New York Times

Lyrische recensie The island in The New York Times door Anita Silvey

Certainly the most unusual book and for that matter, of the thousands of picture books published this year, is “The Island,” by the Dutch father-­daughter team Marije and Ronald Tolman. For their 2010 book “The Tree House,” this talented pair won Italy’s prestigious BolognaRagazzi Award. In their new offering, they feature a polar bear on a spiritual quest. I’ve gone through this wordless tale dozens of times and still can’t frame an exact story line. I’m not even sure I know what the book is about — and I really don’t care. Like a young girl I saw recently in a bookstore, I just run my hands over each page and say, “This is so beautiful.” A polar bear descends from the clouds and stands on an island with a flock of penguins; he journeys from place to place, swimming with dolphins, riding on the back of a hippo and eventually connecting with a violin-playing raccoon. Having found what he was looking for, a companion or art itself, the bear settles down to watch the stars with his friend. The entire story in this oversize book is told in double-page spreads. The natural landscape looms large, and the animals small, in each painting. Cool blues of sky and water verge into sun-drenched reds when African animals appear. An abstract structure, possibly a lighthouse, dominates many of the images. Dodo birds appear, suggesting a thread about the environment or the extinction of species. Each reader will have a different version of what occurs, but the pictures and the bear’s journey beg to be returned to again and again. For anyone who wants to develop visual acuity in children, “The Island” provides a springboard for conversation, reminding all ages of the wonder and magnificence of the natural world. And it demonstrates that we don’t always need words to support an amazing visual experience.