A picture-book allegory about life and, to some extent, love.
It is undeniably adorable, with a winsome protagonist, sweet animals, and great but not aggressive production (lovely paper and a light-catching glaze). Less a meditation on metafictional existence than a stand-in story for an existential quest (why am I here?), the tale of this “boy” is actually fairly low-key: “One quiet morning, a small boy landed on the page.” Though a little nonplussed, the boy quickly finds himself exploring the limits of his world. His animal companions—a friendly pig and a small yellow bird—stick with him as he experiences art, music and adventure. Later, he grows a beard, still looking endearingly like his young self despite facial hair, and becomes a partner and a father. Near the book’s end—the pages’ end—the elusive, universal “why” has him leaping into the unknown—whether disconcertingly or boldly will depend on individual readers or listeners: “Looking for answers, he tried something he had never tried before. / Jumping off the page… // …waiting for him there was every…person he had ever loved.” The boy, now clearly a grown and elderly man, is both enlightened and reassured. Will the young readers and listeners feel the same way?
The impressive kindness of the art has its own power and could make it work—the ambiguity inherent in this sort of question does not guarantee success. (Picture book. 4-8)