Arty, heavily worked pictures give this sketchy account of a child’s first visit to a public library a distinctively sophisticated look and tone.
Surrounded by tall piles of volumes that are blurred to anonymity, Thomas first brings a scarily feral wolf and a red-hooded woman with heavy eye makeup to life from a collection of fairy tales. He flees by choosing appropriate words from a dictionary and atlas and sails past “treasure” and a “mermaid” to other quick adventures. Though necessary to follow the storyline, the text (available in English or French) is a secondary element that appears on overlaid white strips and has to be manually summoned into view with the tap of an icon. Perhaps as a result of translation, it runs to wooden lines like “Thomas hastily picks up another book and gleans some more sea related words to help him navigate.” Richard mixes heavily processed photos, paint applied in broad daubs and swirls, and flat cartoon figures into grainy, visually complex compositions. Colors transform, floating letters form into words, and little robots or other figures drift past or pop into view. In addition to an optional audio narration, chuckles and other low-key sound effects join a short loop of pleasant orchestral background music. In the end, Thomas writes his way back into the library and departs with his miniskirted mom on a wink from the voluptuously tressed librarian.
Culturally and aesthetically leagues away from such American outings as Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland (2003), though it springs from the same root. (iPad storybook app. 6-8)