Publisher: Penguin Press, 2010
My Rating: A+
This book has been flirting with me since it first arrived. It’s so gorgeous that it was impossible for me to leave it alone.
It’s heavier than your average hardback, but not awkward. The covers are unique – both the paper-covering and the hardback cover.
And then, the pages themselves are thick, each one a work of art. All I had to do was start flipping through the pages and it was all over. I fell in love.
At first glance it felt like an illustrated children’s book. It’s not. It’s an illustrated book for grown-ups. In addition to being bright and cheery, it has substance.
This book is the author’s close-up look at democracy. Wait – don’t stop reading. This is not a dull, boring civics textbook. It’s a vibrant study – a current look at our past and present and a hopeful look to the future.
Maira Kalman is both an artist and an author. She was inspired by the mood of the country after Obama’s election, so she decided to attend his inauguration. For the rest of 2008, she visited various places and people around the country.
She drew pictures, took photos and described what she saw in a blog for the New York Times (HERE). There are so many things I liked about this book but this is #1: She made me think. Interspersed with the drawings and descriptions are questions. Not necessarily answers but she raises great questions.
In her travels around the country, she had a chance to meet people doing good things. She also visited museums and memorials of some of our past leaders. I could write a thousand words about this book, but let me share a few of my favorite parts.
- A town meeting in Vermont was examined and then compared to a student council meeting in the Bronx.
- Ms. Kaplan paid a visit to the Supreme Court and had a meeting with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
- In California she visited farms and met Michael Pollard and Alice Waters. (Alice cooked for her!) She saw the edible schoolyard in Berkley.
- She liked learning about Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, but she really fell in love with Lincoln.
- Her other love is New York City and she even had me enjoying the part about the garbage and sewage system.
As you can see from my rating, this is one of my favorite books of the year. It will definitely be re-read. This would make a great gift for just the right person. I strongly recommend it.
Maira Kalman is an illustrator, author, and designer. She is the author of The Principles of Uncertainty and she illustrated the bestselling edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Ms. Kalman’s twelve children’s books include Max Makes a Million, Stay Up Late, Swami on Rye, and What Pete Ate.
She also has designed fabric for Isaac Mizrahi, accessories for Kate Spade, sets for the Mark Morris Dance Company, and, with her late husband Tibor Kalman under the M&Co. label, clocks, umbrellas, and other accessories for the Museum of Modern Art. Ms. Kalman’s work is shown at the Julie Saul Gallery in Manhattan.
Last week Ms. Kalman was interviewed by Melissa Block on National Public Radio. Treat yourself to the interview online HERE.
I suspect this book will be in many libraries soon. It’s also available at Amazon.