Tag: wordless

Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna

Pinocchio The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna

Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna (InfoSoup)

Wordless except for a few lines of text at the beginning and end, this graphic novel picture book is a blazing wonder. It shows the epic beginning of the wood that will one day become Pinocchio. A young tree is hit by a bolt of lightning and a branch falls off, a branch with clear limbs, body and head. The branch runs and is joined by a cat and fox. The three travel together to a snowy woods where there is also fire and now the branch is alight. As the story continues, a snake eats the fiery branch then spits it out. A dove flies with it, and drops it into the water. The branch sinks and is eaten by a shark. Image after image flies past, each with a story to tell and only a few moments to tell it. Finally, spring arrives and the branch sprouts leaves and roots, becoming a full tree itself, and the story of Pinocchio begins.

Unique and wondrous, this picture book is something entirely special. It is an origin story about far more than Pinocchio himself, showing that we all originate from a certain spark. Then along the way we are filled with fire, discover companions, take adventures, grow into our own, and our story at that point is just beginning.

The illustrations are spectacular. Done in watercolor that flows on the page, creating light and energy. There is also clever detailed use of the paint with leaves flowing to create characters and allowing space for almost mythical moments to take place on the page. There are deep colors of undersea and the dark of sky against snow.

Beautiful, raw and filled with innate energy, this picture book is something very special. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.

Fish by Liam Francis Walsh

Fish by Liam Francis Walsh

Fish by Liam Francis Walsh (InfoSoup)

A boy and his dog head out onto the lake to fish one morning. Both boy and dog have their own fishing poles. They first catch the letter F. Then the letter I. The letter S is next. But beware the huge letter C that is circling the boat. When they hook a Q, it is thrown back into the water. Soon though they are caught in a whirlpool of letters, swept underwater among schools of them zigging and zagging. When the boy makes it back to the boat, he has the H under his arm, but loses it as the huge letter C reappears. Not to worry, his dog has saved the day with the H to complete FISH. But was that what they were trying to catch?

This wordless picture book depends on its wonderful illustrations to carry the story. And do they ever! Done with a limited color palette of pale blue and bright red, they shine on the page. Each character also shines with personality and energy. The ending of the book is very satisfying, especially since all readers will think that the goal was to catch FISH when actually it was to do something entirely different. It’s a great twist that is filled with jolly cheer.

A standout wordless picture book that illustrates how letters form words in the most energetic and playful of ways. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: The Only Child by Guojing

The Only Child by Guojing

The Only Child by Guojing (InfoSoup)

Based on the author’s childhood growing up in China, this is the haunting story of a child left alone at home who decides to take the bus to her grandmother’s house. But when she gets off the bus, she discovers that she is alone in a woods. She sees a stag in the woods and follows him until they reach a body of water. When the little girl slips into the deep water, the stag offers one of his antlers to rescue her and the two travel on together. Out further in the water, there is a light in the clouds and the clouds form stairs for them to climb. They enter a cloud world, filled with other creatures. Although the little girl is having fun, she does miss her family who are frantically searching for her back on earth. But how is she going to ever get back to them from high above in the clouds?

The author’s note that begins this book is crucial to understanding the story. A generation of single children in China led to them living profoundly lonely lives, sometimes left alone at home for the day. That loneliness seeps through every page here, even the joyous ones ache with it. This mash up of a wordless picture book and a graphic novel is exceedingly successful, offering a glimpse into a magical world of animals and clouds that show this small child the love and attention she is seeking at home. This story is hauntingly told with a magnificent heart that shines on each page.

The artwork here is soft and subtle, exuding a warmth even in the falling snow. The pencil drawings are detailed and lush. Guojing plays with light and dark, hope and loneliness throughout the book. The child is central in the book, shining on the page alongside her animal companions. The world of clouds is beautifully textural and playful, hugging the child and supporting her. This art is exceptional and communicates far more than words could.

A ravishingly gorgeous book, this graphic novel will be adored by a wide range of ages. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.

Review: Pool by JiHyeon Lee

Pool by JiHyeon Lee

Pool by JiHyeon Lee (InfoSoup)

A boy stands at the end of a swimming pool, ready to hop in. But just as he is about to, a crowd of people arrive and take over the pool. It is crammed full of them with their floating tubes and boats, leaving no area of water open. But the boy finds a sliver of water along the side of the pool and dives down underneath the crowd. A girl sees him dive down and heads down herself. The two meet underwater and head deeper together. Down at the bottom of the pool they discover a coral reef filled with wild fish that swim in large schools. There are also tubes large enough for a kid or a colorful eel to hide in. Large toothy fish swim by and then a gargantuan white whale too. The children head up to the surface again, as the rest of the crowd head out of the pool. The two of them are left to dry off side by side and wonder at what else could be underneath that water.

