The Tolmans (The Tree House, 2010) take readers on another wordless adventure as their polar bear protagonist journeys to a place of wonderment and peace.
A polar bear descends from a cloud to observe a puffin colony. Far in the distance is a sun-shaped structure to which he swims; first, through a stunning reinterpretation of Hokusai’s The Wave, then through gentle waters, in whose depths dolphins play. At each destination, another calls in the distance, beckoning the genial bear forth. Lush, little islands, tropical trees and the lyrical silhouettes of roughly hewn structures invite exploration and new encounters. These whimsical, mixed-media illustrations fill the senses with gorgeous moments of joy and quietude. Together, this father-and-daughter team uses a complex visual vocabulary to create a deep visual narrative. Skill has been applied to the paintings, with their wide swaths of color, reminiscent of a Rothko color-field, and loose, deliberate drawings. But much like Rothko’s work, this tale’s ability to reach viewers is extremely subjective. Some may think it pleasant but simplistic, while others may project deep meaning onto it. Either way, the bear takes his journey, never knowing where it will lead or how the dots will connect. But readers will be left with a feeling of dreamy serenity, as the bear and his newfound soul mate gaze into an infinite starry sky, their island aglow in a sea of darkness.
Elegantly understated. (Picture book. 3 & up)