Books on Art and Artistry


Creatures of the Deep
By Ernst Haeckel. Pop-ups by Maike Biederstadt
(Prestel, $29.95, ages 5 and up)

Doctor and biologist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) made detailed drawings of sea creatures and sea plants in his 1998 book Art Forms in Nature, which paper engineer Maike Biederstadt has condensed into seven pop ups, each surrounded by shapes similar to the ones Haeckel depicted in his book.

Haeckel had a theory about the unity of all natural things as expressed through mathematical symmetry and design. The pop-ups show magnificent variations of ocean life, with various fauna that are spiky, spaghetti-like, puffer-fish-like, hard to tell apart from flora, symmetrical like starfish or multi-limbed like octopi.

The book has no words at all, except for the barest itemization on the inside front cover, filling the imagination but leaving much room for further research and exploration of the elegant but bizarre pop-ups. 


Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
By Kay Haring. Illustrated by Robert Neubecker
(Penguin, $16.99, ages 5-8)

Kay Haring’s informative, lively and touching biography of her older brother, Keith Haring, comes from her unique perspective on the life and passion for drawing that made him an inspirational presence in the 1980s New York art scene. Keith would not stop drawing, even on school tests. He created different symbols for letters to fashion his own alphabet and gave away his drawings to people who admired them. When he moved to New York, he drew on walls and sidewalks where the work would be erased or washed away. He once cleaned garbage away from a wall to paint on it, only to get a ticket for defacing the wall, but nothing deterred his drawing.

Once he became famous and sought after, Keith Haring shared his wealth with needy children and encouraged them to draw with him on such projects as a huge image of the Statue of Liberty to celebrate its centennial. Illustrator Robert Neubecker has incorporated many of Keith’s drawings into his own illustrations, which portray Keith as a fresh-faced, eager kid filling his world with world-class art from a world-class heart.

Keith was from Berks County, PA, and proceeds from the book will benefit the county’s youth as a continuing tribute to the artist’s life, passion and goodness, which is perpetuated by a proud and sharing sister. 


In Focus
By Libby Walden
(360 Degrees, $22.99, ages 3 and up)

Walden’s encyclopedic book covers multiple subjects — like the ocean, home, landmarks, animals and transportation — with close-ups, cross-sections and cutaways. The book’s jumping off point is the basic fact that life in the ocean began about 3 billion years ago. The breadth of subjects and the details provided whets the reader’s curiosity as much as it sates it.

The book’s foldouts offer basic information on the outside — for example, that Bartolomeo Christofori invented the piano — and provide more specific details on the inside, such as that each piano has 7500 working parts. The evocative illustrations provide accurate but telling depictions of many objects in many places in the world.


The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains
By Jon Morris
(Quirk, $24.95, all ages)

A companion to the earlier, well-received title The Legion of Regrettable Super Heroes, the book focuses on super villains from the perspective that many evil, corrupt or reprehensible characters are more interesting than the good guys. Superman, the inspiration for many successors and competitors, started out fighting evil human beings, but human villains soon gave way to all sorts of creatures from comic book writers’ imaginations.

The author traces villainous trends through the golden age (1938-1949), silver age (1950-1969) and the modern age that stretches from 1970 to present day. Without being too serious or pretentious, the descriptions of the evil characters are thorough and well researched, giving their heritage, actions and fate. Each era’s villains appear alphabetically with a page of description and actions preceded or surrounded by one or more pages of excerpts from the comics to show the evil-doer in action.

The book celebrates the imaginations of those who could combine bold, outrageous action with realistic visuals of the bizarre and confrontational. A quirky view of comic book history, it reflects changes in society via a colorful and informative treatment.


Frank Lipsius is a contributing writer to MetroKids


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here