Don Punchatz : A Retrospective (Centipede Press, 2019)
This is the first book in the Centipede Artist series, which consists of smaller volumes – about an inch taller and an inch and a half wider than a mass market paperback – which contain two to four hundred pages of art by a master illustrator. As with all Centipede Press books, the production standards are amazing, the production run is limited to a small quantity, and the price is high. In this case, as it’s already sold through the limited run, prices have already jumped to over a hundred dollars on the secondary market.
The obvious question is why I’d be reviewing this book, if it’s something most readers aren’t going to see? Here is the answer: it’s amazing.
Punchatz was an illustrator whose work was memorable and distinctive; whether it was the cube covers of the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov, the cover of the Doom video game, his ad work for Pepsi or his political illustrations (including a conservative Mount Rushmore and “Ronald Reagan Casts Jimmy Carter Out Of Political Heaven”) his images mixed realism and fantasy with dynamic colors and geometric figures.
Art books can be expensive, but they’re also often immense. This one isn’t but the smaller size doesn’t diminish its effectiveness. It’s an engrossing aggregation of decades of art, and worth picking up if you’ve got the cash and have the opportunity.
(If you don’t have the opportunity, you can at least get an idea of his style by googling his name and investigating the images which arise.)
Air Ferrets Aloft by Richard Bach (Scribners, 2002)
Does your child love airplanes? I mean, do they really love airplanes? If they’ve spent time playing computer flight simulators, this might be the perfect book for you.
Bach, who gained fame writing Jonathan Livingston Seagull, returns to animal stories with a book that was written both for children who love airplanes and for adults seeking a little religious affirmation. The two entwined storylines, about a pair of ferret pilots with pleasant but unfulfilled lives and an angel who wishes for his granddaughter to get over the grief of losing him on Earth, seem sweet and well-realized, but the story bogs down in the minutiae of flight details.
As the reader progresses through the story, it becomes apparent that Bach studied flight in order to present a story that had the ring of truth. Moving further into it will convince the reader that Bach is actually a pilot (he is.) By the time one finishes the book one will think Bach was trying to pad a story by filling a fifth of the book with unnecessary specifics about instrumentation and equipment.
If a kid loves airplanes, that will be a net positive, not a negative. As for the rest of it, a simple affirmation of hope for the world is probably a good thing for both children and adults right now.