Lee captures the beauty of swimming and the wonder of imagination in this wordless picture book. The two children are distinct from the others floating on the surface, built in a more delicate way and almost matching except for their swimsuits. As they dream of reefs and fish, the water fills with animals. There is a playfulness to their imaginations, creating a world together that is filled with amazing things.

Delicate illustrations are filled with the blue of the pool. As the coral reef appears, there are animals of all sorts, even water spiders. The wonder of the huge white whale is a moment that is lengthened and filled with importance in this picture book. Throughout the pacing is masterfully done, allowing readers time to explore and dream themselves.

A book that encourages long looks and your own fish designs, this picture book is an inspiring and refreshing watery read. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson

sidewalk flowers

Sidewalk Flowers by JoArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith

As she heads home with her father who is distracted by his cell phone call, a little girl dressed in vibrant red picks wild flowers. Along the way, she takes a moment to smell each of them, creating a bouquet of bright colored blooms. The flowers grow unnoticed by the others on the street in this urban setting, but the little girl spots them all growing out of sidewalk cracks. When the girl and her father reach the park, she notices a dead bird on the sidewalk and leaves some of the flowers there with the bird. A man sleeping on a park bench is given a sprig too. Then she decorates the collar of a friendly dog with more flowers. As they reach home, the little girl gives each of her family members flowers, leaving a trail of them on their hair and heads. The final flower is used to decorate her own hair at the very end.

This wordless picture book is immensely lovely. The story arc really works well and has moments of sophistication that create a vibrant urban world for this girl to live within. As she gathers the flowers, other beautiful parts of the city that would have been overlooked too light up with color or are captured in small moments. From the display of bright fruits in the market to the pigeons on the street, each small piece adds together so that readers “see” the beauty of the city along with the young protagonist.

The art is expressive and lovely. The city is shown in black and white against which the red girl pops like a bright ruby. Portions of the city are done in color, like flowered dresses and the small flowers that the girl gathers too. Then when the girl starts sharing her flowers, the entire world becomes colorful and bright. It is a dynamic shift in the middle of the book, showing the power of generosity and community.

Subtle and powerful, this picture book celebrates seeing the beauty in everyday life and sharing it with others. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Before After by Matthias Aregui

before after

Before After by Matthias Aregui and Anne-Margot Ramstein

The passage of time is captured beautifully in this wordless book that shows one example after another of before and then after.  The book is a delightful mix of concepts with examples from nature, pop culture and plenty of humor.   An acorn before becomes an oak tree after.  A small ape before becomes King Kong after.  Ingredients become a cake and a few pages later the cake is eaten and left as crumbs.  But what came first, the chicken or the egg.  This book takes a wry and balanced view of that debate by showing both in sequence.  One never knows what the page turn will bring, and that’s part of the appeal in this clever and funny book.

Wordless books are often short, but this book is nice and thick, the entire book offering lots to think about and plenty of chuckles along the way.  While it may seem to be more for preschoolers, older elementary aged children will get more of the references in the book like the chicken and the egg and King Kong.  They will also appreciate the passage of time visually on the page as ice melts to water.  Additionally, some of the images are more complex with a cow becoming milk but also becoming a picture of a cow.  Very meta. 

For children with reading difficulties in elementary school, this would be a great book to start discussions.  It is also a wonderful way to wile away some time looking at an outstanding example of wordless art that delights.  Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

flora and the penguin

Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

This is a delightful wintry follow-up to Flora and the Flamingo, a book that stole my heart when it came out.  With clear connections to the ballet of the first book, this second book has Flora on ice skates swirling with a penguin.  Flora puts on her skates and the penguin climbs out of the water and the two glide together across the page, through different flaps to lift, landing synchronized jumps side-by-side.  But then the penguin disappears back into the water and Flora is left skating alone.  The penguin returns with a fish for Flora, but Flora tosses it back into the water.  The penguin is entirely angry and dejected, so Flora figures out how to repair the budding friendship. 

Idle tells so much in her wordless books.  Who knew that a penguin could communicate so very clearly with the tip of its head, the tilt of its wings and the set of its shoulders.  Flora too communicates her feelings clearly on the page to great effect.  It’s a book that explores friendship, dance and the joy of winter play.

The illustrations are top notch, they invite the reader to glide along with them.  The flaps on different pages are ingenious ways to have readers participate, culminating in one amazing jump the two characters do together.  They amazingly leap right off the page, or perhaps it’s the book that leaps out to catch them.  Beautiful, icy and pure joy.

Another magnificent offering by Molly Idle, this book will be embraced by fans of the first and will make a great holiday gift.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.