Gorgeously crafted paper illustrations reveal the interconnectedness of a small town’s inhabitants while introducing young readers to colors and the concept of patterns.
A red bus, the number 17, travels along its route—from a solitary bench against a large expanse of sky to a bustling town and back again. With each turn of the page, a new vehicle is added, creating pairs of colors: A red car joins the bus, then a yellow car and van, and so on. But Steggall moves beyond this beginning concept to brilliantly execute an array of storylines for readers to find and follow. People wait, embark, ride and interact; the weather shifts; and the environment changes from sparse to dense. A mother and son run to catch the bus, a teddy bear is lost, the mother stops to catch her breath, a driver finds the toy, and a ride is given. Every opportunity is taken to show the passing of time, and all of this is represented impeccably in cut paper. However, upon first reading, the words don’t enhance the images as they should, and in fact, detract from the beauty of the detailed drawings. Clearly, the design and wide trim size, which extends the road and allows the illustrations to shine, sends the message that the text is less important than the pictures. Perhaps different text, or a wordless approach might have been more effective.
Still, a rich opportunity for repeat visits and a masterful display of the manipulation of the chosen material. (Picture book. 2-5)