[Nonfiction Wednesday] Seeing the World through Sasek’s Eyes – London, Britain, and Munich (Part 2 of 2)

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Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year.

We have just launched our new reading theme for July – August: Diversified – Rainbow Colours of Literature.

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Last week, I shared the first part of my post on Miroslav Sasek’s travel books for children. Today, I am putting these cities together as I will be leaving for Munich this Friday evening and will also be going to London afterwards. What a gift to be able to travel the world through Miroslav Sasek’s picturebooks. There is also an updated Publishers’ Note found at the end of each book that provides important updates on what the city/country is like now since the time the books were written.

IMG_2361This Is Britain

Written and Illustrated byMiroslav Sasek
Published byPublished by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. This edition first published in 2008 by UNIVERSE Publishing. Copyright by Miroslav Sasek in 1974.
Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Similar to Sasek’s This is Greece, this book is a tad more dense with historical information and description of places than I would like. However, given the fact that this was initially published back in 1974 – B. G. (Before Google and Before Wikipedia), much of the information that Sasek presents here is indeed extremely valuable.

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And in contrast to reading the encyclopedia – which is the source of random factual information at the time, this is a much more enjoyable read.

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I was overwhelmed by the number of castles and cathedrals:

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Each image reminded me a little bit of a postcard – the pages of the book are also printed in thick heavy paper, contributing even more to that postcard-vibe. Cambridge and Oxford also figured prominently here, in addition to Shakespeare’s Stratford-Upon-Avon.

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I still marvel at Sasek’s eye for detail and the amount of research he needed to do to put both art and text together.

This Is LondonIMG_2370

Written and Illustrated by: Miroslav Sasek
Published byPublished by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. This edition first published in 2004 by UNIVERSE Publishing. Copyright by Miroslav Sasek in 1959
Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Now this is one of my favourites in Sasek’s series. Similar to This is Venice, this book shows more economy of language and is simply bursting with Sasek’s visual puns and wordplay.

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While it is still littered with relevant factual information, I thought it was not as heavily done with Sasek also making an effort to engage the reader and pique their interest – e.g. “If you like music – try the Royal Albert Hall” or “If you like flowers – try lavender, a traditional English scent.” I particularly liked how the queues were mentioned as significant in the daily lives of Londoners:

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and of course the underground train which reminded me of Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

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A few images also made me chuckle aloud:

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It is clear that Sasek had a blast while he was making this book. I will definitely make it a point to find a few of the things he mentioned here while I am in London: the W. H. Smith & Son bookstalls among them.

IMG_2563This Is Munich

Written and Illustrated by: Miroslav Sasek
Published byPublished by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. This edition first published in 2012 by UNIVERSE Publishing. Copyright by Miroslav Sasek in 1959
Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This introduction to the Bavarian capital has all the trademark Sasek wit as evident in both images and text. There were two things that stood out for me as I read this book: Munich is all about beer and sausages. It is the birthplace of Oktoberfest after all.

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I didn’t know that beer could actually go well with white sausages, radishes, and bretzel. But as the adage goes: when in Rome.. or when in Munich in this case.

There is also the usual collection of palaces, cathedrals, and universities included here (Nymphenburg Palace, University of Munich, Academy of Fine Arts, St. Johann Nepomuk, and Holy Trinity Church):

I was hoping to find more information about the International Youth Library that is situated in the Blutenburg Castle, founded by Jella Lepman in 1949. This book by Sasek was first published in 1959 so I was hoping that Sasek was already in the know about the world’s largest library for international children’s and youth literature – but no go. Perhaps it was not as known as it is now. But I am definitely looking forward to spending an entire week there. I only wish I could stay longer, but alas, our semester will be starting quite soon. Expect lots of pictures from Munich and Worcester (UK) in the coming weeks!

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#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 38, 39, 40 (25)

  1. have a fabulous trip

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  2. Have fun in Munich and London, two of my favorite places. I love these This is books for introducing kids to other cities. You mention Jella Lepman and I wondered if you have ever read Books for the Children of the World: The Story of Jella Lepman by Sydelle Pearl. It’s about how she brought books back to the children in Germany right after the war. It’s a book that is definitely your cup of tea.

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  3. Have fun travels. I can’t comprehend how how so many people I know are able to travel but I’m glad they are. The world is a beautiful place.

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  4. These books are still wonderful, Myra. If we actually take the grandchildren off to Europe, I’ll be sure to remember them. The oldest has already been several times. Hope you enjoy your trip!

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  5. Thanks for telling us about these books. We both have plans to travel to Europe with our families and these books will come in handy.

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  6. As usual, you’ve spotlighted some books that have amazing illustrations!

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