2011 Picture-A-Day Wall Calendars

365 Days in Ireland

ISBN No. 978-0-7611-5806-6

365 Days in Italy

ISBN No. 978-0-7611-5534-8

365 Days in France

ISBN No. 978-0-7611-5533-1

All available through www.workman.com


Some magazine article I read a while back said that the health of the economy can be based on the sales of wrist watches: the more they sell, the better the economy is doing. I’m not sure what the health of the calendar business means but I’m guessing in our era of iPhones and iPods that the Wall Calendar business should be on its last legs. Or not.

Workman Publishing makes the best calendars – Wall, Desk, whatever; they’re the best. And not to diss major authors who work for a decade on a big Fall title, but I’m as excited to see the new 365 Days in Ireland Picture-A-Day Calendar as I am to see the new book by Jonathan Franzen. That’s because Workman’s Picture-a-Day Wall Calendars are the perfect marriage of Palm Pilot and art gallery. While their calendars feature everything from 365 pictures of kittens, puppies and songbirds, my favourite calendars are those of European places such as Italy, France and, as I’ve mentioned, Ireland. It’s not hard to see why. The oversized Wall calendar format is divided into a big, grand above-the-fold opening shot that summarizes the location being featured that month. Below the fold the place is broken up into different photographs for each day of the month. One day might be accompanied by a shot of a typical meal in that country; another might be the view from a B&B. All are lovely to look at - but none seem so photo-shopped as to be unrealistic (my big complaint with most calendars – and, in a way, of contemporary fiction).Each month is accompanied by some text which is just as economical yet evocative as the pictures themselves. The result is the sense of having either visited the place, or the discovery of someplace you’d like to go to. Even better, if you’ve been to any of the places featured in the calendars you’ll find neighbouring cities or towns that you didn’t hit but would plan to on your next trip there. With the best fiction you get a sense you’ve been transported to a different time or place. With these calendars you can joyously feel you’ve lost all sense of place.


“Walt and Skeezix 1927 & 1928”

By Frank O. King

ISBN No. 978-1-897299-39-5


Pity the comic strip. They’re rarely taken seriously, relegated to the crosswords page, and in colour only once a week. Even worse for the cartoonist, there’s no way to tell if your strip is a keeper, one that people will remember long after the newspaper’s gone into the recycle box. Is it any wonder that Gary Larson and Bill Watterson stopped writing, respectively, “The Far Side” and “Calvin and Hobbes” at the height of their success? Smart guys: they wanted to know how much their work was appreciated while they were alive and bask in the glow of adulation. Put another way, not every cartoonist has a strip as epic, far-reaching, as definitive, as “Gasoline Alley” in him. Whereas the stories in the previous three volumes of that comic strip were mostly about the daily life in a Mayberry Farm-ish community (who got a flat tire? who needs a cup of sugar?) the main plotline driving this fourth volume of strips, reflecting the political climate of the day, has new father Walt wondering if his adopted son, Skeezix, is a descendent of Europeans. Yes, Europeans. Now obviously the main appeal of “Walt and Skeezix 1927 & 1928” is its historical value. That’s why there’s a “1927  & 1928” right there in the title. I mean, we’re talking about a comic strip that’s as old as five Jonas Brothers or two Osmonds. Remember when Bill Paxton tells us we’re looking at a piece of paper that’s been underwater for 80 years? It’s pretty much the same thing. And like “Titanic” the story telling in these strips is as engrossing as it is revealing. The problem with reviewing a book like this is that no single synopsis can convey the depth and affection that King invests in his characters. (Even better is the inclusion of a Frank King family album, full of drawings, picnics, old houses; the worthwhile morality stuff. Sigh… “epic” – so overused in computer-generated movies these days - is the only word for it.) The Gasoline Alley strips have the socio-political weight to tell us about the kind of people we were back then – and where we’re headed. In “Fahrenheit 451” Ray Bradbury imagined a futuristic society that burned books and banned reading. The idea seems as preposterous now as it did when the book was first published in 1953. But the truth is today’s texters have had books on a simmer for years; slowly euthanizing one consonant after another (hey, when your tweets are limited to 140 characters something has to go). In such an environment is it possible that these exhaustively detailed volumes of Gasoline Alley comic strips might someday take the place of “Little Women” and “Jude the Obscure” in high school classrooms? Are these comic strips the new “fiction” – plot-driven, metaphor-heavy, and above all, accessible?


