Monday, August 20, 2012

Books We Love: “Hang Glider & Mud Mask”

Stop the presses! Okay, now turn the book over and start the presses again. The only picture book of its kind, Hang Glider & Mud Mask is uniquely constructed with two front covers, two spines, and a z-shaped binding that links the two sides of the story. It’s a Möbius strip of a book as the story folds over on itself, each story “ending” on the front cover of the other story. In one story, a hang glider works his way down from the sky to the ground; in the other story, a person wearing a mud mask climbs ever higher, and they meet in the “middle.” It works like a film loop. It’s a clever little milestone and a children’s book for grown-ups; or perhaps it’s a grown-up book for kids.

Either way, it’s a work of art and an argument for the bookbinder’s art. It reminds me of Hervé Tullet’s Press Here, a book that asks readers to turn it sideways, then turn the page and look at the “results.” Hang Glider and Mud Mask finds the connections among people and their stories. The book is by Brian McMullen and Jason Jägel; or it’s by Jason Jägel and Brian McMullen if you’re looking at the other cover. Jägel’s an internationally exhibited artist and McMullen is the McMullen of McSweeney’s – McMullens Publishers. Brian runs the children’s division at McSweeney’s but this is his (and Jägel’s) first children’s book.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been bowled over by the sheer craftsmanship behind a McSweeney’s – McMullens title. They seem determined to be the house who stands up for the printer’s art, whether it’s books with covers that fold out into posters printed on thick paper or a book printed with thermo-graphic ink, this house creates books to be treasured and passed down to the next generation.

Hang Glider & Mud Mask is available for pre-order.

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