In Blue Rider (2016), Valério employed explosive colors and forms to illustrate, sans text, the magic of reading; here the Brazilian-Canadian’s wordless narrative depicts two friendships that blossom at the edge of the sea.
In the opening, a girl with flaming curls and a large, mustard-colored face dips her toes into the water, tackle box in hand. As a fish explores her submerged fingertip (and another, those of her companion, a frog), she imagines one on her line. It retreats when the hook is lowered. Her frown is reflected in the water, and she subsequently experiments with expressions, as does her green friend. The fish return, and as her demeanor becomes more pleasant, the mirror image morphs into a mermaid. The cool, blue figures contrast with the sunny shoreline palette until girl and amphibian are guided into the water and the sand recedes completely. Subtle changes to the pastel, colored pencil, and acrylic compositions begin as the friendship solidifies: The mermaid’s hair fills with yellow stars and sea horses while the child’s somewhat subdued hair becomes flecked with blue. The foursome flips and floats, surrounded by other sea creatures. As the girls make pearl necklaces, the frogs play with bubbles. In a satisfying conclusion, no one is called home; the characters simply drift off the page in slumber, leaving readers to imagine what occurs next.
Gentle humor and a sense of wonder pervade this joyful aquatic fantasy. (Picture book. 3-6)