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Show Spotlights Art in Children’s Books

Books for children might be kid stuff to most adults, but to Abbie Phillips, Tom Paul and Lois Sarkisian, they are filled with serious art.

The three are in the process of setting up California’s first children’s art gallery and bookstore that could eventually become a headquarters of sorts for children’s concerts and plays.

Thursday night, the three launched an exhibition of children’s book illustrations called “Every Picture Tells a Story” at the Alexander Studio/Gallery in Studio City. It’s not a space they own, but it’s a start.

“The art in these books is so spectacular,” Paul said. “We feel that this is fine art and deserves to be seen.”

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Paul, a fine arts dealer, hopes to create a collectible market for children’s art. He believes that children should be exposed to art as early as possible.

Paul and Phillips met through their 5-year-old daughters, Lauren and Sadie, who are best friends--or, as they call themselves, “sisters.”

Sarkisian, an interior designer described by Phillips as “the outgoing one,” teamed up with the two after becoming a regular customer of Phillips, who sells children’s books, Tupperware party-style.

A growing sense of frustration at the lack of good children’s books in local bookstores contributed to Phillips’ decision to leave her career as a biologist and start her own personalized bookselling operation, which she christened Silly Sisters Book & Music Co. in honor of Lauren and Sadie.

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“She has a knack for picking out books to fit the personality of almost every child,” Paul said. “All I remember from when I was a kid are pedantic illustrations in Golden Books and Dick & Jane readers. It was the Dr. Spock era when everyone was building bomb shelters and no one seemed to have a good time.”

“If a child is, say, a bed wetter, you can address the problem through art, not a book that asks, ‘Why are you still wearing diapers?’ ” Phillips said. “The problem is that parents love how-to books that give them immediate answers, like ‘The Good-bye Book.’ But I hate books that tell a kid what to think and how to feel.”

She loves the book “Grandfather Twilight” by Barbara Berger, who is one of the featured artists in the Alexander Studio/Gallery show. The book tells an enchanting tale of where the moon came from, and there’s nothing straightforward about it. “It’s very reassuring,” Phillips said.

Also in the show are the works of Chris Van Allsburg, who teaches illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and was recently chosen to illustrate “Swan Lake” by author Mark Hel pern.

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The “Every Picture Tells a Story” exhibit will be at the Alexander Studio/Gallery (11828 Ventura Blvd., Studio City) through Sept. 20. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For information, call (818) 985-9157 or (818) 761-2221.


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