Monday, November 19

Stone Age Boy


by Satoshi Kitamura
Candlewick 2007

I can't really say what it is about Kitamura's illustration style that makes me like it so much, but I do. Whether it's The Comic Adventures of Boots or Me and My Cat it's a world unto itself between cartoon and watercolor illustration, a controlled playfulness that's as expressive as it is equally fun.

Stone Age Boy is another world altogether, literally. A boy goes exploring and falls down a hole landing in a cave during one of man's more primitive eras on the planet. From the looks of both the people and their way of life the boy has found himself in a Scandinavian fishing village befriended by a girl who goes by the name Om. After regarding each other's appearance as odd they take the boy into their society and show him their ways. They dry fish, they hunt, Om and boy play as kids and help out as needed, and at night around the fire when the others sing and dance the boy plays his air guitar. One day he and Om enter a cave and discover it full of paintings, stories of previous hunts, and a bear. Along the way he loses Om and re-emerges into his own time. In the book's coda we see the boy as an adult archaeologist digging back into the past, searching for his link back to another time, searching for traces of Om and her village.

A natural progression for younger readers who might have moved beyond the novelty of the dinosaur and want to know more about how one goes about digging up and studying the past, the information is both accessible and not in the least bit "teach-y". Where most of the illustrations are full-page or full-spread there are a few spreads with smaller illustrations full of details about life in the village that feel cramped and just a bit too small. If these informational pages had been larger and maybe expanded over a few pages I think it would made a huge difference between a good book and a great one for me.

I like this more serious side of Kitamura, I don't think I'd mind seeing more.
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