A young traveler discovers a world of wonders hidden in a seemingly ordinary word.
Though assured by his industrious parents that there is nothing beyond their rural cottage but “work and more work,” Tom sets out to see for himself. Odd jobs eventually lead him to sail off to encounter tea in China, indigo in a busy Indian marketplace and cinnamon in tropical Ceylon. Years later he returns to tell his parents that all over the world “people are busy making beautiful things.” “I told you so,” responds his mother. “Wherever you go—just work and more work.” The narrative is a bare recitation of events, but in her afterword, Little explains that she visualizes Tom as starting out near Liverpool around 1840, then goes on to describe in some detail his parents’ occupations and how tea, indigo and cinnamon were harvested and prepared for export at that time. Showing technical dazzle but a fussy sensibility, Pérez renders foliage, architectural features and period dress in precise, superfine detail but gives human figures oversized heads, studied gestures, and tiny hands and feet. Moreover, though Tom is supposedly gone long enough to become “a young man and quite different from the boy who had left,” in the illustrations he ages not at all, greeting his parents wearing the same clothes he set out in.
Stylized and idealized but with some potential as a discussion starter. (Picture book. 7-9)