Friday, November 17, 2006

Reading Journal: "Snow in August"

In Brooklyn, in the winter of 1946, an 11-year-old Irish Catholic altarboy encounters a refugee from Prague and the two begin an unlikely friendship. Rabbi Hirsch teaches Michael Yiddish and tells him fantastical stories, while the boy hones the man's English and indoctrinates him in the wonders of baseball while they breathlessly follow the feats of Jackie Robinson as he breaks the color barrier in the big leagues. Unfortunately, Michael witnesses the near fatal beating of a shopkeeper and draws the enmity of the perpetrator down on himself and his mother. He refuses to "rat" to the police even after he is severely beaten himself, but struggles with what to do until Rabbi Hirsch is almost killed by the thugs. I'm still not sure what really happened at the end of the story. Was it only in Michael's imagination? Did the Falcons self-destruct, or was the Golem real?

This is quite a different layout for me. As I've said more than once, I prepaint my pages...and honestly, some of them are so strange that I don't see how I'll ever use them for a book review. This is certainly one of the most unusual. I had painted the centers of the pages bright yellow and topped that with those six red swashes. When it was dry, I squirted a bit of cream paint around the edges and as it began to run out, dry-brushed it over the top of the yellow and red. Serendipitously, the hot colors turned out to be reminiscent of the sweltering summer at book's end, and the overlay of cream could be taken for snow.

The illustrations on this spread are another departure from what I normally do. My drawing skills are rudimentary, to say the least. I can't sketch anything without assistance. In this case, I found some photos on the web. Printed them off and laid a piece of tracing vellum on top. Using a waterproof Pitt pen, I traced the outlines of each. Then I laid on color with Derwent "Inktense" pencils and washed them with a Niji waterbrush. Once they were good and dry, I cut around the figures and ran them through the Xyron before applying them to the corners of the pages. Because the vellum is translucent, the colors of the background show through and the drawings appear to have been done directly on the pages.

Reading Journal: "The Bookwoman's Last Fling"

This story centers around an avid book collector, Candice Geiger, dead now over 20 years. When her husband dies, Cliff Janeway is called in to inventory her extraordinary collection of children's books for the estate. Most of the volumes are rare, illustrated first editions. He soon realizes that some of the best books have been substituted with much cheaper replacements, but as the husband knew nothing about books, the theft could have happened many years earlier. Janeway also begins to suspect that Candice may have been murdered. As he investigates, he comes across a mixed bag of characters. One is Sharon, the daughter who already owns half the books and runs a farm for rescued horses. Much of the plot unfolds at California race tracks where Cliff goes undercover to scope out the people from Candice's shadowy past.

As in almost all of my reading journal spreads, this background had been painted without any book in mind. I found this photo on the cover of an investment newsletter and thought it was a good illustration for the story and the colors meshed well with these particular pages. I had made the pinkish strokes outward from the center just because I happened to have some of that color left on the brush after painting a totally different page. And as is often the case, it helped to tie the photo to the rest of the page since it's a tint of the rusty pink color at the top of the sky.

I was just playing around when I wrote out the title and author. All those curliques were a take-off on the word "Fling."