November 24, 2013

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RED Hearts: Maira Kalman’s Illustrated World

RED Hearts are guests posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today.

Today’s RED Hearts post is from Carey Dunne, 21, in New York, NY, who’s reporting on the colorful world of Maira Kalman:

Maira Kalman is the illustration powerhouse behind many a New Yorker cover (like the well-known “New Yorkistan,” pictured), illustrator of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and author-illustrator of thirteen children’s books including Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman. Luckily, she also makes picture books for grown-ups.


And the Pursuit of Happiness was originally an illustrated blog in The New York Times, chronicling Kalman’s yearlong trip across the USA. With drawings of George Washington’s dentures, Abe Lincoln’s dog Fido, and the Code of Hammurrabi, it’s a meditation on democracy like none before it — and now it’s a hardcover book.

There is a lot to savor in Kalman’s work. In her drawings, she turns objects into characters, giving a red velvet chair a human personality, convincing you that a piece of cherry pie is in a good mood. Martha Washington’s purple heels with buckles look like they’re tapping their toes on the page, and the faces of her people, bemused and beguiling, feel real.Re-reading Kalman’s And the Pursuit of Happiness post-Fourth of July fireworks made me wonder what George Washington would have thought of these colorful bombs bursting in air. Or of the Budweiser, American flag bikinis, and barbecues of the USA’s birthday celebration. Kalman’s explorations of the private lives of historical figures strip them of any textbook stuffiness, reminding you that they, too, had dental problems and pet dogs. The entire book is available online, so next time you’re procrastinating, why not read it?
RED Hearts guest poster Carey Dunne is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.

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