Monday, May 01, 2006

LA Book Fest

I attended the Los Angeles Book Festival this weekend. It's quite an extravaganza that takes place on the grounds of UCLA. There are hundreds of tents, filled with books, representing publishers, writers groups, authors, organizations (everyone from the Getty Museum to the Scientologists) and anyone else with a connection to books.

I arrived late on Sunday - around 2pm, and got a chance to listen to Sebastian Junger talk about his latest book, A Death in Belmont. Here's the sort of author you dream about, a handsome man in his early forties, tan, fit, smart, liberal -- who can write! He discussed getting shot at in Afghanistan, and how that educated him on how little people remember during a violent event, since his own memory of a fire fight agains the Taliban turned out to be faulty. He was thoughtful, and able to talk about his life or death experiences without sounding self centered or pretentious.

I almost bought his book, but I'd already spent a bundle on a lithograph -- you can see it above. It's a limited edition, signed by one of my favorite illustrators of children's books, the legendary Garth Williams. Those who read Charlotte's Web or Stuart Little will recognize his soft, warm, expressive style This drawing is from A Cricket in Times Square, by George Seldon. If you have kids from 6 - 10 who like to read, and they haven't read this book yet -- BUY IT! It's simple, sweet and funny. Here you can see Chester Cricket, Tucker the Mouse, and Harry Cat feasting in Tucker's drainpipe home near the subway in Times Square. When I read the book, I'd never been to New York City, and this book gave me a marvelous picture of it's crowded, skyscrapered, multicultural life. I know very little about Garth Williams, but I know he must've loved animals, given how beautiful and full of character his drawings of them are.

Looking at this drawing makes me smile and feel warm inside. When I bought it, the woman taking my order said, "Garth Williams. Sometimes I think I learned to read because of him."

And that's it -- exactly. The power of art is incalculable. Even something as simple as the illustration in a children's book can be something you carry with you the rest of your life.

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