Thursday, December 5, 2013

Santa! by Rufus Butler Seder

Santa! by Rufus Butler Seder

Rating: 4.5 stars

I might be one of the few people who does not own one of Rufus Butler Seder's scanimation books, but I really do think they are neat.  My kids and I have checked them out from the library, examined friends' copies, and sat with them in many bookstores.  He has produced six books with clever illustrations that seem to magically move while the page bends.  Gallop! and Swing! and WaddleI were followed by Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz.  In each of these books, Seder manages to capture decades of his passion and experience in photography and moving art.  

I was curious about this guy Rufus Butler Seder so, as love the bigger picture of a story, I found out a little more about him and how he evolved into creating children's books.  Turns out he's fairly fascinating--as most artists are.  Rufus' father was a journalist/photographer as well as an inventor--Gus Seder liked to tinker with things to figure out how they worked, and then manipulate these same tools and get them do things slightly differently.  Exposed to his father's creativity, Rufus was also encouraged to invent and create and tinker as well.  Photography was a known subject, one that was both familiar and widely open with possibilities, so Rufus experimented with photography.  One of his first little creations was a book involving trick photography: He photographed his sister jumping outside on the trampoline and manipulated the individual pictures such that, when he rearranged the photographs, it looked as if she was flying around the backyard.  

What a delightful trick for a big brother to have!  

Rufus made several small movies, but returned to the idea of moving art when most two dimensional artwork was still.  He had seen several antique and contemporary photographs where part of the image moved--think of the slightly creepy face from the past that winks or smiles as you look away from the image.  This idea is called the "picket fence"--a bar obscuring one phase of movement while reversing another.  With a whole lot of inspiration and experimentation Rufus came up with a flat image that appeared to move in a really cool way.  It's the old idea of flip-art book (didn't you have one of these books as a kid?), but much, much better.  While much of his art is directed at grown ups, a children's book editor pointed out that a collection of his already-existing scanimation images of animals, when collected together into a small book, would be a fun children's book.  He was right: his five scanimation books are wildly popular. 

That's the back story of his sixth book, Santa!  I hope that's moderately interesting to you, but what is certainly interesting to you is the answer to the question: Will my child like this?

The simple answer: yes!  People of all ages really like this stuff, and they're fascinated by how the scanimation pictures work--probably because it seems pretty magical, even in the era of the entertaining and ubiquitous app.  "This is Santa unlike you've seen him before!" it says in the promotional flyer that accompanied this book.  That made me laugh but it is so true!  This is a really great version of behind-the-scenes Santa.  Unlike the normal images of him checking his list, overseeing the craftsmanship of toys, and guiding his sleigh across the night, this is playful Santa: he hula-hoops, unicycles, juggles candy canes, ice skates, and does a back flip.  It is light and fun and sweet; seeing Santa taking the time to be silly and playful is a wonderful reminder to anyone who picks up the book to be a little silly and a little playful themselves.  I think it's just great, and a fantastic book for any age.  Or maybe for a grandparent whose shelves need to include a few children's books that appeal to children of all ages for an extended amount of time. 

I suspect that after a while SantaI will get put on a shelf, but the moment it is pulled off again--whether that's months or years later, the child (or grown up!) will be entertained and fascinated all over again.  And maybe a little bit inspired to create and tinker and make something of their own.

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