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Book Review – Under the North Light

underthenorthlight Publishing children’s books would not be what it is today, if it weren’t for Maud and Miska Petersham. What they managed to accomplish in their lives, as far as writing and illustrating books for children is amazing, and no small feat.

They were pioneers in every aspect, and each chapter of Under the North Light: The Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham demonstrates that. Each chapter is sensitively and brilliantly written, and we are given a window into the moments of their lives and what they were striving towards. Along with the prose, each chapter contains pictures of their illustrations, illustrations that are absolutely stunning in their details and depth.

The Petershams were a unique couple, coming from diverse backgrounds. They endeavored throughout the years, to collaborate, not only in the art of illustration, but in the art of artistic beauty, beauty that kept children fascinated, and it also kept adults fascinated. Their biography is a testament to both.

Their marriage was strong, even through the lean and war-filled years. Their work ethic was strong, and their lives were filled with writing and illustrating under the north light of a window.

I read their stories growing up, and my childhood was filled with inhaling them. I wish I had been able to keep the books, but due to family moves and life in general, the books were either given away to others or to libraries.

Reading the glossy pages of this outstanding and stunning book, I was reminded of my childhood, of how reading played an important role in my life, and still does, decades later. Fond memories flashed before me with each line and illustration, and I found myself a bit breathless from the pure joy and beauty of the pages

Under the North Light: The Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham is an excellent resource regarding the development of book illustration, and it sheds light on graphic arts and its inception. It is a book of immense historical value, and one that I feel the reader will be inspired by.

Under the North Light: The Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham, by Lawrence Webster is an elegant and insightful tribute to the Petershams, and to their life’s work. I highly recommend it to everyone.

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Filed under Biography, Inspiration, Non-Fiction

Book Diva Review – The Marriage Artist

The Marriage Artist: A novel, by Andrew Winer, is an incredible literary feat, in my opinion.

The novel is a a brilliantly composed saga of two stories that alternate within the pages. It is a book with broad and deep expanses, beginning in current times, and sweeping back to Vienna, beginning in 1928.

The stories blend magically, with the magnificent word-imagery of Winer.
In the present, we have Daniel Lichtmann, a well-respected art critic. His positive, stunning and admiring critiques of the native American, Blackfoot sculptor, Benjamin Wind, has made him (Wind) famous.

The novel opens with the bodies of Wind and Lichtmann’s wife laying on the sidewalk in front of a New York City apartment building. By all accounts, it looks as if they plunged from the terrace. From there, the suspense begins, as the reader is taken on a trip through time, as Lichtmann tries to discover whether his wife was having an affair with Wind, whether they committed suicide together, or somehow fell off the terrace.

Daniel is committed to uncovering what actually led up to the tragic event. Through is efforts, he uncovers information regarding his wife, information he didn’t know. He also uncovers information regarding Wind, his background and his artwork, and how is own critique of Wind’s last exhibit may have been far-fetched.

The next chapter begins in 1928, a time of uproar and persecution towards the Jews, with ten-year old Josef Pick, as he visits his grandfather, in the less than desirable Jewish section of Vienna. The Pick family has converted to Catholicism in order to avoid the repercussions of being labeled Jewish. While there Josef becomes enthralled with his grandfather’s business of creating ketubot (prenuptial marriage contracts) for those who are looking to have a creative and ceremonial document of the groom’s rights and responsibilities concerning the bride.

Josef’s father is with him, and watches as his son tries to create a ketubah of his own. The final result is one that brings awe to his grandfather Pommeranz, and causes Pommeranz to use Josef’s talent to earn extra money for his own needs. What transpires after that is nothing short of incredible, as the reader is taken on Josef’s journey of artistic development and creation with his amazing talent, one that brings him recognition in the world of art. Winer infuses the pages with the defining imagery, defining moments of the ravages of war. The journey continues through Josef’s adult life, through the days of the Holocaust and the antisemitism geared at the Jews.

The story line had me thinking about the title, and alternate meanings. Aside from a ketubah, a marriage artist could be one who is creative in their own lives, one who tries to manipulate their marriage. After all, an artist is not just one who paints, draws, creates beautiful documents or etches on paper. An artist can be defined as so much more than that in the realm of daily life.


The Marriage Artist
moves forward and moves backward in the time continuum, and in history’s darkest hours. I was engulfed in the book, and could not put it down. I read it straight through, except for small breaks to eat, etc. I was mesmerized and absorbed with Winer’s use of beautiful and sensitive language. It was so beautiful that I was in awe of his prose. There were moments that I was emotionally caught up in the folds of the story.

Andrew Winer is masterful at telling the tale of The Marriage Artist and blending families together. It is a lovely, sensitive and poignant story, one filled with the affects of assimilation, love and loss, and effects of lives caught in the maelstrom of evil, leading to an epiphany towards redemption.
The novel is one of educational and historical worthiness. The drama and the intensity that is displayed is something that I feel should not be missed. I highly recommend The Marriage Artist to everyone.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical Novels, Holocaust History, Jewish History, Literature/Fiction

Book Diva Review – My Sister’s Keeper

My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, begins with teen-aged Anna and her visit to see a lawyer due to the fact that she wants to sue her parents. Anna was specifically conceived through genetic engineering in order to save her sixteen year-old sister Kate, who has a rare form of terminal cancer. In this respect, Anna has spent her entire life, literally, in and out of hospital settings in order to donate blood and other parts of herself in order to save Kate. She is tired of being prodded, and tired of having lack of control over decisions made regarding her own body. Anna is now at the point in her life where she wants to be free of the restrictions and parental decisions that have bound her to her sister’s life. Therein begins a dilemma of huge proportions in so many aspects.

Kate, meanwhile, doesn’t always seem to appreciate what has been given to her. Her parents dote on her every whim, even those whims that aren’t necessary for survival. They do this to the extent that they often forget they have two other children. Kate is their main focus in life, yet Anna is expected to yield pieces of her body at any given moment.

The fact that the parents emotionally neglect Anna and give up on their son Jesse are integral to the fact that they are not able to make the right decisions that are in the best interests of Anna.

My Sister’s Keeper deals with the extreme issues of ethics, morals, and the social and legal ramifications of genetic engineering. All of these dilemmas are masterfully conveyed within the pages of this compelling story. Picoult is brilliant in her assessment of the issues and repercussions regarding the choices made by the family members and others involved in the situation. She raises a lot of questions, and leaves the reader with a lot to ponder. Which sister is the actual keeper? Is there an answer to that question? You read and decide.

I highly recommend My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, to everyone.

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Filed under Blogrolls, Fiction, General