A town with all the usual facilities (lamp-posts, escalators, galleries, restaurants…) is being slowly inundated, but it’s business as usual for the animal inhabitants. Preoccupied by their own concerns, they ignore the rising water or deal with its practical inconveniences in humorous and inventive ways. Amidst a constant chatter of questions, theories and complaints, those offering valuable ideas are drowned out by the noise until the situation becomes critical. Finally, the animals decide to listen to a quieter voice – but it’s going to take everyone to pull that plug!
Drawn and washed in tones of grey, then flooded with a deep turquoise overlay, this striking and sophisticated picturebook by Spanish newcomer Mariajo Ilustrajo shows what happens when a problem is ignored, and sends powerful messages about the importance of teamwork. The animals are depicted in all manner of intriguing situations as they interact (gleefully, resignedly, humorously, anxiously, to the best of their ability or otherwise…) in ways that engage and reward our attention, and every spread invites exploration and response.
The story is told in capitals and is pleasingly understated, but some of the jokes and references may need to be explained to younger audiences. Direct speech appears in lower-case text: lines rather than speech bubbles attribute comments to each speaker, and once talking underwater becomes impossible the characters hold placards. The font is visually appealing, but hand-lettered capitals and hidden punctuation on darker backgrounds could impede accuracy and fluency for some readers.
Flooded was created as part of Mariajo’s MA in Children’s Books Illustration at Anglia Ruskin University, and it won the New Talent category at 2020’s World Illustration Awards. Her chosen subject could have weighed the story down, but it doesn’t: humour lightens every page, and the takeaway message (“the only way to fix a problem was together”) delivers an upbeat, can-do sense of possibility and hope.