Open-ended text and illustrations allow for infinite readings while maintaining deep feeling in Lanagan’s (The Brides of Rollrock Island, 2012, etc.) debut picture book.
The door-shaped cutout in the front cover leads readers directly into landscape-patterned endpapers and frontmatter, while the extra-large trim size heightens the intensity of Cai’s initial illustrations, which are dominated by dark red skies, gigantic, black, four-legged creatures that chase a small human figure, and jagged-edged architectural debris. These dramatic scenes slowly give way to lighter, softer-hued, sprawling landscapes accented with white as the pale-skinned narrator describes her own personal haven called Tintinnabula. There, she says, “soft rains fall and silver, / …soft bells ring and sweetly, / distantly, melancholically.” The narrator’s movement from “times of drought and wind… / and stress and argument, / … / and…times of fear” to “green, breathing, grassy hills” reaches a transitional moment in a spread in which the jagged, ruined stonework and four-legged creatures appear distant, fading into negative space as a sequence of vignettes offers glimpses of the narrator’s progress toward a lush green land filled with trees—and fewer man-made structures. Readers will be left wondering: Does she physically travel, or is this an internal, emotional journey? What—and where—is she traveling away from? Can, or will, others join her?
A moving portrayal of resilience that pairs exquisite free verse with evocative, richly textured drawings. (Picture book. 6-12)