Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Gift of Days: The Greatest Words to Live By

A Gift of Days: The Greatest Words to Live By
by Stephen Alcorn
Simon & Schuster, 2009
review copy provided by the publisher

I'm not sure this is a children's book, but I LOVE books of quotations and this one is unique and stunningly beautiful.

Each of the 366 quotes is from a different famous person on their birthday. Those featured are "famous activists and artists, athletes and writers, inventors and explorers, healers and politicians, musicians and moguls." There is a full-page block print portrait of a famous person on every double-page spread, each one stylistically different and perfectly capturing the essence of the person featured. There is more information about each of the people whose quotes are featured in the back of the book.

Check out the Alcorn Studio & Gallery and you'll recognize many books that Alcorn has illustrated.

I'm thinking this will make a FABULOUS gift book...

1 comment:

  1. A Gift of Days by Stephen Alcorn

    This book creates for the reader a beautiful tapestry of human experience that transcends time and space. The book offers children and adults the chance to celebrate each day of the year through contemplation of both words and images. Educators have come to see in the last few decades that individuals approach learning differently. Some of us are more oriented to the visual while others benefit more from contemplating the written word. Further, it has been shown that we process information differently when contemplating words as opposed to pictures. As the late Neil Postman pointed out: “words and pictures are different universes of discourse…… a picture may indeed be worth a thousand words, but it is in no sense the equivalent of one thousand words, or one hundred, or two hundred….” (Postman.) The educational value of Alcorn’s A Gift of Days is that the author offers the reader both approaches. That is, together and separately the beautifully crafted images and the carefully selected quotations find their way into the reader’s consciousness through different paths in the brain making for a wholesome and comprehensive learning experience.

    The educational value of A Gift of Days is further enhanced by Mr. Alcorn’s pedagogical skills. Stephen Alcorn, a recognized educator in his own right, knows the value of humility and respect as integral to the process of teaching and learning. Rather than pushing a personal agenda on his readers, Mr. Alcorn is more concerned with teaching us how to think as opposed to what to think. Each carefully crafted image contains symbolic nuances that encourage readers to see beyond the simple portrait to a more far reaching representation of the subject’s individual humanity. Both historical and contemporary figures are presented as much more than one dimensional beings as they are often depicted in other forms of mass media. They are presented as complex individuals with human emotion structured into their expressions. The sweat created flood pouring from Ray Charles, the twinkle in Karl Marx’s eye, or the representation of Walt Disney’s inner Mickey Mouse (or, is it Mickey’s inner Walt?) all provide the reader with new ways to think about these individuals, their inner realities and the social world they inhabited in new ways.

    This wonderful book defies easy classification. Icons from the entire political spectrum are featured making the Book apolitical in nature. To those that would find any agenda here I would urge them to read the Book again. A Gift of Days is not educational or written for leisure reading. It is both. It is more as it combines the joy of a light read with the pleasure of deep contemplative reflection. And, while A Gift of Days is neither spiritual nor secular, one can achieve that moment of oneness with the universe by absorbing the sense of the “moment” represented by this work. For the brief moment of time that we contemplate each day’s gift, we are offered a chance to transcend place, time, space, the limitations of our own egos or world view and experience what Philosopher’s have referred to as the “oceanic” feeling where we are at one with the universe…… there is no me or you or Ray Charles or Shakespeare. There is just being. This book is a celebration of all that is human, all that is life and all that is. It is truly a “gift” from the archives of Stephen Alcorn’s soul to his readers. Taking the time to read this book will result in a subtle transformation of the spirit that has moved this reader from a sense of despair for the human species to a more hopeful and celebratory view of human history, human accomplishment and hope for the species and the planet. Thank you Stephen Alcorn.

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