The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky

h1 January 18th, 2022 by jules

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Forgive me for posting about a book months in advance (I try not to do that), but I hope 7-Imp readers will see this post as a treat (and not a tease). I’ve some spreads to show you today from Kim Jihyun’s The Depth of the Lake and the Height of the Sky (Floris), coming to U.S. shelves in April. This is the picture book debut for Jihyun, who lives in Seoul, and it originally published in South Korea as Last Summer in 2017 and then in Scotland last year. (I’m fascinated by this change in title and would love to know who was behind that. The publisher? Jihyun? The translator, even though this is a wordless book? Whoever decided this, it’s beautiful.)

This silent book invites us into a boy’s transforming experience in the natural world. He lives in an apartment in the city but packs his bags one day to visit grandparents in the country. After he and his parents arrive, he looks out the window of his grandparents’ home and sees trees and grasses blowing in the wind. When he decides to explore one of the paths with his dog, he finds himself in a beautiful wooded area. We readers get the sense that he’s not used to seeing such vistas, given his life in the city; perhaps this is even his first of such visits.

Then, he sees it: a lake. He dives in, and we are privy to his underwater adventure. Afterwards, in two glorious spreads, we see him and his pet from an aerial view, the blues of the water taking up most of the spread’s space, and on the following spread we see what he sees — the shimmering sun in a cloudless sky. (I love this spread so much that it’s the open that opens this post.) These alternating points of view — the sun’s and then the boy’s — are breathtaking.

The boy heads back, and we see his grandparents’ home from outside and from a distance. The family has gathered to dine together. Previously in the book, the boy stands in his grandparents’ living room, staring at photos of family on the wall. We get the sense that his immersive experience in the natural world isn’t the only thing he’ll remember from this visit. He will also remember the quiet and relaxed time spent with family.

In the closing spreads, he and his dog stare at the sky in wonder, and then we readers see the same view of the stars that he sees. In an appended note, Jihyun writes that she spent a few days last summer in a lakeside town in another country, and the quiet moments she spent there were ones in which she felt “truly alive. To share that serene feeling, I created this book.” The note itself reads like a free verse poem.

There are many things Jihyun does well here — the delicate, closely observed artwork; the wonder pervading the story and the page-turns it compels; how the monochromatic palette welcomes cool blues when the boy explores at the lake; the fact that the trim size is tall to accommodate for what the very title tells us we will experience; the use of scale to communicate the boy’s awe; and all that the playful perspectives offer — but the book’s pacing is, hands down, its best quality. Jihyun never rushes the story. We as readers often pause with the boy to marvel at what he sees. And there are no surprising plot developments here. Just the ripples on the water, the sun, the sky, the stars — not to mention what the boy sees underwater.

Here are some spreads. Enjoy!


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THE DEPTH OF THE LAKE AND THE HEIGHT OF THE SKY. First published in South Korea by Woongjin Thinkbig Co. Ltd., Seoul in 2017. First published in English by Floris Books, Edinburgh in 2021. First published in the USA in 2022. © 2017 Kim Jihyun. English version © 2021 Floris Books. English translation rights arranged by S.B. Rights Agency — Stephanie Barrouillet on behalf of Woongjin Thinkbig Co. Ltd. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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