It’s not easy, I’m sure, to make picture books that are entirely reliant on visual storytelling, featuring no dialogue whatsoever. But Gregory Rogers certainly makes it look easy.
For those not familiar with Rogers, he’s Australian and was awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1995. For many years, he worked as a graphic designer before turning to illustration.
His newest book, The Hero of Little Street (to be released at the end of this month, though originally published in 2009 in Australia), is the third title in what Roaring Brook calls “the Boy Bear series.” The first two titles feature a young boy whose wayward soccer ball sends him on time-traveling escapades, what Publishers Weekly once called rambunctious silent comedies (or, if you’re Kirkus describing the new title in the series, a “wordless metafictive adventure”). For the first book, The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard (2007), he ends up on the stage of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, and in the second book, Midsummer Knight (also 2007), Rogers brought back the same cast of characters, this time for a romp through an Elizabethan fairy world, to put it simply, and this time with the Bear as a swashbuckling soldier. (The American covers are pictured here below, though all were first published in Australia.)
Both books, as well as this new one, are told in action-packed wordless panels, vigorously-paced, bursting with energy, and filled with playful perspectives from Rogers. (He often gets you right in the center of the action.) Just as a well-crafted picture book wastes not one word, there is not a single panel in this new title that wastes the reader’s time.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, a quick summary and then some more art from it …
In an opening note from Rogers, he shares that at the close of The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard, he left the boy wandering the streets of London — with no idea as to what his next adventure would be. But, given that Rogers often wonders “about the real lives of people in paintings,” this time the boy ends up at a museum (some bullies have chased him there, and once again his soccer ball is part of the action) and finds himself immersed in the world of 17th-century Dutch art — in more ways than one. Rogers writes in the same opening note that he has long admired the paintings of Johannes Vermeer and Jan van Eyck. Indeed, when the boy enters a museum to escape the bullies, the dog from this painting hops out of the canvas to greet him. They also eventually enter this painting.
And I certainly wouldn’t want to give away the rest (or tell you about all the references and secrets and surprises), given that I highly recommend you hold a copy of this book, both funny and clever, in your own hands anyway.
I love what Kirkus wrote about it:
There’s nothing stuffy about this, despite its high-toned beginning: Rogers simply uses his own love of the art as a springboard for his endearing brand of foolery. All’s well that ends well, as this frolic does, with a sublime comeuppance for all the bullies, then and now.
Here’s some more art from it. Enjoy.
THE HERO OF LITTLE STREET. Copyright © 2012 by Gregory Rogers. Published by Roaring Brook Press / A Neal Porter Book, New York. Spreads posted with permission of the publisher.