I’m surprised at myself that I haven’t read much illustrated books or comics so far this year. I wonder what’s going on with me. These two books bring me to a total of 4 illustrated children’s books read so far. Hopefully I’ll read a few more before the year is done.
Both of the books I’ll discuss in this post where cover buys. I love looking at illustrations of architecture and both books have illustrations of buildings on their covers. Naturally, I picked them up, ran my hands over the cover, and convinced myself to purchase them. I bought them at two different independent bookstores and I’m glad to now know that both were good purchases.
Sky High by Germano Zullo, illus. by Albertine
In this charming illustrated tale, two competing neighbors begin embellishing their mansions, only to find themselves caught up in a race to build the tallest, most decadent skyscraper featuring solid gold doors, diamond-encrusted pillars, grand ballrooms, expensive paintings, live tigers, and indoor swimming pools—with consequences inevitable, and not. Kids will love spotting the funny details hidden in this witty take on an age-old moral, while their parents—particularly any who’ve ever undertaken a remodel—will chuckle with recognition. (Goodreads)
Sky High was originally written in French and published in Switzerland. The English version was published by Chronicle Books in November 2012. It’s a short, funny story about two neighbors, Agenor-Agobar Poirier des Chapelles and Willigis Kittycly Junior, competing to build the tallest, grandest mansion. I wouldn’t have expected an illustrated book with such spare language and simple, though detailed, illustrations to be entertaining, but it was. I enjoyed it.
A page is dedicated to each man’s mansion and at every turn of the page, we see what new addition was made to the mansion. There isn’t any plot or character development and all that because the book is about the silly upgrades made to the mansions. So the text included are descriptions or statements that point out a new thing that was added and because the illustrations are simple one-dimensional drawings, these descriptions come in handy when pointing out something the reader wouldn’t be able to know otherwise, such as that one of the first improvements Agenor-Agobar Poirier des Chapelles made was to change his front door to one of solid gold, to which Willigis Kittycly Junior responded by adding a pillar of Carrara marble inlaid with diamonds to his mansion.
From there the upgrades become more outrageous. There’s a tower that has a mosaic made from emeralds, rubies, and sapphires; another tower made from moon rock; a hanging garden; a wave pool; a panoramic elevator; a wardrobe containing almost 6,000 suits; a stuffed Bengal tiger that’s helicoptered in; and many other things. The neighbors also host lavish parties and mask balls with thousands of people in attendance to keep up the impression of opulence. I think kids and adults alike will get a kick out of pointing out the various items added to the mansions and just how high and weirdly structured the mansions are.
Albertine’s style in Sky High is simple but detailed. The illustrations are one-dimensional and I assume they were done in pen (unfortunately, I couldn’t find what medium was used), so it’s just the black ink against the color of the pages.
Since there’s not much story, the focus is placed on the illustrations which readers must follow to understand what’s happening and get the humor of the book. And because the mansions become sillier as more things are added to them, readers will keep turning the pages to see what the end result is — that’s if the neighbors ever stop adding to the mansions.
I enjoyed this book and am glad I bought and read it. It’s a quick read, it’s entertaining, and I loved the illustrations. I bet Zullo and Albertine had fun working on it.
I consider it a favorite and highly recommend it to you all!
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I think it’s worth it. 😊
Children (I don’t know what genre it is.)
Spot, the Cat is a wordless children’s picture book about a cat named Spot who hops out a window when he saw a bird and goes on an adventure in the city while his owner, a little boy, searches for him. (Goodreads)
Another fun picture book. 😊 This one I liked because of the play on the title — the title tells us that the book is about a cat named Spot, but it’s also an instruction to spot (point out) the cat on each page — and because it includes an activity.
Because there are no words, readers have to pay attention to the images to understand how the story progresses. I love that about wordless illustrated books because it places emphasis on the illustrations. Spot, the Cat is made a bit humorous by the fact that Spot is in each area the boy searches, but the boy never sees him. Instead, it’s up to the reader to point out where in each scene Spot is. I think that’ll make reading this book a fun activity for kids. It’s like finding Waldo.
My favorite thing about this book is the illustrations. They seem to have been done in pencil but instead of shading, hatch marks are used to add gradation and texture to the drawings. I’m not usually a fan of hatch marks because they can seem messy sometimes, but I like how they are used here, neat and contained.
The search for Spot takes us around a city that strongly reminds me of Washington, D.C. I love this about the book because we get a bunch of illustrations of various buildings but mostly of row houses. I love how they line up along the street and how unique they all are in the book. It’s exactly as they are in any city.
Of course, the fun part of this book is finding Spot in each scene, which are often laid out in a 2-page spread. There’s at least one red herring I noticed in a few scenes that was subtle and almost got me.
This was fun and I loved the illustrations of the buildings.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I recommend Buying it if you’re considering to get it for a young one in your life, or if, like me, you love illustrations of buildings.