Sometimes when someone tells you about a book, you have the feeling it’s practically written for you. In Search of the Goliathus Hercules by Jennifer Angus is a Victorian middle grade fantasy about Henri Bell, a young boy who can speak to insects–which sounded tremendously exciting to me since I think insects can be quite beautiful. Added to that was the tidbit that Henri’s aunt is a button collector, and I was absolutely smitten! I had to have a look at this one immediately.
This book is thoroughly charming, written in playful, friendly language with a real love and appreciation for curious minds, and it’s filled with whimsical scenes that catch the imagination. It’s the perfect, cozy book to read aloud at bedtime!
We recommend this delightfully old-fashioned, intelligent book to those who love the inquisitive nature of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, the gentle, quirky humor of Roald Dahl, or the shivery insect scenes in The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls.
This novel is also beautifully illustrated with drawings by the author herself, as well as with period photographs that add to the reading experience immeasurably. The author is a well-established artist who uses real insects in stunning exhibitions that are displayed in museums and galleries all over the world. (I am kicking myself because I apparently missed an amazing exhibit here in LA a couple of years ago.)
Her background certainly informs the book in a very tangible way, and as part of the official blog tour for the book, we’re very pleased that the author is here to share her experience with working with this unusual medium.
Jennifer Angus on Collecting Insects!
At the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I teach textile design. I am interested in the way pattern functions as a kind of language. Without written word a pattern can identify one’s gender, ethnicity, position in a community or even marital status. In the oral story telling tradition a pattern upon cloth is often the starting point for a very tall tale. The scale of a pattern is important too, smaller designs being considered appropriate for children and larger ones for older people or interiors applications.
My work is dependent upon the supposition that there is a cultural understanding of pattern. When viewers enter one of my exhibitions, they are greeted with something they think they know, that is, a patterned wallpaper that might be in someone’s home. Surprise, surprise though! The pattern is created with one of the things most people don’t want in their houses – insects!
Repetition is inherent to pattern and thus the notion of infinitude is closely linked, for when does a pattern end? The connection I have made between insects and pattern is not arbitrary. Scientists have identified 950,000 insect species, and the beetle (Coleoptera) population alone makes up one quarter of the animal population. Presumably there are other species which have yet to be identified or to evolve, thus one could believe that discovery might continue to perpetuity.
For many viewers of my work, the experience is overwhelming for one is literally surrounded by hundreds of insects in kaleidoscopic patterns. My installations are to some degree inspired by the wallpapers associated with the William Morris and Liberty companies of the mid to late 19th century. These companies created wallpapers and textiles that were lush and abundant with flora and fauna. My end result is a kind of Victorian fancy because I create over the top environments in which the evidence of “horror vacui” (the fear of empty space) is in full display. Emotions range and rapidly fluctuate from fear to awe to distaste to wonder. The beauty one observes in the pattern and the apprehension we feel toward insects creates a tension.
Collecting is an important theme in my novel and my artwork. It can be an obsession. When is a collection complete? There is always just one more thing, over and over again that a person thinks they need. Eventually, anyone who has ever owned a collection discovers that they don’t own the collection – the collection owns them! Many are a step away from being on an episode of “Extreme Hoarders!”
For any collector one the dilemmas they face is the question of what will happen to the collection when they’re gone because often their family has no interest in it. As one nears the end of life finding a good home for their treasures becomes consuming. Henri Bell faces this question in the novel. Ultimately owning a collection is really about sharing and storytelling because often the history of the object or the story of its acquisition is more fascinating than the object itself. What is the point of owning something if you have no one to share it with?
The blog tour continues tomorrow with a stop at Cecelia Bedelia!
Win an autographed copy of this charming MG book!
Thanks to Albert Whitman, we have one signed finished copy of the book to offer to our readers. This is a gorgeously illustrated hardback, and a lovely keepsake if you collect quality children’s books!
To win a copy, all you need to do is leave a thoughtful comment below telling us
1. an email where we may contact you
2. why you’d like a copy of this book!
You may also earn additional entries by tweeting about the contest daily; just come back and leave another comment with a link to your tweet when it’s posted, and one extra entry may be earned every day through tweets. Please note that you MUST have a public profile so that we can verify the extra entries.
Open to US and Canadian residents aged 13 and older, or 18 and older with parental permission. Please see our giveaway policies for complete details. Contest ends 6/20/13.
Suggested tweet (or use your own) with link:
Win a copy of IN SEARCH OF GOLIATHUS HERCULES, a charming Victorian MG fantasy about a boy who can speak to insects! http://bit.ly/11rP5AB
About the Author
Jennifer Angus is a professor in the Design Studies department at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She received her education at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (BFA) and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA). Jennifer has exhibited her work internationally including Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and Spain. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council and Wisconsin Arts Board grants. Based on the storyline created for one of her art installations, In Search of Goliathus Hercules is her first book, and is available now.
Our thanks to Albert Whitman Co. for providing the prize for this giveaway, as well as for a review copy. Photographs are courtesy of the author, publisher, or are our own.