September 05, 2019


Calendars (page-a-day for 2020): Squeeze the Day; What the Cluck?; Johanna Basford 2020 Coloring Calendar. Andrews McMeel. $15.99 each (Squeeze, Cluck); $18.99 (Basford).

     One of the great things about page-a-day calendars is that no matter how odd you think your preferences may be, there is likely to be a calendar that fits them. And it is reassuring to know that even if your unusual likes and dislikes are so outrĂ© that some tear-off pages of a calendar will not appeal to you, other pages of the same calendar probably will. Take, for example, Squeeze the Day, which is based on Instagram postings and bears the subtitle, “A 2020 Calendar of Punny Doodles.” What exactly does that mean? Well, the cover of the box gives a pretty clear example: it shows a lemon that has tiny, upraised stick arms, two little dots for eyes and an upward-curving line to indicate a smiling mouth. “Squeeze the day,” get it? If that concept works for you, you will find plenty more to enjoy here. And if it only sort of works for you, you will still find a lot to enjoy – and can have the satisfaction of simply tearing off the pages that do not meet your standards and finding ones underneath that, in all likelihood, will. There is no particular theme to this calendar beyond puns. “I’ll never Lego,” says one illustration, showing two of the famous fit-together plastic pieces firmly attached. “Thorn to be wild,” says another picture, showing a bright red rose whose stem bears prominent thorns. “I lava you” is a fairly straightforward assertion – beneath a picture of an erupting volcano. “You got what I knead” goes with a rolling pin that has two eye dots and a smiling mouth drawn right in the middle. “Miss you pig time” accompanies a picture of a pink cartoon pig with huge, wide-open eyes. “See you ladder” offers – what else? – a ladder, with stick arms wide open as if about to embrace someone. “You’re a cutecumber” goes with a cucumber that has the typical eye dots and smile. “Love me tender” has two smiling chicken nuggets cuddling close. “I love you cherry much” is the same idea, except with two cherries attached to the same stem. “Let’s get nauti” shows a smiling rope tied in a nautical knot. In a similar watery vein, “You’re pierfect” simply shows – a dock. “Weed get along great” goes with a marijuana plant, while “you’re amaize-ing” gets a plant of a different sort: a smiling ear of corn. Get the idea, or ideas? Day after day, there are personal puns, relationship puns, cutesy puns, silly puns, puns of all sorts here – it’s a punderful life, if you happen to go for that sort of thing.

     And what if you don’t? What if you have an even more specialized interest – such as, for example, chickens? Well, then you simply must have What the Cluck? This collection of “chicken lore, chicken facts, chicken trivia & chicken love” (so says the cover), assembled by Stacia Tolman, is packed to the gills, or wattles, with information and pictures that poultry lovers will find simply ducky…err, chicken-y. This really is an information-packed calendar rather than one in which the topic is played for laughs, although there are occasional touches of amusement: “A good cackle can reset your whole day.” Most of the calendar includes serious information, such as “breed spotlight” pages that highlight, for example, the lamona, “a snow-white chicken with a flowing tail” in which the cock weighs about nine pounds and the hen about seven. One page explains that eggs were used to soften leather in Victorian England in a process called “tawing.” Another delves deeper into history to note that the first artificial egg incubators were invented in Egypt four centuries before the birth of Christ. You will find here an explanation of why a film prize in China is called the Golden Rooster Award: it was started in 1981, the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese zodiac. There is fascinating anatomical information in this calendar: “A chicken breathes with its skeleton,” having some bones that “are hollow and have air sacs connected to its respiratory system.” But you do have to be careful with the calendar: factual it may be almost all the time, but occasionally it lapses into outright, deliberate inaccuracy for the purpose of bringing a smile – as when it misquotes patriot Nathan Hale as having said, “I only regret that I have but one chicken to give for my country.” Most of the time, though, there are good, solid facts offered in What the Cluck? For example: the egg carton was invented in 1911 by a Canadian newspaper publisher; China produces 160 billion eggs a year, more than twice the U.S. production of 75 billion, but the top egg exporter is the Netherlands, which sends 66% of its eggs out of the country; positions within the pecking order “are established within days of hatching and remain until death, even if a ‘head hen’ becomes old or weak”; the ancient Romans considered it a good omen if a chicken entered from the left; the Chicken Ranch brothel in Texas allowed customers to pay with chickens when times were tough – and then supplemented its income by selling eggs; and so on. And on and on. There may not quite be everything about chickens in What the Cluck? But there is plenty in the calendar to keep lovers of the Gallus gallus domesticus informed, interested and entertained throughout the year.

     Even if you prefer to create some of your calendar entertainment yourself, rather than having it brought to you daily through the simple act of tearing off a page, you can find a page-a-day calendar just for you. The Johanna Basford 2020 Coloring Calendar is a particularly attractive example. Unlike most tear-off-the-pages calendars, which stand up on plastic backs, this one is packaged inside a keepsake box decorated with rose-gold foil. Basford, a pioneer in creating coloring books for adults, makes hand-drawn pencil-and-pen illustrations in black and white and has produced a number of popular books: World of Flowers, Ivy and the Inky Butterfly, Magical Jungle, Johanna’s Christmas, Lost Ocean, Enchanted Forest, and Secret Garden. Pictures from all seven of those books appear in the Johanna Basford 2020 Coloring Calendar. And if you enjoy coloring, you likely know Basford’s work already, because coloring is exactly its point: she supplies the illustrations to be colored, and you color them as you wish. The pictures are always intricate and look perfectly attractive in their original black-and-white form, so there is no compulsion to color them if you do not want to. But if you do want to, this calendar offers you a year of chances to do so. When the box is open, the pages representing days to come are in the main, bottom part. You simply pick up the top page and place it inside the box’s open lid, and there you have the illustration-of-the-day to look at – and color – whenever you wish. There is no pressure here and no obligation: you can display the pictures as Basford created them, in black-and-white, and they look very attractive indeed. Or you can color little bits of them – perhaps just some flower petals, leaving other petals and all the stems in an illustration in black-and-white. Or you can color an entire day’s picture, either all at once or at various times during the day – this can be a great stress reliever and calming influence. Of course, if you are not in the mood to color on one day, you can simply do nothing that day and color the next day’s picture – or the one after that, or the one after that. You could go through the entire year simply enjoying Basford’s pleasantly pictured, intimate outdoor scenes, or you could spend some time every day making that day’s picture entirely your own through the unique colors you select for it. Johanna Basford 2020 Coloring Calendar is just the right calendar for adults who love to color and love Basford’s art-of-nature illustrations – further evidence that whatever your interests and preferences may be for the year to come, you can find a page-a-day calendar that fits you just about perfectly.

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