Maybe I should save this one for the hot weather that is to come. Because right now I have heard that it's going to snow one last time in our neck of the woods before Spring (and, immediately on its heels, Summer) shows up for good. Sigh. Quit, already!
Meanwhile, I have the sunny skies and sepia tones of a new Arthur Geisert book to keep me warm. Arthur Geisert is an etcher of pigs, a devotee of hot-air sailing ships, a contraptionist if there ever was one, and yes I just made up that word in his honor. Hogwash and Oops and Lights Out delight kids and adults who enjoy cause-and-effect, who dream of a better mousetrap, who can't see a stream of water in a gutter without building a tiny dam.
In Ice, he gives us a colony of pigs on a desert island. Wearing demure but cheerful dresses and blue bib overalls, these pigs somehow make me think they are a little utopian separatist community, like the descendents of the inhabitants of Fruitlands, if Fruitlands had been anything but an abysmal failure. They live in neat A-frame huts, shingled and clapboarded and skylighted. These huts are incredibly reminiscent of early-twentieth-century photos of buildings constructed by whalers, missionaries, scientists, explorers - anyone trying to get some work done in the far North.
The American Museum of Natural History scow Mary Jane on the Red Deer River, Alberta, Canada, in 1912.
(Or the not-so-far north, as above. I wanted to pop an old expedition crew photograph into this review because the setting in Ice feels so much like an old-fashioned explorer's camp. The composition of many of the wide drawings is reminiscent of the photos taken to document scientific expeditions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Wide angles, often taken from quite a distance. Photos from the 1922 Stanley Field Expedition to British Guiana are up on Flickr; so is a set of photos Frank Hurley took in the Antarctic. See if you see the similarity.)
When the communal tank of fresh water on their island begins to run low, they do what any self-sufficient colony of pigs on a Northern island would do - they fill up the bag on their hot-air sailing ship and go off to find an iceberg to tow home. Geisert shows us just enough detail in the process of getting the iceberg home and transferring it to the island's tanks. It seems to be a holiday outing for the pigs, some of whom get to ride home on the iceberg. That looks like fun. Dumping the big blocks of ice into the open-air tank looks really fun.
This book is wordless, and as such belongs on a short marvelous list that also includes The Yellow Balloon, The Tree House, The Chicken Thief, and Mattland. They make fantastic gifts for imaginative kids.