Here is a little song for Lemniscaat Books:
I don't know if people here buy your books
With their luscious touch and high-class looks
But please keep making them
Your European illustrators communicate like Turkish waiters
Wordlessly supplying me
With nuts and sweets and strong coffee
Ink, pastel, collage, and then
I turn it over
And start again.
Wow, I felt like Bebe there for a second! And goodness knows I am NOT a poetic person. Or an intense, androgynous Spanish musician. Although you know, if I were a musician, maybe I'd like to be Bebe. Her or M.I.A.
Talent communicates across language barriers, is what I'm saying. This is how I feel about some of the Lemniscaat books that Boyds Mill Press has generously brought to our shores in the last few years. Strange Day, Sparrows, Nuts, The Red Chalk, and I Feel a Foot! - all of these books share a light narrative touch and truly outstanding illustration.
The Tree House is a marvelous addition to this list. Like the books listed above, it features art executed with a confident, sure hand. The Tolmans aren't afraid of empty space or repeated scenes. A tree house, in a big tree sticking up out of the ocean, is visited by a polar bear and a brown bear. They explore the tree house, eat lunch, read books, watch clouds, make friends with other animals, and dream the afternoon away. It is delightful. Leisurely. Imaginative. It doesn't spell things out for the reader.
The colors are absolutely edible. When a flock of flamingos streams by, the range of pinks and oranges is like what I imagine sunsets are like at the Taj Mahal. The blues range from delicate, scratchy, foggy almost whites to velvety dark cobalts. Details are drawn in careful pencil, and the tree itself is a repeated graphic that has the organic texture of my friend Sarah's lithos.
The size of the printed book, and even its construction, are factors here too. Wordless books are most ideally suited to lengthy examination while laying flat on the floor. You want big and stitched for books like this - just ask the Where's Waldo? people. Glue will not make it.
So are we on the same page here? Wordless. Sumptuous. Sweet. Accessible. I love the Dutch.