Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Outside Over There









Children’s books hold a very special resonance – associated with the intense joy of bedtime reading and trips to the local library. They are little, secluded worlds. The smudging of time means that memories of beloved texts are often partial, but the impact remains. I think we have an attachment to these books that differs from the more mature passion for the printed page. The brevity of picture books, combined with the illustrations (or the extensive descriptions in texts for slightly older readers), means that they are often imagined and remembered visually. 

My favourite childhood authors included Margaret Mahy, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Eva Ibbotson and the late Maurice Sendak. All these writers, alongside others, created characters I wanted to talk to and places I wished to visit. It was a privilege to experience their ideas and stories. Of course, I didn’t realise this at the time – I just took it as a given that such tales existed, with no thought of the exciting (but grueling) process of actually creating a children’s book. Some might think that short sentences and basic language are signs of an easy, quickly finished job. On the contrary, the restrictions imposed by writing for a younger audience make it a long and tricky task. It also appears to have become harder in recent years as the confines of children’s publishing grow narrower. I delighted in the cheeky wit of books such as ‘Reckless Ruby’, in which the protagonist refused to grow up and marry a prince – instead rebelling by performing daredevil stunts and smoking cheroots until she was sick – and loved the surreal and strange plot of Sendak’s ‘In the Night Kitchen’. I wonder if either would be published now? These were stories that didn’t shy away from or ‘sanitize’ life, but instead reveled in it – both the good parts and the bad. Many fairytales may have removed the real endings in which Cinderella’s stepsisters have their eyes pecked by birds and mermaid Ariel dissolves into sea-foam (the latter dubbed excessively cruel by Sendak), but Max lives among monsters in ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and Ida’s baby sister is stolen away in ‘Outside Over There’. They are fantasies, but ones that explore very real feelings and anxieties.

When I was little, I went through phases of concentrating on a single book for several weeks, before switching allegiance to another. I spent at least a month on ‘Outside Over There’ – whose title has similar connotations to ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, with both examining the danger and monsters that exist beyond the safe boundaries of home. I asked for it to be read to me every evening, and then lingered over the pictures during the day. The faceless goblins terrified me, but I was bewitched – perhaps fascinated by my own fear. There is a particular image of Ida in her “mama’s yellow rain cloak” that is extraordinary. I’m not sure if it is the detailed folds of fabric, the expression on her face or the view beyond the window, but the illustration is haunting. ‘Outside Over There’ was Sendak’s favourite work, despite its neglect in comparison with its better-known counterparts. It is the most extraordinary, and the most disturbing, of his picture books.  

(Image from 'Outside Over There')

It's easy to start analyzing these stories from an adult perspective, and they certainly do yield all kinds of suggestions and interpretations. They are also just as rich on subsequent readings – losing none of the magic that sometimes rubs off with age. But Sendak’s books were primarily written and drawn for children, and that's the part of the self that they should call to. When I was younger they excited my imagination, entertained my senses and gave a snatch of the large, scary, exhilarating world. Now, I see them as very powerful and fragile, but also beautiful. Sendak took complex themes and simplified them. He understood the mindset of a child, as demonstrated in ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, tapping into the desire to escape and run around a strange land.

I felt that my outfit fitted well as some kind of fashion hybrid of the two books mentioned here – full of the colours and layers that a style-conscious ‘wild thing’ might wear, with a cape from my grandma thrown on top like Ida’s in ‘Outside Over There’ (although mine is a little less impressive).  The shirt is Aquascutum (a present), and the dress, sleeveless cardigan and belt were all from various charity shops.

Emma Hill of Mulberry cited ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ as the key stimulus behind her AW12 show, and that title seems to have become the byword for anything vaguely furry, shaggy or feathery. I’m not sure how Sendak would have felt about his work being used as inspiration for a collection, but there is still something rather wonderful about seeing such a beloved book re-interpreted in fashion form. However, I think that the belted scarves, woody shades of honey and brown, soft leather, shearling and messy patterns of the Mulberry show could appear in only the most elegant of rumpuses – and, although I thought the floral dresses were delectable, I doubt that they would survive a mad dash through woods and brambles (especially not in those heels!) I’d suggest a pair of sturdy Chelsea boots, like mine from a charity shop, for exploring and adventuring.

 Maurice Sendak was a fantastic artist, writer and man – as well known for his irascible nature and outspoken views as for his work. The many tributes, anecdotes and articles describing favourite books are a testament to his lasting impact on so many lives. His contribution to children’s literature was incredible. 

37 comments:

bollykecks said...

Photo number 3- WHAT A CUTIE. <333333

shipshapeandbristolfashion said...

I don't think I've ever come across a child that doesn't enjoy reading - it's a shame this doesn't always transcend to adulthood! Inadvertently or not, the shot of you posing on rocks by a riverbed reminds me of Peter Pan - as if you're about to take flight.

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

I've never thought about the connection of books to my life-long love of textiles and clothing, but I realize as I read this, that there were several books in my childhood that had a huge impact on me. I don't remember many of the titles, but there were descriptions of jewels and laces, silky blue fabrics along with homespun and worn leather. There were pictures, as impactful as the yellow cloak picture would have been.

