Written and Illustrated by Geraldo Valério
Groundwood Books, 2018, 44 pp
Bold colors graphically highlight the white letters of the title, Blue Rider. A child dressed in blue, riding a blue horse and holding a book that mirrors the book cover waves to readers with a smile. The color on the cover and the decoration on the title page draw readers into this book. As the story begins, the first double-page spread illustrations are more subdued with shapes outlining a city followed by pages of rectangles representing an apartment building. Neutral colors with a touch of blue set the tone for a young child outlined in beige and featured in one of the rectangles. As readers follow the child to the busy city streets, they see people hurrying, attending to their phones or other interactions, again in neutral tones with touches of blue. Suddenly the child spies a book on the ground with a blue horse on the cover and she walks away with the book and a huge smile on her face.
Later in the apartment, readers peer into her bedroom where she sits on the bed reading the book. The reader is then brought closer to the open book as we see it from the perspective of the child, viewing a large blue horse running across the double-page spread. On the following pages we follow the horse over the tops of the town’s buildings and into imaginary colorful realms. Each of six double-paged spreads bursts with colorful shapes indicative of the brilliant adventures the child is having. The fantastic ride gets more exciting with each explosion of color and ends with the child riding on the blue horse, book underarm as the horse returns to the ground. The reader returns to the child’s room facing her as she clutches the book with eyes closed and a smile on her face. Concluding pages take the reader away from the room, again framing the now brightly colored room with rectangles reflective of surrounding apartments that are still shown in more neutral tones but with brighter shades of blue and purple throughout. Readers leave the child sleeping with a huge smile on her face as a result of the book’s adventure.
This summary doesn’t do justice to the expressionist use of color and shape nor to the unique message about the imaginative powers within a book. The particular abstract style in this book is the result of the author being influenced by the German Expressionist art group, Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). The group formed in the early 1900s and artists were guided by a belief in the spiritual and symbolic role of color and form, the promotion of modern art of the time, spontaneity in painting, and primitivism. Such an abstract approach can speak to how art is transformative in the world around us, but in this book it also serves to address the imaginative worlds a book can bring to a child, thus learning about art as well as the power of story.
In considering the power of books and the imagination, two other picturebooks come to mind. One is Redwoods by Jason Chin (2015); the other is an older title that uses metaphor to share this power, Book by George Ella Lyon and Peter Catalanatto (1999). While these are not visual narratives, the visual texts are significant in the meaning created by the reader.
Born in Brazil, Geraldo Valério lives in Toronto and publishes internationally. He has created two other recent visual narratives: Friends (2019) and At the Pond (2020).
Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas
WOW Review, Volume XII, Issue 4 by World of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work by Janelle Mathis at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/review/volume-xii-issue-4/4/
WOW review: reading across cultures