Music of an unexpected kind becomes the bridge to a new friendship in this picture book.
On top of Spike Mountain’s “squiggle rocks,” Red Song Thrusters produce toots, chirps, and hums across the “grass-tail fields” and the “berry-bush flats.” Far below, unaware of each other, reside two lonely creatures: Piper lives on the grassy side, telling wistful stories to “tail-seed dolls” she makes. Hubert, on the flatland side, eats berries and holds one-way conversations with goggle-eyed “Shroom” plants. Piper and Hubert find comfort in the Thrusters’ daytime concerts, but surely the low “honk, whoop” serenade in the evening means that “something is not right.” What can it be? Or are the Thrusters trying to send a different musical message? In her newest book for early readers, author/illustrator Helms (The Polygonsters, 2017, etc.) has again created a gently whimsical world where strange creatures are the conduit for expressions of friendship. Rendered on white pages in colored pencil and pen-and-ink, Helms’ flights of fancy include three-legged Piper, a catlike mix of geometric shapes with wheels for feet; speckled Hubert, with a “berry-snarfing” snout, long neck, and tubular extremities; and the vaguely birdlike Thrusters, who sing through protrusions resembling flattened trumpets. The characters, though rough-hewn and random, are relatable, and the vocabulary is entertaining and smart. The large black text, well-spaced on the page with some boxes and dialogue balloons, offers comfortable readability.
Another captivating mix of eccentric visuals and gentle messages of unity by an author/illustrator who dances to her own quirky tune.