Saturday, November 5, 2011

BiblioFile: La figura nell'ombra

A few months ago we discussed some of the artwork in the Italian edition of The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring as published by Happy Planet Books. We probably should have highlighted artwork from The Figure in the Shadows prior to Letter seeing how Figure takes place before the events in Letter, the Italian edition of Figure was published first, we discovered that edition’s artwork first...but it just didn’t work out that way. Deal with it. We’ll do it now.

As we said before, Alexander Daniloff is the talented artist behind the illustrations for this edition:
...a rather intense interweaving of metallic whirls and loopy latticework that, when viewed in full, brings to mind the mysterious trunk of Grampa Barnavelt. Hanging above the title is the coin that throws the story into high-gear; on the reverse, a shadowy hand comes into view. Daniloff’s illustrations are, simply put, atmospherically eerie.
Some of our favorite images include the booty unearthed in Grampa’s trunk. After Grampa’s Civil War tour of duty in the Fifth Michigan Fire Zouave Lancers, he tossed a few mementoes and trinkets into an old traveling chest where they remained for decades. His grandson, Jonathan, says he hasn’t opened the thing in close to 20 years but he’ll open it for his nephew, Lewis. Inside were Grampa’s cavalry sword (which Lewis immediately swings into action), the lancer uniform, and an old pair of glasses. For readers the rest of the items are shrouded in mystery, though, as heavy as the chest was to move, one wonders if Mrs. Zimmermann’s assumption that cannon balls were inside was indeed true. Never the less, Daniloff provides us with a look at some of the odds and ends hidden away inside the old steamer trunk – which includes Grampa’s lucky piece, a three-cent coin.

Now the three-cent piece had its own history and one we won’t divulge here (in short: read the book). We will say that Daniloff has created a very surreal image of an important moment involving the coin and two other men closely related to it: Eliphaz Moss and Walter Finzer. The swirling image shows Moss hunched over the coin, interrupted from his reading and startled at the sight of the sinister Finzer brandishing a torch. Surrounding the two figures are symbols and glyphs – an incantation of sorts. A delightfully wicked illustration, it puts an interesting spin on historic events.

Finally there’s a gloomy pan across the city of New Zebedee. Rows of houses line up one by one, each similar in function but utterly different: gabled roofs, decorative cornices, towering window-boxes, and eerie archways. One glimpse makes you wonder who lives and works in New Zebedee – a small town with big secrets (not counting the awesome power of Jute Feasel’s mouth).

So far Happy Planet Books has chosen two different artists for their second and third outing in publishing John’s books. Let’s hope there’s more and they continue choosing such eclectic illustrators as well.

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