Downtown Art

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March 29, 2004 // UPDATED 10:24 am - April 25, 2007
By: Anna Pratt
Anna Pratt

The Giant Stone Monkey Head eats out

In this place where the scent of garlic is considered a sign of good luck and people sometimes turn into frogs, Precious Pparcel Perkins has a mission. The inquisitive sleuth is trudging through cerulean blue lagoons, soggy swamps, dancing mountains and rainbows of bugs in a quest for life's essentials: the Giant Stone Monkey Head, honesty, friendship and creative cooking.

Meet children's book heroine Pparcel. A lot like Harriet the Spy, Pparcel diligently keeps a notebook within which she records archaeological and philosophical observations about the supposed whereabouts of the prophetic Giant Stone Monkey Head. She looks for clues in waterfalls. (The magical Monkey Head has been known to peek above rivers and streams mysteriously, like the Loch Ness Monster.)

This children's story, "Pparcel's Notebook Presents: The Search for the Giant Stone Monkey Head, Truth, Friends and Strange Food," speaks poignantly to all of our senses. We're whisked thru a wall of llamas, among other things (including dreams), in a safari filled with the sweet smell of citrus, the song of bubbling streams and creatures, the feel of barnacles, the taste of unimaginable pancakes and other creative concoctions, and bright rainforest colors -- all rendered in intricate illustration. For Pparcel, the search for Monkey Head wisdom becomes a detour for self-discovery. After all of Pparcel's hard work, she can't find the Monkey Head -- until she gets home.

This lively fable is the unique synthesis of Downtown Chef Dan Graves' assorted talents: Graves is a published poet, sculptor and chef at the renowned organic restaurant Caf/ Brenda, 300 1st Ave. N. According to the author, this fantasy was inspired by another Monkey Head account he heard while in Ecuador.

Find the Monkey Head, truth, friends and strange foods when this chef/artist reads from his book and leads a culinary lesson for children, art-lovers, poets and cooks of all ages.

If you can't make it to the event, check out the 48-page, $15 hardcover online at www.searchforthegiantstonemonkeyhead.com.

Cook-and-read: Saturday, April 3, 1 p.m. Wild Rumpus Bookstore, 2720 W. 43rd St. Free. 920-5005.

'Third Annual Festival of Children's Literature'

Do you have your own "Pparcel" project? Consider joining The Third Annual Festival of Children's Literature at The Loft, a hot air balloon ride over the land of children's book publishing.

For two days, 27 industry professionals will deliver practical and heartfelt advice to fledgling children's book authors and illustrators, including instruction for the marketplace, story-structure and technique, low-budget promotion, problem solving, self-publishing, legalities and the artful endeavor. Art and creative directors from regional presses are inviting illustrators and photographers to visit for a portfolio conversation.

"I thought it would be fabulous if editors came and talked about things that would be helpful and inspiring for those who want to write children's literature. It's more difficult to break into the business and more competitive than people think," said Loft Education Director Mary Cummings.

The Who's Who of editors, publishers, writers, illustrators and art/creative directors will reveal the truths and dispel the myths of the children's book business. Many of them break it down straight and simple: In her "A Better Picture Book" workshop, visual storyteller Lisa Bullard will discuss picture book writing with a dummy how-to that sets the pace, molds plot, creates imagery, builds comic timing and cuts out the excess.

Previous McKnight Artist Fellowship judge and HarperCollins Editorial Director Alix Reid will explain what makes a manuscript outstanding in her workshop, "An Editor's Story," and will give input on writing samples in "Cold Reads and Quick Thoughts." Loft Award winner Laurel Winter drops a trail of marshmallows for listeners in "Finding Your Way (without a topographical map of the rest of your life)."

Anyone hoping to publish children's literature shouldn't miss this revelatory expos/.

Friday-Saturday, April 2-3, various times. Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S. $48-$144. 379-8999 or www.loft.org/FestivalChild.html.

Anna Pratt can be reached at annapratt@artlover.com.