A fanciful picture book about the value of friendship.
“Mr. Brown had no friends and he didn’t want any.” So begins the tale of a reclusive bear who finds that his hat becomes a home to myriad birds. As time passes, he grows fond of their company. Imai’s transcendent illustrations evoke an otherworldly mood with their portrayal of everyday objects and scenes with unusual juxtapositions—a bird nestles in a teacup; a tiny tree grows out of the dining table. The illustrations’ dreamlike atmosphere is enhanced by the soft, precise technique the illustrator employs. With such perfectly rendered images, readers expect the text to ring with the same soft precision, but there is a bit too much telling of that which is already shown visually, which dilutes the effect. The book’s impeccable design pays close attention to detail, from its vertical layout (to accentuate the tall hat the birds live in) and clever endpapers to the placement of the illustrations and text. The text is on the verso only and is accompanied by a small spot illustration, while a full-page illustration is on the recto. This intentional use of white space on each spread enhances the story’s restful, dreamy atmosphere.
A delicate, whimsical story that succeeds completely in its illustrations and design and a little less so in its text. (Picture book. 3-8)