to me since I have been reading Browne's books to my children for over two decades. If you are not familiar with the work of Browne, and if you love beautifully illustrated, thoughtful picture books, PLEASE read my past reviews of his works. We first met Willy the Chimp in 1984 when Willy the Wimp was published. Three more books about Willy and his friends followed then, in 1997, Willy the Dreamer was published. Browne, who almost always has simians standing in for humans, is a very painterly illustrator, if that's not too much of a conundrum. Willy the Dreamer is a magical walk through scenes inspired by the dreamscapes of painters like Magritte (a banana replacing Magritte's iconic green apple), Rousseau and Dalí as well as books (Alice in Wonderland, which Browne illustrated in 1988) and movies based on books (The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, Tarzan). In 2000, Willy's Pictures paid full tribute to the painters who influenced and inspired Browne with a glimpse into Willy's sketchbook. While recreating great works of art like Jan van Eyck's The Arnolfini Marriage, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Seurat and the Mona Lisa, Browne works in his trademark gorillas and chimpanzees along with a lot of playfulness, including funny captions for Willy's pictures. And, if you are truly a fan of Browne's work, you will spot the recurring patterns (like Willy's sweater vest) and images that are woven into all of his books.

With Willy's Stories, Browne shifts from the world of art and paintings to the world of words and books. Willy's Stories is dedicated to "all the great writers and illustrators who have inspired me to make picture books" and begins with Willy telling us that, "Every week I walk through these doors and something incredible happens. I go on amazing adventures." With his ten favorite stories from childhood, Browne (and Willy) take readers on a journey through each book, or at least the first page of the book. Willy's Stories reminds me a bit of that fantastic Chris Van Allsburg book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick a book with is only a title, a caption and an illustration from each story, left behind by a mysterious author. 


The illustration for each of the ten books in Willy's Stories shows Willy as the main character, with books hidden, or not so hidden in the illustration as well. The text for each page begins with a variation of, "One day I went through the doors and found . . ." Willy goes on, imagining himself as the protagonist, sharing suspenseful scene from the book that is sure to pique reader's interest, especially because he always ends with a cliffhanger moment and a question for the reader. With Treasure Island, Willy recounts the moment that stowaway Jim Hawkins is about to be discovered in the apple barrel on board the Hispaniola. In Robin Hood, Willy retells the moment when, after agreeing to carry Robin across the stream to keep his fine clothes clean, he seems to be on the verge of giving him a good dunking.


Brown ends Willy's Pictures with images of the original works of art referred to in his illustrations.Rather than ending Willy's Stories in this way, Browne instead shows Willy walking out of the library, a stack of books in his arms. These books include, among those already mentioned, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Robinson Crusoe, Peter Pan, The Tinderbox, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Rapunzel and my childhood favorite seen below, The Wind in the Willows. I can't think of a better way to engage a child's imagination and spark a love of reading than by reading this marvelous picture book to her or him over and over and over.



Willy's Books:









Source: Review Copy





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret) The Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…