A disembodied ear suffers an existential crisis.
Readers never learn how the ear became separated from her head, though frontmatter images of a white man with a red beard, a vase of sunflowers, and a wooden chair with cane seat provide clues to readers familiar with art history. But van Gogh is not the point. The point is that with no head attached, “I am no one,” the Ear weeps. But then a doleful frog asks if he can sing for her, which cheers them both up. She goes on to listen to an elephant’s story and a hare’s confession (she ate a snowman’s nose). Pretty soon, the Ear has earned a reputation as “the best listener in the land.” Then a spider comes “with a voice as sweet as honey” to whisper unkindnesses as it spins its web around the Ear. But with a “Chomp!” the frog dispatches the spider, and they all live happily ever after. Raud’s little tale is about as weird as they come, and the Ear’s staring eyes are more than a little unsettling. But the Estonian author/illustrator’s surreal, two-dimensional images, populated with smiling, stylized animals, have a zany matter-of-factness that eases readers into the story. Characters perch on the horizon line, strong verticals and horizontals combining with rounded corners to convey stability, while swirling interior lines hint at emotional complexity.
This quirky affirmation of the value of listening will have readers thinking. (Picture book. 4-8)