Monday 3 June 2013

Magpie's Second Artful Reading Review

Happy Monday, anyone dropping by and welcome to my second book review for Darcy's amazing ARC  I chose Steven Amsterdam's 'What the Family Needed', which I discovered through my local independent bookshop's website. I did put it on my book-shelf gadget, but when I added others it vanished due to my rubbish technological skills! Well, this novel was not a perfect one, but I did enjoy it tremendously. Amsterdam writes with humour and something sometimes underrated - kindness! You feel that he actually likes his characters and that he has affection for the human race in general!
The novel begins with a visit. Giordana and her mother and brother, Ben have turned up at their aunt and uncle's house. Giordana's mum is going to divorce her dad and the family is about to change forever. Nothing special about that, you might say, but Alex, Giordana's little cousin in his Superhero suit starts by asking Giordana what she would wish for if she could choose and then things just 'take off'. The novel spans thirty years with each member of the family discovering they can do something extraordinary courtesy of Alex, although they don't know this. We are shown the effect this has on them and surprisingly this provides some quite profound insights into human nature. How it feels to be invisible; to be able to hear other's thoughts or to swim faster and further than you ever dreamed or to make people fall in love are explored with wit and tenderness. Poignantly Alex, who has this amazing gift to grant wishes develops from quirky little boy into troubled teenager then lonely adult and finally returns to the warmth of his family . Ben's discovery that he can fly, taking his baby son on flights, along with Alex's dad who discovers that he can change anything that has happened except the death of his beloved wife are the most memorable and moving moments in this very original and enjoyable novel. I really wanted to find out how each family member used his or her gift. However, the flaw in the novel was that, in the way of fairy tales, no explanation was ever given of how or why Alex had this amazing gift to bestow on his family even though they never truly understood him; or maybe this was the novel's message, that we can easily overlook family members' hidden talents.
I really wanted to illustrate this novel in 3D again. There is a bar in the novel called 'The Lion and the Witch' and customers enter it through a wardrobe. I wanted to create an enchanted wardrobe featuring some of the characters. If you click on the images you can see in a little more detail.
The starting point was just a flat doodle of all the interconnected stories. I then scanned this into my computer and reduced it so that it would fit into one of Retro Cafe Art's box shrines, designed to hold ATCS. I hand-coloured the background using Paper Artsy Fresco paints. Up above the enchanted 'wardrobe' is a tiny mini-shrine from RCA which represents home and family, the heart of the novel.
Here is a closer view of the 'wardrobe'. I tried to make the interior seem like a garden opening into a world of possibilities for the characters. The sun and the moon represent the passing of time as the novel progresses. The house stands on tiny 'ivory' dice legs on a chipboard base painted with Treasure Gold to suggest the playfulness of the novel.
Although Ben doesn't literally have wings, I felt they were needed to show he could fly. I showed him at the point in the novel when he wants to show his incredulous young wife that he does have the power of flight and leaps out of their apartment window; I thought the little figure again from RCA did look like he was poised for flight if you placed him on the edge. The house is on a little chipboard island I made painted with Treasure Gold.

I painted the sides of the house with Treasure Gold, after I had used the marvellous Paper Artsy Grunge Paste through a stencil to give the impression the 'wardrobe' had carved sides. The little figures at the top are swimmers resting after a strenuous few circuits of the lake, as Natalie, an ordinary wife and mother receives the gift of extraordinary swimming ability and the sense of control and freedom this gives her is exhilarating.
Here is a view of the back, Grunge pasted  through a 'Crafters' Workshop' stencil with a stamp by Sandra Evertson from her 'Petite Whimsies' collection. He is a little clockman juggling with stars and this reminded me of Alex granting wishes for the family as they lived out their lives.
I just loved exploring the ideas of this novel through art. Thanks Darcy for giving us this opportunity to create and share. Now I'm off to have a peek at what other readers and creative artists have been interpreting.


  1. Julie Ann Lee, you've listed a few reasons why I like one of my favorite writers: Terry Pratchett. His tales show a lot of the darkness that covers the human condition, but it is done with humor and through characters I've fallen in love with and admire. Even his villains have more than redeemable qualities.

    Your art is incredible. To take something right out of the book and give it 3D shape. Yum! Love the colors, the flowers on the back, and the sense of reality of the front. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Your art is magical, Julie Ann...and your review makes me want to read Terry Pratchett...I've seen her books in the bookstore but will pick one up next time! Sounds like my kind of humanity in writing. Thanks for that...

  3. Wow this is beautiful, sounds an interesting book. May have to put on my list.


  4. Such an interesting review, and beautifully interpreted with your 3D artwork. I think you have a very original take on the books you have read and your creativity is awesome! Love that little man juggling the stars.

    Janet xx

  5. Oh wow Julie it's gorgeous, the book sounds good and your interpretation through are is amazing. I'm afraid I am a huge fan of James Patterson, Tess Gerritson, Kathy Richs etc, more on the thriller/detective then fantasy, not so sure I could interpret those lol. Beautiful work :-) Hugs Kezzy xxx

  6. WOW Julie this is amazing, what a wonderful interpretation of the novel xx

  7. Wonderful interpretation of your take on the novel which, although not my normal choice of literature, you have made sound a very interesting and desirable read.

    Lesley Xx

  8. Wonderful artwork, so original. Good book review too.
    Jen x

  9. Your box is like a little theatre scene, a nice different way to present the artwork.
    I enjoyed reading your review, but I know it's not for me. But that doesn't stop me appreciating your point of view on the book. Well done.

  10. The book first, before I gush about your creation :)

    This story actually sounds really interesting, I think I would enjoy it. I do love a book, film, TV show, whatever where the characters are portrayed with affection. Too many books and shows are ruined for me by the fact that, although the story is great, I just don't LIKE the characters. How sad though that the little boy with the amazing gift grows up so lonely.

    Now - your amazing assemblage - I love EVERYTHING about this, from your scaled down artwork in the back (what a clever idea to draw something bigger then reduce it rather than trying to draw all that teeny detail to scale), to the shrine upon a shrine and the teeny people. Wonderful!

  11. I love the idea that we may not see the hidden talents of our family. Great review and amazing piece of assemblage art. Beautiful.

  12. wow ..just wow. Your 3d artwork is stunning, totally love your mixed media pieces.

  13. This is a wonderful review, your enthusiasm for the characters and their lives really shines through...and your project!!! I love everything about it...but especially love the 2 teeny figures sun bathing on the roof lol :D XXX

  14. The art work is stunning I thought the review intriguing thank you for sharing this little treasure Dxx

  15. I'm in total Awe here, don't even know what to write after looking at your box of magic! Eeehhh... ♥♥♥
    And what was the book about again? Never mind, to distracted by the endless things going on in the box... Off to drool some more on my keyboard... Thanks! :)

  16. This book sounds so interesting - I think I'm going to hunt down a copy. I love the way you've described it and what you took from it. I also adore your art work - the man poised with wings - can't tell you how much I love that. Beautiful. Beautiful.

  17. Your post brightened my day. The book sounds just the thing to bring some wonder into life and the art work is lovely. Thanks for sharing this.

    Sue from Brussels


Due to high level of spam recently I have enabled comment moderation on this blog, so any comments will be moderated before appearing on the blog.