My son is eleven. Each week his school allows him to bring home three books from the school library. I’m sometimes genuinely astonished by his choices.
Today, for instance, he brought home Imagine A Night, a short picture book presumably targeted at readers in the first or second grade (it has only sixteen images). Indeed, he had no real interest at all in the poetry provided by Sarah L. Thompson – I’m pretty sure that he didn’t even read the text. He did, however, pore over the images by Rob Gonsalves. Gonsalves is a magic realist. He works in a very realistic visual style but adds some surrealist touches. MC Escher is certainly an influence. His paintings, as my son, pointed out, make you think it’s about one thing and then suddenly – boom! – they’re about something else. To my son, this is the very heart of artistic achievement. He asked me to sit with him as he read it so that I could confirm his observations about the paintings as he worked through them.
The cover above is quite typical of the work inside. What starts as pine trees reflected in a lake becomes women emerging from the water. They’re pretty much all like this, some better executed than others.
Gonsalves has produced four books in this series, and the second (Imagine a Day) won the Governor General’s Award in Children’s Literature – Illustration in 2005. I’m certain that one will be making its way home in the weeks to come.
I think that for my son this book is very much akin to the Rick Riordan books that he is endlessly consuming these days. He’s still very much of an age where clouds turning swimmers into angels is right up his alley. It's also interesting to me that he has no sense of this book being "too young" for him - everything is either interesting or not interesting to him. There is no sense of "should", as in what he "should" be reading. It makes me wonder when that negative disposition will arrive...