A “little giant” with closed eyes asks the titular question, then sets out to collect answers.
Along with abstract and semiabstract visualizations in paint, ink, and fiber collage, Herbauts incorporates embossing, die-cut holes, and various shapes in smooth, transparent overlays so that the illustrations require touch as much as sight to apprehend. Many of the responses to the little giant’s enquiry are likewise as allusive as they are evocative: to a dog the wind is “pink, flowery, pale white,” but to a wolf it’s “the dark smell of the forest.” To a town, it’s the color of “curtains, laundry, clothes,” but to a window, it’s “the color of time”—illustrated with drawings of people with watering cans—and to tree roots (in a scene embossed with a rugged, raised pattern), it’s the color of “sap and pomegranates.” At last the “little” giant meets an “enormous” one, who assures him that it’s all of these together and creates the “wind of the book” by riffling the pages. The tactile elements are printed in very low relief, but they’re pervasive enough among the visual ones to keep blind as well as sighted readers (those of a more poetic or philosophical bent anyway) engaged. The answer, of course, lies beyond words or images.
“The blind men and the elephant” reworked into a Zen koan. (Picture book. 9-11, adult)