The judges of the Branford Boase Award (BBA) for outstanding first novel for young people have noted an emerging trend in writing for readers aged seven and up: Instead of setting off for adventures in Narnia or where the wild things are, protagonists are staying home.
A significant amount of children's literature now takes place in an emotionally complex domestic setting. Julia Eccleshare, the award's co-founder and chairperson of the judging panel, points out in The Bookseller that increasingly, main characters are facing challenges such as death, depression, and divorce, which are "impossible for a child to resolve as the issues are insurmountable." Protagonists are trying to untangle internal family drama, not embarking on quests to catch thieves or right wrongs.
Although they might not fit the traditional understanding of adventure, these tales still offer excitement, as tension stems from internal monsters like mental health problems rather than the more literal wild-eyed furry giants with sharp teeth and claws. In more and more children's novels, Ms. Eccleshare explains, the action is in interaction, which invites readers to develop their sense of compassion and empathy.
She pinpoints the rise of more claustrophobic settings as coinciding with mobile phones and restrictions on children's freedom to roam without parental supervision. It is clear that at least the BBA judges still fancy some fresh air: Children will find a fair amount of outdoor adventure in the shortlisted titles below.
The winner of the Branford Boase Award, worth £1,000, will be announced On July 4th.
By Deb A.
The Nobel Prize for Literature is embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal. Bring back the pussy bow! (New York Times, Refinery29)
Women, how would a male author describe you? Katy Waldman at the New Yorker follows the trend started by Whit Reynolds and eagerly embraced by thousands of women. (Electric Lit offers a handy guide for women who are stumped.)
Ronaldo Schemidt's haunting photo from the Venezuelan protests has won this year's World Press Photo Contest. (World Press Photo)
Somaliland poet Nacima Qorane is the latest artist to receive a jail sentence for promoting reunification between Somaliland and Somalia. (BBC)
"We have assumed that a thing by him has to look like his late works, and that he therefore had no beginnings. That, of course, is totally implausible.": Laurence Kanter from the Yale University Art Gallery explains why Leonardo da Vinci is only now being credited for his work on an altarpiece panel. (The Observer)
From an unknown da Vinci to perhaps the best known--Mona Lisa's only smiling if you are. (artnet)
By Deb A.
If you're more likely to be able to name a city's top art galleries than its local sports teams, there's still a good reason for you to be interested in the outcome of today's Super Bowl. It turns out there's more at stake than a trophy and a parade.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boston's Museum of Fine Art have upped the ante by betting paintings: The winning city's museum will receive a free loan from the loser. Here's what's at stake.
If the Philadelphia Eagles win, the city will host Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis), painted around 1763 by John Singleton Copley:
If the New England Patriots emerge victorious, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts will proudly display Philly's Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky by Benjamin West (ca. 1816).
By Deb A.
Happy 2018, dear Readers! It's time once again for a look at some of the best-loved books of the year, via a marginally scientific examination of the top picks from a range of book review columns, including those from the New York Times, the BBC, the Washington Post, The Guardian, the New Yorker, the CBC and more.
There was little consensus across the board, but two novels appeared on nearly every list: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and Sing, Unburied, Sing (winner of the National Book Award) by Jesmin Ward.
Other popular selections were Mohsin Hamed's Exit West, Min Jin Lee's Pachinko, Patricia Lockwood's Priestdaddy, Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere, and Hari Kunzru's White Tears.
What were your favourite books of 2017? Leave your recommendations in the comments section.
By Deb A.
Artist Qinmin Liu's Angelhaha airline took its inaugural flight on December 6th. It flies one-way to art events only and its message for the world is simple: "happiness". (Angelhaha)
"I think to myself what I could have done if I'd won it at 40": 63-year-old Lubaina Himid has won the Turner Prize. In her interview with The Guardian, she challenges, among other things, The Guardian. (The Guardian)
After over 8,000 people signed an online petition to remove a sexualized painting of a child, the Museum of Modern Art has declined to take down Thérèse Dreaming by Balthus, but welcomes the "opportunity for conversation" that the controversy has sparked. (Artnet)
Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, which recently became the most expensive painting ever sold at over $450 million, will be exhibited at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. (Reuters)
The air you breathe could soon be the air you use for your next masterpiece: Air-Ink is turning pollution into ink. (CBC)
By Deb A.
Ursula Johnson, also known as Little Bear, is this year's winner of Canada's Sobey Art Award.
The prestigious prize recognises the country's most promising contemporary artists under the age of 40. This year's shortlist included a record number of women (four of five of the artists are female) and two Indigenous artists from the five regions.
Ursula Johnson, representing the Atlantic region, is a performance and installation artist of Mi'kmaw First Nation ancestry. She descends from a long line of artists, including Caroline Gould, her great-grandmother and master basket weaver. Often incorporating basketry traditions into her art, Ms. Johnson explores identity, community, colonialism, and her Indigenous heritage: she wove baskets around herself for her Basket Weaving (Cultural Cocoon) series (2003-2015), was symbolically scalped in Elmiet (He/She Goes Home) (2010) to draw attention to Nova Scotia's history of scalping, and collaborated with Soto Pow Wow dancer Bert Milberg for Hot Looking (2014), a commentary on the appropriation of indigenous culture.
"I will now have the tremendous opportunity to work on a larger scale and expand the reach of my work to a broader community while exploring more diversity in materials and content as well as beginning to create a network of collaborators internationally!" Ms. Johnson said of her win.
