I don't know about you, but I have a huge crush right now on illustrator Sophie Blackall's wonderful blog Missed Connections. This is a series of illustrations based on notes posted on online "missed connections" websites, where people post messages to others that they encountered on the fly, in hopes that they might reconnect. The illustrations she creates based on these brief, hopeful messages in the ether are lovely, sad, touching, funny, and ultimately deeply human. I don't remember where I found the first link to her blog, but since then it seems she has been popping up everywhichwhere in the blogosphere. Obviously, I am not the only one enchanted.
Sophie also illustrates children's books, among other things, and not long after discovering her work I came across a series of books she'd illustrated called Ivy + Bean. The series targets school-aged children, so it's a little too old for the Q, but I couldn't resist buying one to read to her later when she's ready. I set it on my bedside table to read for myself, and Q discovered it there and took it down. Despite the fact that the books are a bit complex for her level, Q was instantly captured by the illustrations, which she pored over at length. Every morning when she comes into our bedroom, she takes it down off my stack of reading and leafs through it with a furrowed brow and a bright gaze.
One morning, after gazing at length at the cover illustration, where the two friends dig up a dinosaur bone, Q made an elaborate and apparently urgent series of signs to me (most of them signs she has invented) which I did not immediately understand. After several repetitions, she was at last able to convey to me the fact that she wished the two girls in the cover illustration would come and knock at our door, so that she could play with them.
Never have I seen a more vivid indication of the power of an illustration over the imagination of a child.
So it was that when I saw that Sophie Blackall had an Etsy shop, I was thrilled. After long and careful consideration, and many changes of mind, I picked a print to order, intending to hang it in Q's room.
I chose the "We shared a bear suit" illustration from Sophie's Missed Connections collection.
The package arrived on our doorstep with lightening speed, and when Q and I opened it...oh, to our great suprise, there were gifts inside in addition to the gorgeous print, which was even more lovely "in the flesh". One of the surprise gifts was a card and envelope which, amazingly, featured the iceskating print that had been my second choice, and over which I had deliberated for a long time before ordering. The second gift - oh, joy! - was one of the books that Sophie has illustrated, with a note for Q.
The book was "The Big Red Lollipop", the story of a Pakistani family that doesn't yet understand the American ritual of birthday parties, and a little girl whose desire for a single lollipop party favor is thwarted - at least initially - by the inclusion at the party of her little sister.
Blackall's eloquent and magical illustrations flesh out the story...
...and Q, a sucker fan to the core, was nearly as absorbed by the beautiful book as her mother.
Yup, shirtless again in this post. I just don't know what to tell you about that.
Slightly annoyed at mommy's insistence on documenting her every move with the "big camera".
But not annoyed enough to set down her new book.
Thank you, Sophie! We will no doubt be poring over this daily for much time to come.