Surreal imagery is paired to narrative text that prompts readers to interpret it.
This board book challenges readers from the outset by demanding a 90-degree rotation so that the pages turn from bottom to top. In the first double-page spread, readers see parrots flying around what appears to be mauve palm fronds silhouetted against a pink circle. The text is baffling: “I see a person tumbling away! / What do you see?” Readers who squint will discern, above the palm fronds and parrots, the faint image of what appears to be a white woman in a bathing suit tumbling forward. But they will have to squint hard. Subsequent spreads vary in their visual coherence. Readers will probably see the “hummingbird landing gingerly,” but a visual jumble of tendrils that the narrative describes as “triangles falling to the ground” will take quite a lot of staring at to parse. The open-ended “What do you see” that appears on each spread taunts its infant-and-toddler audience to make sense of the developmentally inappropriate visual and conceptual images. A rope resolves into a snake; dark-pink blossoms fade into a mottled pink and purple background. The final image pulls back to present the previous images as details from Le Noble Savage, a monumental 2006 work by Kenyan-American artist Mutu glossed as “a woman standing powerful and strong”; readers will likely interpret the figure as a woman, but the placement of a dark shape where her nose should be makes her face look distressingly like a skull.
Absolutely not the way to introduce very small children to this artist’s work. (Board book. 1-3)