The Secret Life of Books by Gabi Swiatkowska

October 1, 2015 - January 24, 2016
Central Library, Youth Wing
This exhibition is a reminder of the exquisite fusion which results when the imagination of the reader is activated by the imaginations of the author and illustrator. The reader is then free to bring the book to life in her own way by extending her personal imaginative journey beyond the parameters of the actual narrative.

The Secret Life of Books explores the intersection of two imaginations: that of the story creator and the reader. The majority of this show features work from various picture books I have illustrated. In all of my work, I try to create a world that leaves breathing room for the reader’s imagination to complete the story.

The experience of being immersed in the imaginary ‘book world’ can be so magical for children, that it is sometimes hard for them to leave that world behind. I experienced this on a daily basis when reading to my daughter when she was little. Once she knew that we were close to finishing a book, she would cry. As she saw it, her life was ending.

This experience prompted me to create the second part of my show: a series featuring dioramas, other three-dimensional works, and flat works. This series tells the story of one boy’s journey as he enters the world of the book he is reading. Once he is in the ‘book world’, he meets a fictional girl who shows him how books are created and teaches him about the power of his own imagination.

My hope is that I will always be able to create ‘book worlds’ that both children and adults will be reluctant to leave.

Gabi SwiatkowskaGabi Swiatkowska is a Polish-born artist, musician, children’s author and illustrator. She has received numerous awards and honors, including the American Library Association Notable Children’s Book Award, the New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award, the Ezra Jack Keats Award, the Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, and inclusion on the New York Public Library’s list of 100 Great Children’s Books. 

Special thanks to Brooklyn-based picture book author, Kate Hosford. Gabi and Kate have collaborated together on the award-winning children’s book, Infinity and Me, published by Carolrhoda Books. Their second collaboration, The Perfect Cup of Tea, will be published by Carolrhoda in 2017.

Tildon Krautz band:


View Publishers Weekly photo essay by Krystyna Poray Goddu here including the exhibition opening.



See Gabi's exhibition on Tumblr:




To return to the Exhibitions Index page, please click here.