Great-Uncle George was a magician whose “enchanted pen” has created an array of fancifully surreal illustrations, each begun with the same-shaped pen stroke and each accompanied by a brief story starter.
Great-Uncle George’s mustachioed portrait appears next to a succinct history of the fictional magician and his special pen: “With this pen he would draw an ordinary line. That line turned into a painting. He drew the line many times and painted hundreds of paintings, but all that remains are the ones that you see in this book.” Readers are then invited to find that line—duplicated on the first page—and to “finish each story.” The colorful, absurd, detailed illustrations feature a fantastical array of characters—many of them anthropomorphic animals—in an intriguing style that defies easy classification. Each absorbing illustration includes a sentence or two, always beginning with the titular “Once upon a line” and ending with ellipses. Unfortunately, most “story starters” are so closely aligned with the art that they invite controlled, one-line responses rather than imaginative stories. For example, a hilarious depiction of a tiny knight atop an enormous, pink octopus is accompanied by, “Once upon a line, there was a knight who was allergic to horses. This was not a problem because….”
The artwork is captivating, finding the pen stroke is challenging, and the text will spark some animated conversation. (Picture book. 4-9)