Indie Spotlight: December 2021
This month’s thematic roundup of BookLife titles focuses on art, photography, and stories of kindness and goodwill.
Art & Photography
The American Weekly Covers of Edmund Dulac
About the book: This is a collection of 106 watercolors painted by the English illustrator Edmund Dulac. Dulac is famous as a Golden Age illustrator working in London from 1900 to 1920. This book highlights Dulac's skills, showing each cover to be a small masterpiece.
Author statement: "The American Weekly Sunday supplement reached over 50 million readers and was carried in 20 newspapers during the mid-20th century. However, very few copies of the magazine remain, and those are in poor condition. I was fortunate to find an intact collection and have it carefully photographed to finally bring these beautiful watercolors back to life."
Anthropocene: Climate Change, Contagion, Consolation
About the book: This unique book focuses on the urgent topics of climate change and pandemics—and the possibility of consolation—through creative prose, poetry, and photographs. Private feelings of grief and ideas of isolation are woven together with larger global issues and consequent geopolitical and geological catastrophes.
Author statement: “It all started with a news clip I stumbled upon almost 15 years ago, in which the president of the Pacific Island of Kiribati expressed his concern about his people becoming ‘climate refugees’ due to rising sea levels. Since then, it has been a gradual evolution of ideas and rhythm, images and phrases, and the recent pandemic accelerated my literary and artistic response to the climate conflicts.”
The Art of Symeon Shimin
About the book: The Art of Symeon Shimin presents a striking collection of the fine art of this exceptional Russian-born Jewish artist. Curated by the artist’s daughter, it is the first collection and overview of Shimin’s work and life, and it contains an autobiography by the artist, essays by noted arts journalists Josef Woodard and Charles Donelan, and over 100 plates and archival photographs.
Author statement: “The dream of making this book began shortly after my father’s death, when I came upon a treasure trove of transparencies of his fine art paintings. While his work in the field of Hollywood posters and children’s books was known, his fine art was less so. Thus began the journey of creating, for the first time, a record of and tribute to the work of my father. I remember the many times I walked down the streets of New York with him, holding his hand as a child, and later as an adult, hearing the burning words, ‘I must get back to painting.’ I did not know then the gift he was leaving us and am thrilled to now share this work with the world.”
Making a Scene
Steve Ward and Charley Elbow
About the book: Making a Scene is a book of black-and-white photos, taken by Ward in the southeast of England, accompanied by Elbow’s poetry. Each poem is a story and directly related to its photo, either one inspired by the other.
Author statement: “The book came about directly because of lockdown. I took up photography again after a long break and when walking round the forest within a mile of my home. When a local poet, Charley Elbow, saw a few of my photos, they were motivated to write something to go with them. Collaborating with a poet has led me to take sideways looks at things that I had already seen and maybe even already photographed.”
Goodwill Stories for Children
Cole and the Giant Gingerbread House
About the book: Cole and Claudia are hungry and homeless on Christmas Eve. Cole’s act of kindness toward another hungry child draws attention from Santa, who gives the children a very special gingerbread house.
Author statement: “I wrote this holiday picture book with the intent to inspire gratitude in the fortunate and hope in those who deserve better.”
Doggy Claus/Perro Noel
Derek Taylor Kent
About the book: Doggy Claus/Perro Noel is a bilingual holiday tale in English and Spanish about a puppy named Jingle who grows up in a pet shelter. When Santa sees Jingle trying to cheer up the rest of the dogs on Christmas, he decides to adopt Jingle and bring him to the North Pole. Jingle is so happy to have found a home, but when he discovers that Santa only brings presents to boys and girls and not dogs on Christmas, Jingle absconds with Santa’s sleigh in hopes of bringing a present to every dog, only to end up discovering that there’s something that dogs want on Christmas even more than presents.
Author statement: “After finding great success with my first bilingual dog book, El Perro con Sombrero, I wanted to write another bilingual book with similar themes of pet adoption, kindness, and generosity. Since I was born on Christmas Day, I sometimes felt kind of lonely on Christmas when all my friends had other plans and were spending time with their families. When I adopted my best buddy Zander, Christmas became a lot more fun, and I also started thinking about what Christmas would be like at an animal shelter when all the workers went home. All of this led to the foundation of Doggy Claus/Perro Noel, which has garnered rave reviews and been one of our bestselling titles during the holiday season.”
About the book: The Wonder Years meets A Christmas Story meets E.T. in this magical novel. Yet beneath the magic and fun there is an undercurrent of sorrow and loss, for this will be the first Kissmas without Dexter and D-man’s beloved mother. How these characters—and their furry little alien sidekick—navigate this strange and complicated time in their lives will inspire readers. Readers of all ages will love the adventures that await inside these pages.