I also used to indulge in foods similar to what the characters were eating. I vividly remember jumping into bed with a hunk of bread and cheese as I read Heidi.

Thank you for the lovely foray back into my childhood. I miss the mystery and magic of those images. Perhaps that's why your outfits and pictures resonate for me; we may have read some of the same stories.

Angie said...

I love your pictures.. you look so great! :)
kisses from meeresgrund

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

lovely outfit!

Natalie Suarez said...

so amazing! love u! xx

natalieoffduty.blogspot.com

Katrina said...

This look is very much like a mori gitl style. And i have a similar experience with picture books)

>'.'<

Closet Fashionista said...

LOVE this outfit!!! It totally reminds me of Where The Wild Things Are!
That was one of my favorite books when I was little. I was the same way, I would memorize my favorites and I can still remember some of them today. I also really love Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave, but that is more of a pre-teen book (I did a post on it a while ago)
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

Yen said...

I remember a C.S Lewis's saying: "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."
It's still true you know. I keep reading again books that I myself have been treasuring since I was younger, and the more you read, the more you realize that you have yet reached that threshold of adulthood. For some of us, that process may take a life time. We may garner more knowledge as we grow, but we all so lose some senses that only a child can summon. Sometimes children books are for general readers, but publishers, parents and writers choose to switch them to the title to set up the rights for bed-time stories that we once children proudly owned the privilege. Perhaps they should not be categorized as books for children and books for adults, but rather, books for growing-up and books for grown-up. After all, we children will never stop growing, even when beards and grays, and wrinkles, and the blurry visions and the trembling hands, and the bending backs may tell us otherwise.

Roald Dahl is my favorite author too. I always imagine worlds about his books. He gives you the thrills, the motivation to move on in life and sometimes the love you'd preserve for it. I also love Arabian nights, they are my under-pillow recipes for endless noons and nights. I never tasted the feelings of being read for bed time, but I sure knew how to turn myself on in the imaginative world I built for Sinbad and Ali Baba.

Lastly, I love your look, I wish I could actually benefit from it, but unfortunately, I don't have the opportunities to inherit the legacy saved in the beauty of the countryside every single day like you do, which in turns tighten me in stuffed jeans and crew collars.
But I shouldn't complain, cities have their own merits. Do you know, fairies swamp over the skies of city lights at night? If you can here the rok rak, tik tak of the rain, there is a high chance that some are hiding under the roof of your patio to escape from being wet all over!

Willow said...

Many of the books and authors you've mentioned I am not familiar with (except for possibly Roald Dahl) but I love the fond way you write about them. I have only seen the movie of 'Where the Wild Things Are' but have on many occasions, wanted to read it. When I was younger I would always take in everything a story or fairytale had to offer - even with the dark twists. I often find myself reading some of the children's stories I enjoyed when I was younger to experience that same feeling of whimsy and adventure that I'd often get from them. Beautiful photos, I love the second and last one.

Autumn said...

First I gotta say. The outfit your wearing in this post is amazing!!! I love pulling out books from my childhood and reading them from an adult perspective and remembering my childhood one. I also adore reading traditional fairy tales.
~
Autumn

100%soie said...

what a beautiful look again !!!! The skirt is beautiful and the colours are so lovely together !!! great post, as usual !!

http://100pour100soie.blogspot.fr/

Anupriya DG said...

All those layers you've put on seem to be one seamless outfit.....so beautifully have you put them together... :)

And yes...our childhood books did have a kind of enchanting effect on us! I remember getting mesmerized by the apparently exciting lives of the young school girls of St. Clares so much so that I was literally inseparable from my Enid Blytons. Modern day children's stories can never be at par with those classics of our times...

Stephanie said...

I love the layers in this outfit. Gorgeous photos!

Yellow Elephant Clothing

Lydia said...

I still have many of the books I had as a kid-- the imagery in them is so inspiring. I love this poncho-- you look prairie/Native.

Alex said...

Very beautiful natural pictures!

SabinePsynopsis said...

If I had to name 3 books that were incredibly important to my childhood it would be 'Pippi Longstockings', Janosch's 'Come to Iglau, Crocodile' and 'Where the Wild Things Are'... All beautiful books and so representative for the anti-authoriarian ideas of the 70s. On a very different note... What an amazing colour combination, Roz. You're such a stunner (how often have I said that now?)! xoxo

The Foolish Aesthete said...

I was sooo sad to hear of Sendak's passing, having loved, read and re-read so many of his picture books, their images imprinted in my mind. I still hear the narrator's voice in the animated version of "In the Night Kitchen" and imagine Max's naughty tantrum accompanied by "I'll eat you up!" And I love the imagery of his words like sailing "in and out of weeks and through a day..." Childhood isn't childhood without monsters and wild rumpuses and delightful books about them.


Oh, and I absolutely love your cream knit dress and cosy poncho -- perfect garb for curling up with a good book. -- J xx

vintagevixenarts said...

