Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ooo la la! Coloring Parisian Style

French was the language I chose to take through high school and college. I am, admittedly, a bit of a Francophile. What makes this coloring book extra-delightful, in my opinion, is the addition of my favorite furry friend to the Parisian landscape. Cats!

In the introduction to the book, Won-Sun Jang writes,

"Before I knew it, cats began to find their place in my life.

I work from home, and I found myself wanting to share my day with someone. That’s when I met my first cat, Eva. After that, cats started to fill my empty spaces. They would stay near me—by the desk, beside the table, and under the bed before I went to sleep. Cats seemed to be close by all the time.

In order to learn their subtle language, I discovered that patience and observation is key. I was inspired by their smooth and fine movements, their eyes shining with a variety of colors, and their charming communications. The illustrations in this book are proof of such inspiration.

At first cats may seem cautious and shy. But they have a surprising charm. They approach you slowly and one day you realize they have taken over your entire life. I hope this book will become as enchanting as cats are. Fill in the blanks using your creativity.

The sketches, lines, and patterns in this book leave room for you to express your individuality—because a cat’s charm cannot be expressed in just one way! So, without further ado, I invite you to a magical world of cats as they slink through the streets of Paris and into a realm of imagination."

Jang's illustrations are so lovely. She has gotten the feline figures just right. As I look through, it's difficult to decide where to begin coloring as each image evokes memories of pets who have been part of my life through the decades.

I also appreciate that the scenes include both intimate settings within the sophisticated apartments of Paris and wider scenes amid the streets and sites of the beautiful city.

It is also fun that Jang so aptly illustrates a variety of breeds of cats! Bravo!

If you've been contemplating jumping aboard the adult coloring craze, but haven't taken the leap yet, I would suggest curling up with some French kitties, colored pencils or markers in hand, and relax. I believe Cats In Paris would pair well with a nice French wine as well!

Thank you to Blogging For Books for the free review copy I received in exchange for this honest review.

From the Publisher . . .

This gorgeously illustrated adult coloring book draws readers into the secret world of cats in Paris as they explore the city's most famous (and feline-friendly) spots.

Say bonjour to the cats of Paris as they slink through its fabled streets and alleyways, from Montmartre to the Shakespeare and Company bookshop and into a feline-filled land of playful imagination. Featuring intricate pen-and-ink drawings of tabbies, Persians, Siamese, and more, this evocative coloring book’s frisky kitties lie in wait for your colorful stylings.

About the Author . . .

Won-Sun Jang is an award-winning Korean illustrator whose work has appeared in Vogue Korea, Elle Korea, Bazaar Korea, and InStyle Korea, and clients include MAC Cosmetics and Clinique. Winner of the Children’s Books Illustration Award from Kemongsa Publishers, she currently works as a package designer in Seoul, Korea. Since meeting Eva the Norwegian Forest Cat fourteen years ago, she has fallen in love with cats and the inspiration they bring to her art.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Tromping Through Poland with Anna and the Swallow Man

I had the good fortune of reading Gavriel Savit’s new book, Anna and the Swallow Man. It is the compelling tale of a young girl named Anna (age 7 as the story opens) who’s father goes off to a meeting at work one day and never returns.

It happens that Anna’s father is a linguistics professor at a Polish university and Germany has invaded as WW II is under way. The man who was charged with looking after her for a couple hours abandons her the next morning at her apartment building where Anna is locked out of the empty quarters. She does her best to wait, but hunger and fear set in and Anna makes her way back to the street in front of the shop where her father left her. There she encounters the one person willing to acknowledge her presence, the Swallow Man.

This man speaks many languages like her father. He also has the ability to speak to birds. And he takes Anna under wing and introduces her to a at of survival through the unimaginable horrors of war. I enjoyed this book. It was presented as a book for those who liked The Book Thief. While it’s true the two have similar settings, the two books felt completely different to me. It is a quick read, easily done in a day. It left me with a broader sense of unease and a bit of dissatisfaction with the ending.

Warning, spoilers to come.

It became obvious that the Swallow Man was hiding his identity not only from Anna, but from the world at large because he had some scientific knowledge that others might want. Adult readers know that this will have something to do with nuclear weapons development.

I was interested in what happened to the Swallow Man when his pills ran out. I did a Web search on potassium iodide and discovered it is used when people have been exposed to radiation, however in my searching this did not seem to explain his mental confusion and descent into madness.

Also, I wonder about the arrangement the Swallow Man makes at the end that helps Anna to escape in the boat. (At least I am assuming it’s an escape. I didn’t look at maps to see what islands might be off Polish shores and then research to see if that would have been a sanctuary for Anna or not.)

My questions and concerns about details like these, however, simply show that Savit has given readers plenty to consider in reading the book. If you get the chance to read this book, I would love to hear what you think of it! My thanks to Alfred A. Knopf publishing for the ARE I received and the opportunity to review the book!

From the Publisher . . .

Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.

Destined to become a classic, Gavriel Savit’s stunning debut reveals life’s hardest lessons while celebrating its miraculous possibilities.