A book which give me good endpapers is basically my literary equivalent of “You had me at hello.” Good endpapers are a mark of clever work, work that revels in the nature of what it is and knows how to fully utilise that space. I mean, picture books are books that, perhaps more than most, have space to play in. You can do so much here. So much.
TiN by Chris Judge gives that. It’s subtle work, as all the good stuff is, but it’s rather lovely. In figure two, you can see a close up detail of this, this lovely clean landscape reminiscent of something from a colouring in book.
For me, there’s something about that outline that is very universal. It is something we recognize because we’ve all done it. We’ve all drawn triangle boats. We’ve all drawn triangle trees and curly waves. That simple, almost flattening, of perspective is something very global to me. So in a way, I almost read past this image because I’ve seen it already and I am comfortable with it. I know how to read this image (and I love the quiet subtle placement of the spaceships, the way they blend in and almost take advantage of that familiarity).
But spaceships aside (ha!), there’s something about this image that makes me pause and it’s all about that bright red balloon racing off to the sky. There’s something universal to that again, but look at how the moment’s constructed. The balloon is coming from the heart of the book, right from the spin and it’s leading us to a page turn. That balloon is begging us to turn the page.It’s laden with cues, the bright contrast of colour – the red on blue and white and the way that every child, everywhere, since the dawn of time, knows what it’s like to lose a balloon. There are images in this world which encapsulate story. Which are story, really, and this is one and it is brilliant.
Because it tells you everything: somebody has lost their balloon. And that balloon is going to be influential in what’s to come.
And it does! Tin is asked to look after his younger sister Nickel, and it’s not long before Nickel’s suddenly up a tree and reaching out for that very same red balloon. She floats away and Tin has to go and bring her back. With the aid of his dog Zinc, the two of them go as fast as they can to catch up to Nickel who is moments from being carried off into the big city…
(Everyone’s a robot, btw, did I mention that? I suspect I didn’t. It’s ace. Gives a lovely freshness and novelty to the tale. Anyway, enough of these parentheses. Carry on)
I had a few issues with the big double page spreads that come later in the book – figure three. They’re a little bit confusing at first glance and I imagine could prove slightly intimidatory to the more nervous readers. They are beautiful, beautiful things but there’s a lot going on in them. It’s a little Where’s Wally at times (which is no bad thing, it’s just something to note) If you’re reading these with somebody who is nervous, do take your time. It’s worthwhile letting yourself dwell on the loveliness of these images, the Jetsons-esque styling and the tiny little narratives happening in nearly every breath on the page. Those colours! Those shapes!
So, after the necessary hijinks involving a parade of animals (figure four) and Nickel landing on the back of a “long-necked giraffe” and Tin and Zinc hitching a ride on “the back of a large, grey elephant”, there is a final dash through a safari park until eventually Nickel is rescued by a safari ranger and they can all return home. Rather gloriously, Nickel is rewarded with a yellow balloon which …. well … take a look at figure five …
This is such a lovely book. It’s just lovely how it revels in its space and is so resolutely vivid and joyful. Many thanks to Andersen for letting me have a look at it. I really love what they do with their picture books and it’s a pleasure to be able to wallow in them.
If you’d like to look at some previous picture books in depth posts, you can do so here. Amongst many other authors and artists in this series, I’ve featured Clara Vulliamy, Alex T Smith and Sarah Bee and Satoshi Kitamura.