Two fantastic picture books on the review docket for today’s post! Thanks to the kind folks at Candlewick Press and Penguin Random House Canada, I have the pleasure of getting to talk about the following titles: Jon Klassen’s The Rock from the Sky and Carson Ellis’s In the Half Room. Happy weekend and happy reading to you all!
A preface here: if you would like to experience The Rock from the Sky completely free of any plot hints or suggestions, then I would advise against reading descriptions, reviews or blurbs! I went into my first read of the picture book without knowing anything beyond the cover and my own ideas… and it was a thrill. So please carry on if you’d like! If you were wondering what marvellous and unexpected kind of shenanigans the bright-eyed animals of Jon Klassen’s picture book worlds were up to…then behold: The Rock from the Sky is here! Told in five short parts, The Rock from the Sky opens on a turtle and an armadillo (…wearing stylish hats, you might immediately notice!), talking about spots and standing in one’s favourite’s spots. Turtle and armadillo are disagreeing on their respective favourite standing spots, when a beret-wearing snake take sides…and turtle ends up just barely escaping with his life! Not because of anything like a bear wanting to exact revenge due to a missing hat, but because of a rather large rock from the sky that makes a sudden, startling appearance. Now, the falling rock from the sky is just the start of the animals’ adventures, and I do not want to give much away here for fear of spoilers. Klassen’s now arguably iconic, esteemed and recognizable storytelling and illustrations are such a welcome treat- just like returning to the worlds in your favourite novels. That being said, The Rock from the Sky goes further in terms of surprises, dryness, taut conversations, and fantastical elements that previous Klassen ventures, I would argue- and the results are pretty spectacular. Prepare for (unsettling) thoughts about the future, animals being quite annoyed and abrupt with each other, brushes with death, and, of course, hats.
Carson Ellis, acclaimed author and illustrator behind Du Iz Tak?, Home, and The Shortest Day (written by Susan Cooper) brings readers to an incredibly unusual, beautiful world with the picture book In the Half Room. At times reading like a playful take on Margaret Wise Brown’s classic Goodnight Moon, In the Half Room is a poetic get-ready-for-bed book- with a curve! In Ellis’s picture book, everything is in half: “Half chair/Half hat/two shoes, each half/Half table/Half cat/Half a window/Half a door/Half a rug on half a floor”. As “the light of the half moon shines down on the half room”, readers see half of an orange-haired girl with freckles quietly reading half of a book by half of the light from half of a lamp. Hmm. So curious! Why is everything in half? What is happening in this room? A glimpse at “half a moon in a half-moon phase” then brings quite a surprise to the door; a great big “SHOOOOOP” then brings something back together as a whole; and an unexpected feline tussle brings readers to ending wishes for a “Good night!”. The magic of In the Half Room’s story and artwork is arguably in the experience- how each reader and/or listener experiences, feels, and thinks about the story. By turns fantastical and outlandish, yet also cozy, dream-like and so much fun- and with a “SHOOOOOP” that might prove extremely entertaining to perform at storytime- In the Half Room is another winning flight of wonder from Carson Ellis.
I received copies of these titles courtesy of Candlewick Press/Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.