Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Talented Mr. Sis

--by Hanje Richards

I did something rather out of character this morning. I am generally not very interested in children’s picture books, but I became a fan of an illustrator and author of children’s books on Facebook. Who is this illustrator and author? His name is Peter Sis, and we have some wonderful examples of his work at the Copper Queen Library.

I first became aware of Peter Sis while doing some repair work on the cover of Tibet Through the Red Box (J 951.5 SIS).

Later the same week, we received a copy of The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain (J B SIS), which actually coincided with the anniversary of the demise of the Berlin Wall. Color me blown away. I remember wondering as a child what an “iron curtain” could possibly look like, feel like, be like. And now, years later, Peter Sis, with his amazing illustrations, is showing me what it looked like from the other side.

Peter Sís has won The New York Times Book Review's "Best Illustrated Book of the Year" award seven times.

He was also awarded the American Library Association's Caldecott Honor for the illustrations of his 1996 book, Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei (J B GALILEO), 1998 book, Tibet Through The Red Box, as well as his 2007 work, The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. The latter book also received the ALA's 2008 Robert Silbert Medal for the most distinguished informational book for young readers, and he won the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for Tibet Through the Red Box.

Peter Sis began his professional life as a filmmaker. In 1983, he collaborated with Bob Dylan on an animated music video for the song "You Got to Serve Somebody." His film work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2003, he was a MacArthur Fellow, an honor bestowed by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recognizing “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

In addition to the books mentioned above, the Copper Queen Library has several other books that are illustrated by Peter Sis, as well as several that are both written and illustrated by this extraordinarily talented man.

Alphabet Soup (E BANKS) A fantasy-adventure takes place at the lunch table when a disgruntled boy refuses to eat his soup and daydreams instead. His reverie is shaped by the letters he pulls out of his soup, forming words that come alive.

Dinosaur (E SIS) It starts in the tub, with a dinosaur bath toy. But then another dinosaur pops out of the water. And look out - here comes another - and another - and ANOTHER. Soon there is a Hall of Dinosaurs in the bathroom.

Fire Truck (E SIS) Matt loves fire trucks, and one morning when he wakes up, he is a fire truck--right down to his hoses, hooks, and ladders! His wheels and sirens couldn't be handier for performing many important duties around the house, especially rescuing teetering teddy bears or precariously placed pets.

Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus ( J B COL) The 15th century comes vividly alive in this splendidly original picture book about Christopher Columbus. The straightforward text combines documented fact and legend, while the pictures show Columbus' gradual emergence from a fortress of medieval belief as he begins to realize his dream of finding a new route to the Orient.

Gargoyle On the Roof (J 811.54 PRE) The terrifyingly talented Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sís have captured some of the most unforgettable creatures between book covers (where, we hope, they will stay). So, go ahead. Open the book. After all, it's not you they're after. Probably.

Madelenka (E SIS) Peeking out through a die-cut window on the jacket, Madlenka invites the reader to enter her world. And what a world it is! On the surface, it looks like an ordinary city block, but as we meet Madlenka's neighbors -- the French baker, the Indian news vendor, the Italian ice-cream man, the Latin American grocer, a retired opera singer from Germany, an African American school friend, and the Asian shopkeeper -- and look through die-cut windows to the images and memories they have carried from old country to new, we can see that Madlenka's block is as richly varied as its inhabitants. And why is Madlenka going around the block, jumping for joy? Her tooth is loose, and she wants everyone to know!

Scarebird (E FLEISCHMAN) Lonesome John lives on a farm in the country, so deep in the country that the "crows pack a lunch before setting out." When he places a scarecrow in one of his fields, he quickly grows attached to the figure. It is his only company. Then, a homeless, young farmhand happens along and asks for a job. Soon, the farmer has something much more precious than any scarecrow: He has a friend.

Small, Tall Tale From the Far, Far North (E SIS) One hundred years ago, a young man named Jan Welzl left his home in Europe and headed for the Far North. He rode off in a horse-drawn cart, traded the cart for a sled pulled by reindeer, and was gone for thirty years. Like Robinson Crusoe, he turned adversity into adventure and the wilderness into a dream, where anything could happen and anyone could be a hero.

Tale of the Unknown Island (FIC SAR) “A man went to knock at the king's door and said, ‘Give me a boat.’ Whenever the king heard someone knocking at the door for petitions, he would pretend not to hear." Why the petitioner required a boat, where he was bound for, and who volunteered to crew for him, the reader will discover in this delightful fable, a philosophic love story worthy of Swift or Voltaire.

Trucks, Trucks, Trucks (E SIS) Plowing! Digging! Hauling! Scooping! Is there anything that Matt and his battalion of big rigs can't do? Of course not! Young viewers will be enchanted by nine brightly colored earth-shaking machines, including a dump truck, a plow, a bulldozer, and a foldout spread of a crane that takes counting to exciting new heights. It's time to feel the rumble of trucks, trucks, trucks!

13th Floor: A Ghost Story (J FIC FLE) When newly orphaned Buddy and his lawyer-sister Liz receive a strange message from an ancestor, they travel back in time to save her from being hanged as a witch.

Whipping Boy (J FIC FLE) Jemmy, once a poor boy living on the streets, now lives in a castle. As the whipping boy, he bears the punishment when Prince Brat misbehaves, for it is forbidden to spank, thrash, or whack the heir to the throne. The two boys have nothing in common and even less reason to like one another. But when they find themselves taken hostage after running away, they are left with no choice but to trust each other.