Tag Archives: illustrators

infinity and me/red shoes

13633558What first drew me to Infinity and Me was the cover illustration. Opening its pages, it became immediately  clear how special it was.

Gabi Swiatkowska is one of my favorite illustrators, who I was introduced to through My Name is Yoon and its follow-ups by Helen Recorvits.

The illustrations are beautiful, imaginative, exquisite and as inventive as the story itself, by Kate Hosford. I adore a picture book that tackles a sophisticated subject and specifically, how this one does so. I also appreciate that the main relationship in the book is between a young girl and her grandmother. Sweet and special, again.



image: Lerner Publishing Group 

A lot happens to Uma on the very first page spread:

*She gets a pair of red shoes, which she’s  excited about, so much so she can’t sleep.

*She looks up at the sky and its stars and vastness and thinks about the idea of infinity.

The next day, Uma asks around about that big big number. Everyone at school has a different explanation for how to think about it. Some of the characters in the book use music and even macaroni noodles to visualize infinity. Eights napping on their sides and neverending racetracks. But in the end, Uma has her own infinity aha moment. It clicks when she’s with her grandmother, with whom she shares  immeasurable love.

Because you know who’s the only person who eventually notices Uma’s special red shoes? Yup, her grandma.

“Right then I knew —

my love for her was as big as infinity.”


Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 2.29.33 PMKate Hosford knew her illustrator friend, Gabi Swiatkowska, “would be able to find a way to illustrate infinity and would create the most beautiful red shoes.” Kate was right.

Red shoes have been in the spotlight before of course. In “The Red Shoes” fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, a little barefoot girl is fixated on a pair of red shoes. “But nothing in the world could compare with red shoes!” They’re a symbol, in part, of obsession. Obsession is one of the themes in the ballet and film of the same name as well. Just as our Uma becomes obsessed with the idea of infinity when she gets her pair.

Then there are the famous ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, the ones that belong to the Wicked Witch of the West and are then worn by Dorothy. They mark the beginning of Dorothy’s magical time in Oz during which she discovers friends and power, and it’s those ruby shoes that eventually bring Dorothy home.

(Hey, even Ariel in the original Footloose wears red western boots at the moment her life begins to change.)

And while all these examples have a dark and dangerous side (sometimes very dark, Mr. Christian Andersen!), the shoes are still rare, special. They possess magical powers and signify a new phase, a transformation.











image: heit007 via Compfight ccimage: cepatrimagnet via Compfight cc

Uma’s red shoes signify her own journey of growth and discovery in Infinity and Me.  The author Kate Hosford likes the color red. But beyond that, she says she needed a small physical object to counterbalance Uma’s overwhelming thoughts about the abstract concept of infinity. (Genius storytelling!) Also, she thought of the shoes as physically and emotionally grounding Uma and the story. (Genius again!)

About the resolution of the Uma’s story, Kate says:


“The shoes ended up taking on a Wizard of Oz quality, in that they lead her home and lead her to solve her story problem. I had not intended to do this consciously. However, perhaps subconsciously, I knew that the shoes would have to take her home again.”



Here are some red shoes for you or yours. They just might mark a new journey or discovery of your own. Or simply take you home.



images: 1.  UGG Alloway Glitter from Zappos; 2. Wool Walker Shop‘s wool slippers on etsy. 3. Unique Flavor oxfords on etsy; 4. Aigle welly boots; 5. UPERE wedge sneakers on etsy.




 images: 1. TOMS red glitter shoe; 2. revaline from Joyfolie; 3. Hoy Kids saltwater sandal;  4. Converse Kids All Stars Hi; 5. Adilette play sandals

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books to overcome the doldrums part one/mrs. biddlebox



One of my strategies for dealing with the doldrums is to read a stack of picture books from the library. Of course, right? But it’s true. And it usually works.


Picture books that explore darker subjects are some of my very favorite ones. I’ve got three examples that give insight into the doldrums and how to beat them. Or at least work with them a little. Here’s the first and stay tuned for the other two.






Mrs. Biddlebox is quite a character. And she has a very bad case of the doldrums. Everything about her day contributes to her bad mood, from annoying birds to bitter tea. But in the course of this enchanting, good-humored book, she gathers and twirls the ingredients that are giving her the grumblies. With the help of her goose companion, she works with the stuff of that bad day as though it were dough.




When she’s finally done in the kitchen, she eats her freshly baked CAKEThe magic of baking allows Mrs. Biddlebox to transform that “dreary little funk” into something far far sweeter in this amazingly charming picture book.

(Marla Frazee’s interview at Cynsations about her process and the author who passed away before it was illustrated is definitely worth a read too.)


illustration images: courtesy of Marla Frazee

Miss Cakehead in the UK has a related project in the oven.  The Depressed Cake Shop pop ups will sell gray treats only. That’s right, gray cakes. It’s a depressed cake shop, after all. The beauty of it is the treats may be made by someone who has personal experience with depression. The proceeds will help fund a mental health charity, ideally even go toward baking therapy sessions to help ease those still suffering.



cake credit: All Mine Patisserie 


Those gray cakes might contain a kick of color inside! They’re edible metaphors. A dark, sad surface, but inside, something full of joy and pizazz. Just waiting to be discovered.




cake credit: Two Little Cats



cake credit: Miss Insomnia Tulip

Aren’t they gorgeous?

What is it about baking that helps beat the doldrums? Creating something? Working with your hands? The process? The senses involved? The comfort of the finished product? Getting to share it? Focusing on each step by step by step?

So many people bake to soothe grief, loss, doubt, feeling stuck, or being at their wit’s end. They bake to beat the doldrums,  like Mrs. Biddlebox. Do you?


Just looking at those cake creations makes me feel better already.

Here’s some final inspiration from INKY CO on etsy. Printable posters of the baking variety:


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