Her desire to work with and learn from others was just part of the reason Ursula Johnson received the $50,000 CDN award; the selection committee noted that she "was singled out for her strong voice, her generosity and collaborative spirit. Through her work, she redefines traditional materials and re-imagines colonized histories."
Ursula Johnson is a talented, insightful artist with a strong sense of community, history and social justice--in other words, a fitting representative for the nation's contemporary art scene in a year in which Canada's colonial history has come under the microscope and gender and identity politics dominate public discourse.
The shortlisted artists, Raymond Boisjoly (West Coast & Yukon), Divya Mehra (Prairies & North), Bridget Moser (Ontario), and Jacynthe Carrier (Quebec), will each receive $10,000 CDN. All five artists' works are on display at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto until December 9th.
By Deb A.
By now you've heard that Agave Press will be launching its children's magazine, Prickly Pear Kids, in winter. That isn't the only exciting development in children's literature recently...
If you want your child to learn a lesson, those bunnies and bears just won't do. Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered that only stories that feature human beings can increase children's altruism.
Speaking of bears, A.A. Milne was desperate to escape his own creation, Winnie-the-Pooh.
This year's Klaus Flugge Prize for the most exciting and promising newcomer to children's picture book illustration has been awarded to Francesca Sanna for her book, The Journey, which tells the story of a mother and her two children fleeing war at home to find a new life in a foreign country.
You've read Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and you've probably seen at least one of the films, but what you never realised was that Charlie Bucket was originally black.
There are boy heroes, there are (significantly fewer) girl heroines. But chances are they aren't playing together. Amelia Hill takes a fascinating look at gender equality in children's books, and even offers a few titles for starting your non-sexist kids' library.
By Deb A.
If you're in need of some inspiration to begin your week, look no further:
Art is good for us: On Wednesday the British Parliament will announce the results of its two-year inquiry into arts, health and wellbeing. In anticipation of the report, Nicci Gerrard offers an eloquent account of the role of arts in helping people with dementia. (The Guardian)
Beware the selfie: A single snapshot was to blame for the domino effect that knocked over a row of plinths holding $200,000 worth of art. Too perfectly awkward to be true? (The New York Times)
Sketching the unknown: How artists and researchers teamed up to find and introduce new species to the rest of the world. (The Atlantic)
Illustrator, cartoonist, trailblazer: Canadian artist Jillian Tamaki's new book of graphic short stories marks her emergence as a "consummate storyteller". (The Walrus)
Visual activist: Photographer Zanele Muholi highlights racism, homophobia, and hate with Somnyama Ngopnyama, Hail the Dark Lioness, a series of self-portraits she took every day for a year. The Guardian dedicates two spaces to her work, and rightly so: a striking photo gallery and a compelling article.
When is a Modigliani not a Modigliani? Twenty-one artworks have been confiscated from a major exhibition in Genoa after several were confirmed as fakes. (The Telegraph)
The Commuter Pig Keeper? You still have time to vote for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. (The Bookseller)
Agave alumna: Agave Magazine contributor Karla K. Morton's twelfth book, Wooden Lions, is now available.
By Deb A.
Happy Ramadan to all our Muslim readers! And thanks to TED-Ed for this hypnotic look into the intricacies of Islamic design:
Arundhati Roy is back with new fiction, 20 years after her breathtaking first novel, The God of Small Things. The Guardian's recent interview with the author gives us a glimpse into her mind--and the minds of her latest characters. You can read an extract of Ms. Roy's latest novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, at The Guardian too.
The world is $933,000 away from Neil Gaiman doing a live reading of Dr. Seuss's Fox in Socks (or a mere $433,000 away from hearing him read the Cheesecake Factory menu). In case this is what's missing in your life, you can donate here. All proceeds will go to the UNHCR.
The BBC takes a look back at 70 years of classic portrait photography with a tribute to the Camera Press Agency.
His memoir was on many 'best books of 2016'' lists last year; this year Hisham Matar's The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between has also won the Folio Prize.
Kerry Clare takes a look at smallness in children's literature in The Walrus.
He "solved a problem that [others] did not. He found a way to represent for a global Anglophone audience the diction of his Igbo homeland": Kwame Anthony Appiah explains Chinua Achebe's particular genius in The New York Review of Books.
By Deb A.
Praised as "a powerful and disturbing installation that poses urgent questions about our time" by the president of this year's Venice Biennale jury, Anne Imhof's Faust is an aggressive, seductive exhibition that takes up the entire German pavilion.
Visitors are greeted by barking Doberman pinschers and a long queue. Upon entering, they walk on a glass floor elevated just high enough for young, gaunt performers dressed in black to crawl and writhe under their feet. The performers move cooly below, amongst and even above the crowds in three sterile white rooms; whether chanting, intimating violence, or engaging visitors in uncomfortable eye contact, they remain emotionless. The entire performance, a statement on the commodification of human bodies, lasts for five hours.
Perhaps confirming the suspicions of the critics who were reminded of Nazi Germany, the 38-year-old artist explained upon receiving the Golden Lion for National Participation that Faust offers "a very transparent view on the past," while also looking to the future and addressing the need "to know what to stand up for, and when to raise our fists."
Fellow German artist Franz Erhard Walther was also honoured with a Golden Lion; he was named Best Artist.
The 57th Venice Biennale is open until November 26th.
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