Tag Archive: Abrams Press


Review by C.J. Bunce

When you think of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, you probably think of the incredible scope of its collection.  It houses some of the most famous and rare paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other artifacts from ancient times to the present day.  Its collection can be parsed in so many ways to record the history of almost any subject.  So it was a brilliant idea for The Met to open up its collection to focus on imagery for the holidays to illustrate a book about traditional Christmas stories.  Christmas is Coming! Celebrate the Holiday with Art, Stories, Poems, Songs, and Recipes is an ideal single source book of traditional Christmas songs and stories, illustrated with attractive imagery from artists celebrating the holiday across the centuries.  It also includes new poems commissioned for the book and holiday recipes created by the chefs from the restaurant at The Met.  If you’ve ever tried to find that one book with stories to read by the fire, with songs to sing to pull out every year, this is for you.

Along with excerpts of The Christmas Story and The Three Wise Men from the Bible, are historic Christmas stories from Arthur Conan Doyle, the Brothers Grimm, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Leo Tolstoy, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, and poetry from William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Christina Rossetti, H.P. Lovecraft, E.E. Cummings, and Robert Louis Stevenson.  It includes Clement Clarke Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and Francis Church’s timeless editorial Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. 

The artwork spans the entire collection of The Met, ranging from religious paintings depicting the Nativity from the 15th century and a winter landscape by Camille Pissarro to a collection of three dimensional holiday-related objects, illustrations of Santa Claus, and several images curated from a collection of vintage holiday cards donated to the museum.  Christmas is Coming! includes sheet music for ten of the most familiar Christmas songs, and recipes hand-selected by chefs at The Met that include Shepherd’s Pie, Turkey Pot Pie, English Toffee, Cranberry-Thyme Shortbread, and more.

Here are some excerpts from The Met’s Christmas is Coming!:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You may not know it, but you probably first met them in their record-breaking music video that they pulled together in only two weeks for Peter Gabriel’s song, Sledgehammer.  It’s a story of two teenagers borrowing mom’s old kitchen table to use to film their Plasticine creations.  Flash forward a few years and their multiple Oscar-winning company is negotiating for big-budget real estate for their movie studio.  The company is Aardman Animations, named for the star character of their earliest film.  And the founders are Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who have documented their journey in this year’s latest chronicle of the history of animation, A Grand Success! The Aardman Journey, One Frame at a Time, now available from Abrams Press.

It’s not just a biography of the two boys who would see their company bring home four Oscars and even more nominations and BAFTAs.  A Grand Success! (the title a play on their first Oscar-nominated adventure, A Grand Day Out) is a time capsule of those key intersections of effort, skill, perseverance, and happenstance, that can make any endeavor a success.  The efforts of the small British upstart found their footing in both the worlds of fantasy film and advertising.  One put the food on the table until, like many creators, they could focus on their passions.  And although they didn’t sever their ties with commercial work, they created what are now among the most recognized characters in England and the world outside the United States (and their U.S. following isn’t too bad, either).  Before long their ideas had them sealing big deals with the likes of Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg, and having actors from Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Hugh Grant, Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, and Tom Hiddleston–the cream of Britain’s acting talent– providing the voices of their characters.

A crowning achievement in animation in The Wrong Trousers, from the studio lauded by Ray Harryhausen, Terry Gilliam, and Matt Groening.

Lord and Sproxton pull in two other key players in their look at Aardman’s history, animators Nick Park and Richard “Golly” Goleszowski.  Park grew up as a fan of Aardman’s films as a kid, and by 1989, when he was only 31, he was attending Oscar parties as the face of the studio.  All four would create iconic characters from Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and the anthropomorphic “very British” animals of Creature Comforts.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

What can you say about Mr. Rogers that you didn’t learn from his more than three decades on television?  Plenty, as you’ll find in The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, a new work of non-fiction by Maxwell King that we previewed earlier at borg here.  If you could meet any creator of the past fifty years, it would be difficult to find anyone as sincere and genuine as television’s Mr.  Rogers.  Maybe Jim Henson?  Bob Ross?  Mr. Rogers was a man whose private life was every bit as real as his persona on television, according to hundreds of people who knew him that were interviewed for King’s new book.

The fear for a reader of the book is like any behind-the-scenes peek at a beloved film or television series: As with learning the magician’s secrets or seeing a Muppet with a hand stuffed up its back, the man that became Mr. Rogers has his flaws, and his several TV projects, books, speeches, and other works reveals in many ways and from many avenues that he really was just a man.  So for some, there’s too much to see here.  Yet readers will not be surprised that no matter who was asked and prodded, there were no skeletons in his closet to reveal–King even notes the categorical rejection of so many Internet myths that have arisen about him since his death in 2003.  All, of course, are false.  What you saw was what you got: an educated thinker who chose to help people with his singular career path.

Yet was he really just a man?  Would any other person have so many incredible encounters?  An autistic child visited his set with his family, only to speak for the very first time when Mr. Rogers addressed the child directly through the famous puppets King Friday XIII and Queen Sara Saturday, which the boy had watched for years on TV at his home?  Or when Koko the gorilla, who passed away earlier this year, visited him, she took him into her arms.  Koko was a long-time fan of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and when they met the two spoke to each other in American Sign Language and took photographs of each other.  Before the advent of the literal movie blockbuster, Mr. Rogers had thousands of children and their parents lined up around city blocks for a chance to meet him in person.  Clearly, if Mr. Rogers was just a man, he was like no other before or since.

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