cover image Girls Standing on Lawns

Girls Standing on Lawns

Daniel Handler, illus. by Maira Kalman. MoMA (Abrams, dist.), $14.95 (64p) ISBN

Handler and Kalman (Why We Broke Up) explore photographs held by the Museum of Modern Art, a selection of mostly b&w vintage snapshots of young women posing on lawns. The girls look decorative, awkward, sometimes grim (like the woman in the grass skirt in front of bare winter trees), sometimes hilarious (a pair of fashionably shod legs stick out of a hedge). Handler’s commentary wanders between the voices of the subjects (“My whole life I have not known where to put my hands”) and that of a wise, older-brotherish commentator (“You don’t have to be self-conscious. We’re all fools”). Kalman contributes her own inimitable paintings: a girl in a dance costume flanked by two terriers, a jaunty woman perched on a gate. Handler captures the essential paradox of the photograph as historical record: “None of this is there, not anymore. And yet we are still standing.” There’s a marked insider/outsider feel to the project, first in a planned collaborative series between Handler, Kalman, and the museum; those familiar with the Handler/Kalman sensibility will be delighted, while those not in the know may find it baffling. Ages 10–up. [em](May) [/em]