Mixed-media artist and debut author Blades combines wit with sincere counsel in an innovative scrapbook format.
With a daughter approaching high school graduation, Blades began compiling life lessons she hoped to impart on her daughter. The resulting book of aphorisms could have been schmaltzy but is instead both humorous and visually impressive. Offered as a numbered list in a quirky variety of fonts, her maternal instructions range from two words to paragraphs. The themes may be perennial advice-guide fodder—seizing the day, embracing creativity, being prudent with money and treating others with compassion—but snappy delivery and unsentimental wording help them feel fresh. Thus the doctrine of mindfulness becomes, simply, “WHEREVER YOU ARE, BE ALL THERE.” Where Blades acknowledges clichés, she always adds a clever twist: “IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE, DON’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL. You’re smart enough to think of something nice.” She also debunks a few old chestnuts: Instead of exhorting girls to “dream big,” which she’s nonetheless in favor of, she reassures them that “It’s okay to OUTGROW YOUR DREAMS.” Some standout features include two-page spreads in which each epigram repeats the same first word (“KEEP your knees together when you’re sitting on stage”; “KEEP your head when all about you are losing theirs,” etc.), occasional puns (“HAVE RUBBER GLOVES. On hand”), and echoes of Kipling’s “If—” and Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. In one notable, original proverb, Blades balances enthusiasm with discipline: “COMMON SENSE AND SELF-RESTRAINT SHRINK IN THE PRESENCE OF PASSION. Does this mean don’t be passionate? Absolutely not.” Pithy recommendations about forgiveness, charitableness, being a good hostess and accepting change would be valuable in their own rights, but the whimsical artwork renders the book all the more delightful. Cutouts of paper dolls and maps share space with colorful, textured illustrations of houses, trees and clouds. Fashion plates lend a sophisticated, faux Parisian feel, while plentiful tips on Internet and cellphone etiquette help put the book on trend for today’s teenagers. Inspirational yet never syrupy, the text could easily be read in one sitting and should prove useful throughout college and beyond.
A perfect graduation gift for young women—but the advice is applicable to all.