In this wordless title, a tousled boy in overalls receives a present that changes his life.
The opening depicts the protagonist holding the box on the recto; his gaze follows a leg disappearing from the verso. Once unwrapped, the red ink of the new toy—the titular airplane—contrasts with the muted, lightly flecked, taupe, green and gray backgrounds. Pacing is controlled through subtle changes in these colors, modulating from four varied, vertical panels on a page to unified double-page spreads. After cavorting with a curious bird (which remains a comforting presence throughout), the child launches the plane and watches it land on the roof. Neither ladder, lasso, pogo stick, nor hose offers a solution, but inspiration falls from a tree in the form of a maple seed “helicopter.” The boy plants the seed next to the house, and decades pass; finally, the tree’s growth allows retrieval. The now-plump, bearded man revels in his toy once again but then pauses, reflectively. The narrative comes full circle as he exits empty-handed stage right, while a girl across the gutter holds a present.
Recalling both the ingenuity of Oliver Jeffers’ Stuck (2011) and the sense of foreboding in Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji (1981), Pett’s winsome caricatures enact a quietly provocative drama certain to raise questions about the value of patience, the burden of ownership and the ethics related to this instance of “re-gifting.” (Picture book. 4-10)