In this wordless picture book, a light-skinned man moves from a peaceful protest march with his young child to imprisonment for his views and finally back to his home—with the help of letters from around the world.
The cartoons are masterful black-ink sketches with highlights of watercolor. Placards carried by the man and his cohorts bear bright red, filled-in circles, similar to the appearance of his daughter’s balloon. When the amorphous, peaceful band of protestors reaches an official-looking building, a frightening, well-organized phalanx of dark-blue soldiers in helmets appears, threatening violence. One soldier injures the man, who is then dragged into an ambulance. Not brutal enough? The soldier deliberately pops the daughter’s balloon. The man languishes in solitary confinement, sharing bread crumbs with a mouse and a bird. The cartoons illustrate the prisoner’s experiences of nostalgia, tedium, and hopelessness. When letters start arriving, the man’s joy is short-lived; the guard burns them. But as diverse groups and individuals send more and more letters, the dark smoke sends an SOS around the world. An image both beautiful and funny shows the man flying on wings of letters, as the guard below utters profanities. An author’s note (translated by Angela Keenlyside) informs readers that Goldstyn was inspired by the letter-writing campaigns of human rights organization Amnesty International. His book is an accessible and inspiring tribute.
“The pen is mightier than the sword” lives on. (author’s note) (Picture book. 8-12)