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Raúl Colón
ISBN 9781442494923
Paula Wiseman/S&S, 2014.
New York Times 10 Best Illustrated Book
5 stars
Keywords: africa animals art creativity safari serengeti wordless-books

by Raúl Colón

In this marvelous wordless adventure, Raúl Colón (Abuelo) takes us on safari through a boy artist's imagination. Colón, who suffered from asthma as a child, calls to mind in pictures here what Robert Louis Stevenson's words do in "The Land of Counterpane." Colón uses his pencils to summon a safari's worth of animals. The boy artist, pictured in bed in pen-and-inks and watercolor, looks at a book about Africa, a safari hat, sketchbook and stash of pencils nearby. A sequence of full-color images in Colón's signature compositions leads us into the creations of the artist in his imagination. The two styles clearly delineate the bedbound child and his imagined self as artist on safari. The young artist appears with canteen and easel slung over his shoulders, waving to an elephant. The elephant stops to model for a portrait. You could teach an art class from observing the young artist's lines. The elephant, pleased with the results, offers the boy a ride. Zebras pause by an acacia tree for a portrait; the boy contorts himself to sketch a herd of swift-moving giraffes. He gazes at a pride of lions from a safe distance, and a gorilla grabs the boy's hat and lunch as the price for posing. The climax involves a charging rhino in a heart-stopping four-part sequence.

The book closes as it opens, with a sequence that charts a poignant parting from his pachyderm friend, and a return to the boy's bedroom. One last image takes the boy from his solitary work to an appreciative audience. Bravo!

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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