Calendars V. 2010


The National Audubon Society’s 365 Songbirds & Other Backyard Birds 2010 Calendar



365 Days in Ireland

365 Kittens a Year

(both available through www.workman.com)


Just as the English language has been crunched down to evocative shortcuts (like “sexting” and the combining of proper names like Brad and Angelina to produce “Brangelina”) so too has that highbrow staple of publishing, the big, grand art book, undergone a major downsizing in the age of the internet.

Flickr.com, with its potent combo of holiday or arty pictures taken by the common folk has singlehandedly re-shaped the idea of the art book. Visit the site and you can see what your peers think is art: a Beijing alleyway, a busy Cairo street or the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. (Big minus points for the “artists” who tilt their cameras or shoot all their stuff in black-and-white.)

No wonder then that the calendar has become the middleman between art book and Flickr sideshow, with the best calendars (those most resembling the big, grand art book) assigning a single, lovely picture to each day of the new year.

The National Audubon Society’s 2010 Calendar, 365 Songbirds & Other Backyard Birds (available through www.artisanbooks.com) and Workman Publishing’s, 365 Days in Ireland and 365 Kittens a Year (both available through www.workman.com) are wall calendars where every month’s grid of squares is accompanied by either a bird, a kitten or an Irish hillside, meal or pub. It’s all very beautiful to look at and contemplate as you figure out how to spend another year but even better the pictures remind you of little things or big dreams that get pushed aside in the daily grind of the here and now. Even better, the kittens’ calendar is made up of pictures sent in by the public so each of them represents Global Cat Love; a little, furry, tactile life out there somewhere else in our rapidly evolving digital world.


Everything Really Old is New Again!


"Vermeer, Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art: Masterpieces from the Rijksmuseum"

ISBN No. 978-1-55365-471-1

Vancouver Art Gallery


Douglas & McIntyre



Picture this: you’ve just seen the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibit of Vermeer and Rembrandt artwork that corresponds with this book and now you’re standing in the gallery gift shop trying to figure out what to get. Fridge magnets?  Greetings cards? Somehow the artwork of this exhibit is too important, too heavy to be summarized by mere trinkets. Simply put there is no grander memento of your visit to the VAG than the artwork itself, which is beautifully re-created in this exhaustive, opulent catalogue of the exhibit (which runs at the Vancouver Art Gallery until September 13. 2009).

Given the crowd mentality that gathers and builds around major exhibits at the VAG, those of you who can’t stand other people will benefit exponentially by this book. You can appreciate “Still Life with Flowers on a Marble Tabletop” without having to push your way in to see it. You might have thought it was pretty on the gallery wall but you’ll get so much more out of “The Tailor’s Workshop” without feeling like you’re stuck in the longest line-up in the world to see the tailor. There’s also SO much to see in the exhibit (and so many obscure pieces) that you can’t see everything unless you’re really, really fast and have a photographic memory. No, the book isn’t quite like seeing the art work in person. It’s actually better. For art this momentous only the solitude afforded by the reflective medium of print will do (and if you really, REALLY admire art, then you’ll understand perfectly what I mean).

Even better, in our Photoshop era of adjusting exposures and colours (you know how some posters or greeting cards of famous art are either lighter or darker than the actual artwork?) the pictures in the book are preserved with the gallery curator’s eye for prosperity. There’s no guessing about what the original looks like. And there’s no inane chatter over what the artist intended; each piece in the book is accompanied by an enlightening, academic yet user-friendly essay. All of which means the book lets you visit the exhibit without listening to the unwashed masses (I’m talking about the newspaper critics, of course) hem and haw over chiaroscuro. This book is the final, definitive document, and argument-ender to all queries about the show - and it beautifies any coffee table.




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