An unusual cast of characters interacts in an odd, circular tale translated from the French.
The opening pages inform readers that “This is the story of… / a Rabbit who wants to grow up; an anxious Stag; a Soldier at war; a Cat who keeps having the same dream; a Book who wants to know everything; and a Shadow.” The narrative begins with a chapter about the child Rabbit and the Stag that adopts it, following which each character has its own section. The story builds as the characters’ separate tales become intertwined with one another’s and ends full circle back with the Stag and the Rabbit. As the story unfolds, the characters explore their emotions with symbolism looming large; the disconsolate Rabbit weeps at the bottom of a hole; the Soldier pursues adventure in the form of an erupting volcano. They bare their souls in dialogue, and the Soldier, referred to with masculine pronouns, takes off his helmet and is revealed to be a girl. All are stuck in place in some fashion, but their interactions help them move on. The line-and-watercolor illustrations—mostly vignettes, though there are some full-page paintings—heighten the moodiness. The overall effect is a somewhat moralistic picture book about birth, coming-of-age, and death that demands contemplative readers with a high tolerance for the surreal.
With 56 pages, a meandering plot, and characterization that tends toward the symbolic, this is a picture book for patient, older readers. (Picture book. 4-7)