A small, hard-to-define work that falls somewhere between a picture book, a poetry collection, and an art portfolio.
On the cover of Ross and Usova’s (Teapots and Assorted Things, 2015) latest work, a multicolored fish with a human face, clad in red boots, promises a whimsical, fantastical journey. Inside, the whimsy and fantasy are indeed plentiful. Each two-page spread presents a unique concept with Ross’ stripped-down text on the left and Usova’s intricate, watercolor-and-ink illustrations on the right. Many of Ross’ one- or two-sentence ideas, presented in their entirety, would make wonderful first lines of longer poems or stories, such as the opener: “A long time ago, / we had a home in the sky.” The accompanying painting of a child on top of a house, surrounded by birds, will make readers to want to know more about that home. Turning the page, however, switches gears; an image of a different child, observed by a pair of owls, drops a red pacifier outside of a crib, and the text reads: “Gravity is fun. / It works every time.” Subsequent pages introduce other unrelated characters and concepts, such as “Drucilla’s new town was different,” or a fish “with a village on her back.” The images often hint at a story that isn’t conveyed in the text; for instance, an illustration of a charming, three-headed dragon is associated with the lines, “Let’s go here. / No, let’s go there. / No, let’s go everywhere.” Some longer segments could be considered complete poems with rhythm and rhyme that evoke Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein, such as “The flying horses / neigh and dance and play. / I hope they stay.” But despite the combined images of children in a hot air balloon, surrounded by white, winged horses, the delightful idea in the text is never fully fleshed out. The rest of this poem consists of “Mom” saying that “tomorrow is another day / and more good things / will come our way.” This frustrating lack of development throughout the book prevents readers from fully inhabiting its imaginative worlds.
A collection of beautiful images and engaging ideas that never coheres.