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Big love for Little Golden Books at Bear and Bird Gallery

You will find no irony, no satire, no cynicism inside Bear and Bird Boutique and Gallery during Friday night’s opening of the exhibit “The Little Golden Years.”

The show, subtitled “Modern Artwork Inspired by Our Favorite Golden Books,” is exactly what it says it is: an affectionate homage by three dozen artists for the book series that has been beloved by parents and children since the 1940s.

The owner of the Lauderhill gallery, Amanda Magnetta-Ottati, says she pursued artists she thought would share her sincerity.

“I wanted them to, like, get it. I wanted to make sure they knew [the exhibition] was not meant to be a parody,” Magnetta-Ottati says.

The exhibition, which is up through Aug. 10, was curated by Pennsylvania artist Heidi Kenney, best known for the plush toys she creates for the retailer Kidrobot and her crafting blog, My Paper Crane. On the blog, Kenney has often written about her thrift-store hunts for Little Golden Books.

The Simon and Schuster series — gentle morality tales depicted in soft, colorful illustrations of children and animals — debuted in 1942 with titles such as “Three Little Kittens,” “The Little Red Hen” and “The Poky Little Puppy.” More than 15 million copies of the latter have been sold in multiple languages.

“They are something everyone remembers as a child. They have very broad appeal, yet still feel very personal,” says Magnetta-Ottati, who reads the books to her 3-year-old daughter, Rosemary, and can still recall her mom reading “My Little Dinosaur” to her. In fact, she still has that very book, with “This book belongs to Amanda” inscribed in it.

Magnetta-Ottati isn’t sure how many Little Golden Books she has collected, but estimates there are “about 2 1/2 feet, maybe more” displayed, with their golden spines pointing out, on shelves in her daughter’s room and the library she shares with husband Tate.

Most of the artists in “The Little Golden Years” were commissioned by Kenney and come from all around the country. Each artist was sent text from a few of the books to use as inspiration for their piece. The show is “very diverse,” Magnetta-Ottati says, ranging from paintings and plush pieces to a wood carving. Prices go from $30 to $1,200.

Response from the artists was enthusiastic, partly because the subject matter gave them the opportunity to do something they might not have otherwise considered, Magnetta-Ottati says.

Rosanna Pereyra created one of her “one-of-a-kind dolls,” based on the book “My Home,” says Magnetta-Ottati, calling the Miami mom and professional “an artistic genius who doesn’t really do art shows… but she’s amazing.”  

Pereyra’s work is notable for its attention to detail, Magnetta-Ottati says. “She’s very thoughtful about it. In her piece, the doll's eyes are closed because she is thinking about her home.”

Johnny Winslow, a Boca Raton artist who specializes in pinup illustrations, did a piece inspired by “The Little Red Hen.”

“He’s got a … 1 1/2-year-old daughter and a job,” Magnetta-Ottati says. “I think he didn’t sleep for, like, a month to get it done. But he really cared about it.”

When: Exhibit up through Aug. 10. Opening-night reception, 7-10 p.m. Friday, includes free beer, wine and snacks.
Where: Bear and Bird Gallery, inside Tate’s Comics, 4566 N. University Drive, Lauderhill
Cost: Free
Contact: 954-748-0181 or
Special event: Heidi Kenney will have a meet-and-greet, with giveaways and Kidrobot items for sale, 3-4:30 p.m. Saturday at Bear and Bird Gallery.

Get daily updates on South Florida entertainment and things to do at and on Twitter at @BenCrandell.


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