2. THE FIRST BOOK OF JAZZ
Prolific poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist Langston Hughes is considered one of the fathers of jazz poetry, a literary art form that emerged in the 1920s and eventually became the foundation for modern hip-hop. In 1954, he set out to educate young readers about the culture he so loved. The First Book of Jazz, which you might recall as one of our favorite children's books by famous authors of literature for grown-ups, became the first-ever children's book to review American music, and to this day arguably the best.
Hughes covered every notable aspect of jazz, from the evolution of its eras to its most celebrated icons to its geography and sub-genres, and made a special point of highlighting the essential role of African-American musicians in the genre's coming of age. Even his discussion of the technical aspects of jazz -- rhythm, percussion, improvisation, syncopation, blue notes, harmony -- is so eloquent and engaging that, rather than overwhelming the young reader, it embodies the genuine joy of playing.
Alongside the book, Hughes released a companion record, The Story of Jazz, featuring Hughes' lively, vivid narration of jazz history in three tracks, each focusing on a distinct element of the genre. You can here them here.
3. THE SERIF FAIRY
From our friends at Mark Batty comes The Serif Fairy -- a charming book for type geeks and their progeny, which follows The Serif Fairy as she hunts for her lost wing across and airy, meticulously designed typographic landscape. She wanders through Garamond Forest, the Zentenar Gate, the Futura City, and Shelley Lake, where she falls into the water to find her lost wing, then rises to the air revived and full of magic again.
It's an archetypal story of quest and belonging, told through a unique vehicle that educates and entertains at the same time, letting children learn about typography without realizing they are. Originally conceived in German by writer and graphic designer Rene Siegfried, the story's sensitively English translation by Joel Mann takes nothing away from its poetic fable-like quality.
The book won the 2007 Type Director's Club award for best children's book.
Seasons by French artist Blexbolex, which you might recall, is more meditative and abstract than the other books in this omnibus, but no less profound and stimulating for the young reader. With his signature retro-inspired minimalism, Blexbolex uses the metaphor of seasonality to reflect on a number of life's big themes and the subtle dualities of being human. Four spreads depict the same landscape during each season, with a single word or phrase in bold block-letters on each page. But don't breeze by the seeming simplicity of the concept -- many of the thoughtful pairings on the beautiful double-page spreads give you pause and make you wonder why and how the two words go together, gently nudging you towards a philosophical meditation on the seasons, change, and impermanence.