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Tamara Shopsin: What Is This?

Tamara Shopsin
The Ice Plant
Artists' Books
3.5 × 4 in
40 pgs

It is never too early to learn about abstraction—especially if celebrated illustrator Tamara Shopsin is doing the teaching. What Is This? is Shopsin’s wordless children’s book that will encourage imaginative thinking in readers both young and old. The miniature book, made for small hands, is filled with simple line drawings, executed with characteristic charm by Shopsin. Each drawing playfully adds to and alters the same basic squiggle, which is transformed across different contexts on each successive page: first the squiggle appears as the petals of a flower, next as a bird’s nest, then a cowboy’s lasso, then a plume of smoke from a factory chimney. Each time, only a few extra lines are required to suggest the conversion. By the end of the book, faced with an innocent squiggle, the question is not “what is this?” but rather, “what isn’t this?”
Tamara Shopsin (born 1979) is a graphic designer and illustrator whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Good, Time, Wired and Newsweek. She is the author of the memoir Mumbai New York Scranton, designer of the 5 Year Diary and coauthor, with Jason Fulford, of the children’s book This Equals That. She is also a cook at her family’s restaurant, Shopsin’s, in New York.

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