For today, I picked an artist deeply connected to my present mood. Born in Valencia, Spain in 1961, Ana Juan has illustrated for magazines like La Luna, Madriz and The New Yorker, storybooks and created worldwide art exhibitions, even as far as Japan for the Kodansha publishing house. In 1998 and 1999 the Society of Newspaper Design gave her a gold medal for her contributions and in 2010 The Spanish Ministry of Culture awarded her the “Premio Nacional de Ilustración”.
I often wonder how such famous artists slip into my beloved books. This particular children series, written by the phenomenal writer Catherynne M. Valente, has a quirky style. As Neil Gaiman put it, all the books showcase the “glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale” born from her unique cultural background that even extended to her life in Japan. I first read the series four or five years ago and have since fallen in love with her young adult and children’s literature. (Note: I avoid her adult novels as they tend to be very…. Overtly sensual. Ahem.)
This series is also peculiar because it started as a crowd funded project released online. The first book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making won the Nebula/Andre Norton Award in 2009 BEFORE its official publication. Finally in 2011, after an overwhelming demand for its publication, it was published peaking at #8 on the New York Times Bestselling list.
The sequels that followed, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Les the Revels There (2012), The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (2013), and The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (2015) met equal praise and adoration from fans of all ages who complimented the series wit and insight into politics, ethics, love and perspective.
Now to the art. True to the series tone and setting, Ana Juan gave the books an older 1940s look both in their covers and chapter headings. The dimensions of the characters varies but the overall feel remains otherworldly. Reading the series I felt that Juan had captured how I always imagined places of magic to look and feel.
Each picture is purely magical to me. They seem to say “come away with us for this is where the magic is”. Something inside me bitterly wishes I could have read these books as a child. I can only imagine myself pouring over the images and dreaming of a never ending Fall. (FYI I love love LOVE everything about Autumn and October. Yet another reason my these books appeal to me so readily.)
I think that in regards to a book’s ambiance, illustrations pay an enormous part in giving the book’s magic a face to remember. For example, I remember very distinctly each chapter picture in the Harry Potter series and still gush over Alan Lee’s talented visions for Tolkiens Lord of the Rings and other works. MY view of each of these series centered on their illustrations because it brought the book to life. The same definitely applies to these magical books.
Someday I will talk about them in greater length. But for now, let Ana Juan’s imaginative drawings for Valente’s works be remembered fondly as a doorway into the wonder and enchantment of literature. As always, here are multiple examples of Ana Juan’s works.