Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dahlov Ipcar-two new heirloom children's books-One Horse Farm and Wild Animal Alphabet

I've raved about Islandport Press before, and fair warning, I'm going to do it again.  I found them a few years ago when a now-defunct children's magazine (called Cookie) had a rave review from author Dave Eggers for The Cat at Night, a lovely and unusual children's story book by an unknown-to-me artist, Dahlov Ipcar.  I ordered it immediately from an online retailer, and was delighted with the story about what the family cat actually does at night while everyone sleeps.  My little guy liked it too, but above the storyline, the art work is tremendous.  Ipcar creates an unusual world of colors and shapes that is all the more rare for children's books:  this is serious art. 

Ipcar uses bold colors in opaque "milk" tones with heavy lines and rough outlines.  What's more surprising is the use of black (until recently, practically never seen in children's books).  The result is a retro/vintage look that isn't a trend but the life art of an amazing and gifted artist.

So I was excited to get two of her newer titles:  One Horse Farm and Wild Animal Alphabet.

One Horse Farm is a simple story with a theme of loyalty that is woven around the childhood life of a boy on a country farm. Daily activities repeat as the child grows up and his perspective on the "small" farm changes.  Modern technology comes to the farm and changes things, but the sweet story is that some things can never become obsolete or tossed aside in favor of progress.  That the book says all this without being preachy is an art in itself....

The story itself is engaging for a three-year-old and up to understand;  younger than that, a toddler would likely love the photos and unique colors.  As always, this is a hardcover with pages printed on heavy stock with a quality look to it that makes it a likely heirloom in our family...seriously, there is a difference in quality among publishers of children's books.

The other title was a board book from Ipcar, Wild Animal Alphabet. This is the second Ipcar board book Islandport was produced with Ipcar's work (the previous was Farm Animal Alphabet).
The cover shows the kind of artwork Ipcar is famous for: cute but not overly sweet.  Bold colors and lots of interplay with shadows and light make each page interesting, even if it is "just" the alphabet.  I enjoy this difference from other children's book styles because when we read 4-5 stories before bed each night, I get really sick of cutesy pastels and pages that are over-saturated with random graphics.  Ipcar's work is easy on the eyes, simple, and unique.  Am I raving again?  Of course!  I only wish I could have decorated the baby's room around her artwork. 

Special thanks to Melissa Kim of Islandport Press for the review copies. 
Disclosure:  I loved this publisher and bought their books before I ever reviewed for them!

After reading Barbara's comment, I went to her website...her Ipcar work is stunning so the link is here if you are interested.  More heirlooms to collect (an obsession of mine since my only inherited treasures
consist of an icky old Avon bottle and an unfinished quilt)!!!



  1. I've produced a line of pillows and rugs, in conjunction with Dahlov Ipcar, based on images from The Cat at Night, Black and White, and The Art of Dahlov Ipcar. Barbara Barran. Classic Rug Collection, Inc.

  2. I love those illustrations. They look so familiar, I felt sure my mother used to have one of his picture books when I was small, but I just searched through amazon and none look familiar. I found tons of his books I wish I had, now!

  3. Barbara,
    they are lovely. Truly gorgeous. Heirlooms! If I could afford one, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. So glad you can help expose her art too! She seems lovely!

  4. Attractive alphabet books. My granddaughters would love them! Very nice review.