Author statement: “The first time I saw the Grand Canyon was at 3 a.m., under the light of a full moon. The streets were clear, but snow covered the ground. Enormous elk stood under the moonlight. Coyotes roamed wide-open spaces. The world was aglow and alive in that strange canyon. Cold and clear and perfect. I drove to a hotel and prayed they had a vacancy. I wrote down the beginning of a novel, shaped by my winter in the desert. A story inspired by moons of Jupiter, life in other star systems, strange findings in the forest. This story combines some of my favorite things: holidays, ketchup, and aliens. Join me in grabbing a telescope and hitting the trail for a new holiday adventure.”
The Journey to Max: An Adoption Story
Christopher Garcia-Halenar and Alejandro Garcia-Halenar
About the book: In this picture book, Xander and his two dads embark on a coast-to-coast search in an effort to complete their family. After one disappointment too many, the three are prepared to give up until an unexpected phone call reignites their hope. Max, Xander, and their dads grow together as a family with links to extended families both by birth and by choice. What makes this story unique among children’s adoption books is the hope, kindness, and inclusion of Max’s birth mother.
Author statement: “The Journey to Max was written with two very specific intentions. First, for our son, Max, so that he always has a visual history of his incredibly beautiful story, and second, to provide hope for families and birth mothers who have considered or are considering adoption.”
Linda A. Gerdner, illus. by Maureen Taylor Gearino
About the book: Alzheimer’s disease sometimes makes Grandma forgetful, anxious, and agitated, but Gabrielle soon discovers that through music, she and Grandma can share memories and make new ones.
Author statement: “I pioneered the development of individualized music for persons with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. I began this work in the early 1990s and have won national and international awards for my contributions. Musical Memories incorporates basic principles of this protocol to empower Gabrielle in maintaining a relationship with her grandmother.”
A Penny in My Pocket
About the book: A trip to the grocery store teaches little Stevie not only that we do not always get to buy everything we want, but also that money can be used in many ways, even to help others! When Stevie sees someone in need, what will he choose to do? A Penny in My Pocket is a beautifully illustrated children’s concept book discussing the difference between needing and wanting something.
Author statement: “I am a tenacious author who writes stories about friendship and kindness while depicting diverse characters and also representing disability inclusivity. I wanted to write a story about a child who has more than what he needs and helps an adult who does not have very much at all. It’s the perfect read just in time for the holiday season, as some children may not receive everything they are hoping for but can learn that we can be grateful for what we already have.”
Stories of Goodwill for Adults
Sheila M. Cronin
About the book: A sudden job loss at the start of the Christmas season jangles Jonquil’s spirits. But after she takes a seasonal job, new opportunities and new love follow. The Gift Counselor combines holiday cheer, romance, and family drama.
Author statement: “One Christmas season while in a department store, I witnessed a salesclerk talking to an agitated young man at the perfume counter. He stated he needed a gift to ‘fix a problem’ with his girl. They’d had a misunderstanding and he wanted to patch things up. The clerk didn’t hesitate. She told him to forget about perfume and go straight to the jewelry department. There he could buy something so beautiful, it would make her cry, and then she would be his girl again. Patently relieved, the man set off immediately as instructed and I realized I had just been given a Christmas story. By the time I got home that day, I knew the story was about the clerk, not the shopper.”
Grace in Mombasa
About the book: Grace grows up in England a strong Christian, but during WWII she loses everyone she cares about and ends up losing her faith. After the war, she sees an ad in the paper for a job in Kenya. She applies, and before she knows it she is on her way to a whole new life. In Mombasa she sees firsthand the dire conditions of the local hospital, where people only go to die. She begins to pour all her energy into caring for the patients.
Author statement: “This story was inspired by a woman I met in Kenya, Moira Smith. Because she never left the hospital, they eventually gave her a job and a room to sleep in. Her life was so inspiring, and I hope my book captures that. Although, I left Kenya a long time ago, I was never able to forget about Moira and all that she did. To continue Moira’s good works, 50% of all royalties made from sales of this book goes to Barnabas Outreach Mombasa.”
Rebecca F. Kenney
About the book: Emery is the cinematographer for an Antarctic expedition filming Adélie penguins. When she’s separated from her team during a blizzard, Jack Frost saves her life. And then he follows her home. As a climate activist, Emery is all about saving the planet, and she doesn’t have time for stalker ice gods. But as she gets to know Jack and the work he does to keep the world safe, she begins to realize that he could be the answer to everything she has wanted—not only for Earth, but for herself.
Author statement: “I’ve always loved the legend of Jack Frost. I also enjoyed the depiction of the character in the Rise of the Guardians movie and I wanted to write a tasteful, romantic version for adults!”