Dreaming of the Future – The New York Occasions
Shinsuke Yoshitake, the popular Japanese author and illustrator of many award-winning books including “I Can Be Anything” and “The Boring Book,” reflects on how overwhelming the future can be for a child IT HAS TO BE MORE THAN THAT! (Chronicle, 32 pages, $ 18.99; ages 5 through 8).
When a little girl’s brother tells her “our future is doomed” and mentions the specter of food shortages, wars and even epidemics, the girl panics to her grandmother. Wise Grandma assures her that we can never know exactly what the future will look like and that we shouldn’t only think in good and bad scenarios.
As a result, the main character begins to imagine many possible futures, including more bizarre ones, which have hot dogs every day. It’s okay to be in your pajamas all day, and your room has a zero gravity counter. Although she cannot control the future, she can control how she thinks about the future.
Yoshitake is a master at working thoughtfully with a major problem – in this case, the future – and rephrasing it in an approachable, humorous way that an adolescent can deal with. The images that accompany the text, drawn in an unadorned cartoon style in primary colors, do a good job of moving this fun, but serious story forward.
LITTLE AUDREY’S DAYDREAM (Princeton Architectural Press, 56 pages, $ 17.95; ages 10-12) Details Audrey Hepburn’s childhood in Europe during World War II. Hepburn grew up in Holland and lives from the Nazi occupation of their country, Allied air strikes and food shortages. Audrey and her family are almost starved and only eat “pea bread, dog biscuits and tulip bulbs”. In the middle of the story, the book shifts to Audrey’s daydream of her future, in which she stars in films, has a family of her own, and in her later years travels to countries still at war, helping to feed hungry children .
It’s an enchanting fairy tale, though shifting into the extended daydream may confuse some readers a little because of the vague handling of the time, place, and incident (I did). But maybe this is the point: a biographical note at the end makes it clear that all of the things Hepburn dreamed of as a child really happened in her adult life. The fact that one of the authors of this seemingly too good to be true story, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, Hepburn’s eldest son (his wife, Hepburn’s daughter-in-law, is the other) twinks at his central notion that the germs of what we will be within us from the beginning, and adversity can make us stronger and more determined.
The colored crayon illustrations by Dominique Corbasson and François Avril are made with a light, consummate hand and stylistically reflect Hepburn’s own wispy Gamin quality. One of my favorites is a picture of young Hepburn in her nightgown, soaring in a Chagall-like flight over some of the world’s most famous landmarks.
If “Little Audrey’s Daydream” really starts with a firm footing, it is with Ben Hatkes Julia’s house continues (First second, 40 pages, $ 18.99; ages 4 through 8), a sequel to “Julia’s House for Lost Creatures”, which also stands on its own, is based on a fantastic premise: A little girl named Julia lives with a gang of goblins, trolls, robots, a mermaid and a ghost at a shaky sea house perched on the back of a giant turtle.
When the house and roommates get “restless” – we are not told why – Julia decides it’s time to move on. “I have a plan for it,” she says. But when the giant turtle carries the house into the sea before Julia has finished packing, her plan goes wrong. When the house fills with water, Julia has another plan: they will swim. But sharks appear. Further plans are made and just as quickly thwarted. Ultimately, the house is saved from ruin by a deus ex machina, the queen of the sea. At the end of the story, a helpful ghillie, a kind of benevolent Scottish fairy, grows and grows until – like a hot air balloon – he lifts the house into the sky. Avoided disaster!
The twists and turns of the story come out of the blue, but the book contains a timely lesson for those affected: Stop overplanning, let things happen, and hope for the best.
Hatke, who praised the illustrations in his best-selling graphic novel series, Zita the Spacegirl, continues to enjoy these bright ink and watercolor illustrations.
The most fascinating and original book here and my favorite is that of the Latvian artist Anete Melece THE KIOSK (Gecko Press, 40 pages, $ 18.99; ages 5 through 9). It started as a six minute animated short film that won awards at film festivals around the world.
Olga, the main character, is a tall, personable woman who lives, works, eats and sleeps in her kiosk. She can’t leave it when her workday ends because she can’t squeeze through the narrow door. She spends her evenings eating, reading travel magazines and dreaming of “distant seas with wonderful sunsets”.
In another absurd twist, Olga’s world is literally turned upside down when her kiosk tips over. She stands up and realizes that she doesn’t have to stay in town. She can go anywhere. It’s a moment in Alice in Wonderland when a giant Olga carries the kiosk on her shoulders through the busy city streets. Eventually Olga and Kiosk arrive on the coast, where she sells ice cream every evening and watches the sunset.
Olga’s paintings are wonderfully inventive and strange, and bright colors reminiscent of Matisse paintings.
As a parable for our time, “The Kiosk” is about escaping a tight routine and finding something better, “getting stuck” as Melece herself described it, and finding a way, “a journey to your happy place exactly to start as you are. “
Elizabeth Spiers is the author of the poetry collection “A Memory of the Future” and the upcoming picture book “Kate’s Light”.
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