The evolution of a city built beneath a green meadow by anthropomorphic moles is narrated visually.
The industrious moles build their elaborate, busy civilization without paying much attention to the natural world—with predictably bad consequences—in a largely wordless allegory about the downside of progress. Kuhlmann’s art for the underground city is richly done in earthy tones, with the gray-blue of the moles’ coveralls and the glow of lamps, screens, and lightbulbs punctuating the sense of being constantly indoors, electricity in use everywhere. Bits of telephones and gaming handsets decorate the moles’ compact living and working spaces. Underground trains ferry commuters in all directions, including up and down. The city’s development proceeds to the point where vehicles packed end to end crowd the square of a heavily stacked city as mole-oriented signage looms over the streets: “smutch,” “sand,” “soil.” The devastation that has been wrought on the surface above them appears in a double-page spread just after this: the formerly green meadow is a wasteland of derricks and piles of bare earth. It’s only on the rear endpapers that hope appears, with thumbnail black-and-white “photos” showing a wind farm rising above the bare-dirt meadow and a mole enjoying a bit of fresh air.
Kuhlmann’s detailed art will pull in readers who like to see how things fit together, while his message is abundantly clear for everyone. (Picture book. 3-7)