A complex, stunning Portuguese import.
What begins as a fanciful story about a lone girl with straight, black hair and skin of an unnatural coral hue takes a turn toward the mysterious and, perhaps, dystopian. The jacket art and case cover—done, as is the rest of the book, in a bold, saturated palette—present a striking depiction of what may be read as a zoo or animal preserve. But then readers learn that “Nina likes to visit the jungle city,” and they see a small, stick figure of a girl precariously hanging from a large, metal structure and gazing over the landscape. Ensuing pages show her interacting with animals in an increasingly bizarre setting that melds the urban with the wild. Digital illustrations have the look of prints, broad, flat applications of color overlapping in a way that emphasizes how the wild has taken over. No other humans appear, but Nina seems at peace and enjoys reading to the animals. In a metafictive twist, “the story the animals like best… / is this one: the one about them. / The story takes place in a quiet spot… / where humans once lived… / and where nature now runs wild.” The book never explains what happened to the people of this city nor where Nina comes from and returns to. While some readers may be intrigued and provoked to speculation, others may find this ambiguity unsatisfying or troubling.
Fascinating, eerie…perhaps frustrating—be ready for conversation. (Picture book. 4-8)