A Child's Garden Of Verses, was the one my grandma gifted me that contained several illustrator's that made me want to jump through the page's in their world's. Book's come to life don't they?:)

Miu said...

Beautiful pictures!
Of the authors you are listing I liked Enid Blyton and Eva Ibbotson as a child, too.

West End Girl said...

A very beautiful model and outfit, as usual. I got a very surprising jolt when I scrolled down to see Ida, in her mama's yellow rain cloak. Outside Over There is one of the books that seems to creep up on me when I'm not expecting it... very occasionally I am reminded of the ice-baby and the goblins, but I had quite forgotten how stunning the illustration is - memory had not done it justice. After reading your post I promptly got the book out and read it. And then read it again.
My favourite illustration is still the one of Ida flying backwards on her cloak, like she's floating on a golden cloud :)
Thank you again for a thought-provoking post.

West End Girl x

www.onegirlandaticket.blogspot.co.uk

Hope Adela Pasztor said...

I remember reading "Outside Over There" with my mother and siblings as a child! We would constantly check it out from the local library; my mom would imitate a goblin horn and we would all dance around in a circle and then pretend to melt into a stream. Ahhh....those sweet childhood memories from long ago! You look beautiful, by the way. I love that fringed shawl!

http://pinkchampagnefashion.blogspot.com/

Pearl Westwood said...

I think book illustrations are often underrated for the impact they have on a young mind. I remember so many seemed odd to me, scary, wonderful but all enticing. I loved the ones most with tiny details, a hidden ladybird say.

SILVIA said...

such a great blog honey!!! ;D
xoxo

Leah R. said...

beautiful photos! Your posts are truly inspiring and very interesting to read!I love reading my favourite childhood books again now that I am older and I see them from a compeletely different persepective too! xx
http://www.thefrillseekers.blogspot.co.uk/

noora said...

i just adore ur blog!

Tanya_Helena said...

Hi Roz

So lovely to see a post inspired by Maurice Sendak, he was one of my favourite writers as a child!! My version of 'Outside Over There' has the dog-eared edges of a book well loved. You make a beautiful Ida! Tanya (Oxfam) xxx

Ruta, Look Ugly in a Photograph said...

Beautiful writing. I think children's books are amazing! When I was little I always read children's books in Lithuanian so I don't have that many favourite children's books in English, but I always loved The Giving Tree and The Balloon Tree. Ahaha, I don't know what's with me and trees, but those two were by far my favourites. The latter was a great story to teach about perseverance, following your dreams, and never letting go of your inner child.

Beautiful outfit as well. Your photos always make me think of Sherlock Holmes novels or old British television shows like Heartbeat.

Toshiko Shek said...

in love with the layering!
itsnother-itsme.blogspot.com

Anna Sonata said...

Very nice, thanks for sharing.

Anna @ sewa mobil jakarta

Fashion art and other fancies said...

Must confess I never read childrens book as a child. Thinking back I must confess that was very odd indeed. Of course I read books as a child but they were mainly poetry and so forth.

Melanie said...

When I saw your first photo, without connecting your title to a book, I immediately thought of Red Riding Hood but with a cape not quite so candy-apple red; your expression hints at the wild things in the brambles around you.

I am sad about state of children's book publishing in general. Strolling through the kid's section of the local big-box bookstore, TV and movie icons assault me from every direction. The growing reluctance to take risks, as you wrote, is troubling. And there's the whole issue of having a book read on an electronic device. Call me old-fashioned by there's no substitute for the waft of old-paper scent as a page turns.

On a positive note, self-publishing has opened up a whole new frontier. Dare we hope to find there another gem on the edge there?

Gnoix Boutique said...

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Ieva Ukanytė said...

the whole outfit looks really great, especially in the last monochrome photo!

http://ieva-thecraze.blogspot.com/

Fashionistable said...

Your first image is haunting and beautifully lit and works beautifully with the illustration. Children's literature is indeed a fine balance. I think the over sanitation and restrictions of today is sad. I have to say I had not heard of Maurice Sendak. Now I am intrigued and will go find and read the 2 books you mention here.Your piece is a wonderful tribute to him as I see he died earlier this month. Not long to the Hay festival for you. I am sure are excited. Looking forward to reading about it. Xxxx

Izzy/Bella said...

I loved the sentiment of this piece! I actually mostly write for children and am slowly starting to write more for adults. My first experience with the children's publishing world almost stopped me from writing forever. My book was picked from a slush pile by a big publishing company in New York. Of course I was delighted. The editor wrote that she loved my voice, but... we just needed to make a few edits. She recommended several awful children's books as references-- the sanitized stuff you were referring to. As much as it pained me, I tried to make some changes while preserving the integrity of the text. In the end it didn't work out and for a while I was devastated, but I did end up learning a lot more about how to craft plots. I still write for children, but I am considering self-publishing while I prefer to work with editors on my grownup work... Just sharing :) Loved the post as usual. xx
Izzy
www.misadventuresofme.com

daisymay aka Chantele said...

Wow you look so vulnerable in that first image! So beautiful!

Daisy Dayz
Cross-Jones-Photography