Thursday, October 24, 2019

TODAY: 'Koshka's Tales' Back In Print (James Mayhew Dubbed 'Fairy Godfather Of Art & Tales' For The Kids Of The World)

Yes, James Mayhew is indeed the Fairy Godfather of art, music and tales for kids everywhere! That's the only succinct description that fits his extensive work and influence, not to mention magic... but first, let's take a look at this classic and beloved book (well worn in our own library) that has been unavailable for twenty years. Until today.

Today his Koshka's Tales is back in beautiful, quality print and available to share with the next generation.

Looks lovely, right? But who, you ask, is this 'Koshka', who gets to tell their version of The Snow Maiden, Vasilisa the Fair, Sadko the Minstrel, and The Firebird?

Here's a hint:
Close-up from the cover of  UK 2000 edition
And here's the answer:
Koshka is simply the Russian word for 'cat'
(from the Author's Note in the 1993 edition)

Yes: These are "Cat's Tales"!
(Not, 'Koshka the Cat, by the way. That would be like saying these are "Cat the Cat's Tales"... heh.)

Here's a little extra info on Koshka, and why Mayhew chose her to tell the tales, from the Author's Note in the 2000 UK edition:
Publisher's description:
Meet Koshka, the extraordinary storytelling cat, as she spins a series of dazzling tales for a royal audience – accounts of the enchanting Snowmaiden, Sadko the minstrel and the Princess of the Sea, Prince Ivan, the Grey Wolf and the Firebird, and Baba-Yaga, the witch who lives in a hut with chicken legs. 
Graffeg is delighted to be republishing Koshka’s Tales, a wonderfully imaginative adaptation of five timeless stories from Russian folklorewritten and illustrated by James Mayhew. Featuring unforgettable tales of handsome princes, wizards and princesses, golden apples and magical realms, the collection was first published in 1993 by Kingfisher Books and has been out of print for over 20 years.
Here's a gorgeous book trailer which treats you to glimpses of the delight waiting inside the covers - but let us warn you: seeing the illustrations online is a very poor substitute for the real thing. As beautiful as the pics in this post and video are, when they're on a page in front of you, they take on an extra dimension. The illustrations seem to refuse to lie flat on the page, but instead, draw you into the story-world and take on a sort of life.
It's magic!
As a bonus, a special calendar is now also available. (Shipped from the UK.) This time, not only will you be able to enjoy a crisp and beautifully printed copy of Mayhew's illustrations but you'll be able to put them on your wall... Or perhaps carefully detach the pages and frame them, or put them together and make a storytelling frieze to evoke magic in your room. Your choice. ;)
James Mayhew is not only a talented artist and writer but he spreads joy and beauty every day on Twitter via his account @mrjamesmayhew, with a special #BookIllustrationOfTheDay, and seems to be friends with everyone who follows him. He's also one of the kindest and most encouraging people in the Twitterverse and makes the world a better place this way every day.

But, honestly, we don't know how he makes time to for this, because James (we feel like we can call him James here, since he encourages us to on Twitter!) is a very busy man! Ever since 2007 he has been organizing classical music concerts for children, with wonderful orchestras, and not only presenting them, but painting - live - during the concert, combining art, music and storytelling. It is phenomenal to see (and we've only been able to see brief video clips!). More information is available via his website HERE. But in the meantime, we'll share some pics we love of him working in his passion:
The 'About' page on James' website details the HUGE amount of work he is doing but a driving force for him is to function as an ambassador and mentor, of art, music and culture, especially for children. Here's a very small excerpt from his bio page which reflects one part of the officially recognized capacity of his very personal mission:
I’m very pleased to be an adviser to Action for Children's Arts - a charity that campaigns for children's right to access the arts. I’m also a patron of Magic Lantern an art education charity who bring high quality art workshops and presentations into schools all over the country. In 2017 I joined Tanita Tikaram as an ambassador for the humanitarian charity Side by Side with Refugees.
a.k.a. Fairy Godfather of Art & Tales For Kids Everywhere
This is a completely legit title. Fairies are just not great at printing out certificates, but still: Legit. (So mote it be!)
Wish you could see him in action? In order to celebrate the re-release of Koshka's Tales, James is having a super-amazing competition, which is open to all UK & Irish schools. The prize is:
"To enter, schools need to use the book to CREATE! Art, film, story... *anything*."

Gosh that's fabulous! Makes us wish we could have the US kid classes we know, enter too...
Details for the contest are HERE and the contest closes on Tuesday March 31, 2020, with the winner announced on social media (Twitter ad Facebook) Friday, April 24th 2020. Runner up classes will get Koshka themed swag. (There are going to be some very happy kids!)

For the rest of the world, who can join in online, James is also about to give a special #artychat: 'The Art of Painting to Music' (links below are clickable to take you to more information):
This event is going on our Newsroom calendar.

By the way, did we mention that this new hardcover book is now out?
TODAY: October 24th, 2019
You can purchase a copy HERE (UK, and they ship internationally too), today.

If you already have a copy in your personal library (like we have) then consider getting a new copy for a holiday gift. This lovely collection is magic in book form and easily shows why so many folks fall in love with Russian tales.

Extra special note for fairy tale folks, storytellers & folklorists: We are delighted to let you know Mayhew has included notes on his main sources for the stories (which include operatic libretti as well as books) under the 'acknowledgments' at the front of the book, and his Author's Note at the end includes some history, context and much more useful information if you'd like to dig a little deeper. How much more can this Fairy Godfather endear himself to us?!

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