Here’s one of the many great things about featuring some spreads from D.B. Johnson’s newest title, Palazzo Inverso, this morning: I can post these images right-side-up or upside down. I could be hammered on, say, an entire bottle of Courvoisier and screw up the images, and they would still work. (I don’t know why I said that. I don’t even own any Courvoisier. Not to mention I would never Blog While Hammered. That sounds like a support group, doesn’t it? Oh, and not to mention I can’t remember the last time I was hammered. But isn’t “Courvoisier” fun to say?)
I am, arguably (but just maybe arguably), author/illustrator D.B. Johnson’s Biggest Fan. I have already made clear the many reasons why in my March 2009 interview with him. Or, as Daniel Pinkwater nailed it in his 2009 7-Imp interview, D.B. Johnson is a genius. ‘Nuf said.
Because of my excessive fan-dom, I get extra squealy over his new titles, and Palazzo Inverso will be released next month by Houghton Mifflin. LUCKY ME has seen an early copy. Really, really observant 7-Imp readers may remember that this was the one title I wanted most to see in 2010. Well, now is the time, dear readers.
The new title is a reverent and playful homage to M.C. Escher and his mind-bending, impossible buildings, telling the story of a boy apprentice, named Mauk, to a master architect. Since the book can be read right-side-up or upside down—and since the story loops around, asking the child reader to turn the book topsy-turvy and read the upside-down text at the top of the page, only coming back to the very beginning—it all begins with an arrow directing the reader to the first sentence: “EVERY DAY WAS THE SAME.” Mauk has to get up, head to work. But this day ends up being different, as he finds his route to work to be slightly disorienting and then, when he arrives at the Palazzo where the Master is working, “workers wheeled their carts in all directions…What was different?…here were the bricklayers with a full cart—spilling bricks on the ceiling!…All around him workers were falling down stairs, hanging from windows, and shouting…Workers were walking on their hands down the stairs! The water in the fountain was falling up instead of down…”
Our poor discombobulated protagonist is baffled, as the workers around him blame the Master. Then, when everyone gathers around the drawing of the building, the Master accuses Mauk of changing his drawing. And, well…I don’t want to give it all away, except to say again that the text loops, the reader turns the book upside down, and a new adventure begins. Johnson also includes an Author’s Note about Escher.
It’s all what Booklist calls an “undeniably impressive bit of optical trickery with an even neater narrative flip at the conclusion.” The book demands that child readers stretch their imaginations, and I mean really stretch them. And this is such a good, good thing — and not surprising, given the great respect Johnson has for child readers and their smarts. Certainly, this picture book isn’t for everyone, but it’s a challenging mind-bender for your older picture book reader. And, well, not only that: Shoot, a child’s never too young to see such masterful mucking with perspective.
I hope you see a copy when it’s released in May and come back and talk to me about it. Here are some more spreads and sketches from the book (I’m not going to include any text/captions with them, as I won’t know which to pick: the bottom or top text), and I thank D.B. for sharing them. To see some other spreads from the title, you can re-visit my ’09 interview with D.B., in which he talked a bit about the book and previewed some art from it.
PALAZZO INVERSO. Copyright © 2010 by D.B. Johnson. Published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Mass. Sketches and spreads reproduced by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New folks are always welcome.
(in no particular order)
1). The way my four-year-old dances. She busts some bad-ass moves. I snapped a bunch of pictures this week as she danced, especially since she gets this wicked intense look on her face as she gets her groove on. See, pictured here?
2). She also has learned to pump her legs and swing her own self. She’ll head out to the swings at 7ish every morning; she loves it that much. At this point during the day, I’m still shuffling around, squinting and glaring simultaneously, grunting at folks monosyllabically, and looking for coffee. I do like swinging with her, though, when I’m awake. Who doesn’t love swinging?
3). My friend, Jill. And Eisha. They were good listeners this week during some of my darker, more pathetic, more neurotic moments, and they’re always good listeners. They’re my people. My tribe.
4). Finally seeing Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Cuss yeah, it was good. I read that book to my girls when they were younger, and they hooted. But they didn’t remember it. Anyway. We all enjoyed the movie. I think I need a trademark gesture, like Mr. Fox has. Any ideas for me?
5). This great interview with Natalie Merchant on her unusual new CD, which I super-bad want. P.S.: Does she ever age?
7). Seeing this short video on David Wiesner’s upcoming Fall picture book. It makes my brain hurt to see how he’s mucking with media in the narrative, but it’s a very good kind of hurt:
BONUS: Good old-fashioned manners. We went out to eat one night this week, and I noticed that each of the ladies at the table next to us sat there for the first fifteen minutes looking at their respective phones and texting and such. FIFTEEN MINUTES without saying a word to one another or acknowledging each other. I’m glad my people have manners.
Also: Showing Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Three-Stooges footage to my girls, seeing as how my kindergartener is a one-person slapstick performance anymore these days.
Here we go. Just for fun:
What are YOUR kicks this week?