This is an unusual, large format book from an award winning French author/illustrator, Claude Ponti who in 2006 was awarded France’s Prix Sorcières Spécial for lifetime achievement.
The story is set in an enchanted world populated by Twims – they resemble a kind of cross between chubby monkeys and small bears – and narrated by one particularly lovable Twims named Poochie-Blue who lives with his large family in a House Tree overlooking a beautiful seaside valley. Having introduced readers to his family, Poochie-Blue takes us first on a conducted tour of his arboreal abode. This is followed by a trip to the Forest of Lost Children with its Well of Stars and Sleeping Monster. From there it’s on to The Cemetery with its various gardens, my favourites being ‘The garden of the never-ending story’ and ‘The garden of the notebooks to write in’, The Islands and finally, The Theatre of Hissy Fits, a great place to go if you’re feeling angry.
In between these destinations, Poochie talks about weird things, fantastical creatures such as The Very Sad Giant (sad because he ‘s too big to enter a house tree); and happenings like his visits to the mute Tree of Secrets; and the three ‘Children Who Fell From the Sky’. Other facts we learn of are related to the weather and the seasons, notably winter, when it snows, and the summer with its Festival-of-the-Shortest-Night, when nobody sleeps.
There is no real story, rather the whole thing is a series of chapter-like episodes that could well also act as starting points for children’s own flights of fancy, fueled too, by the map, the cutaway longitudinal section of the House Tree, and comic strip-style, vignettes and full-page spreads of close-up images, or broad vista land- or sea-scapes. There is a luminosity about all the illustrations adding to the other-worldly quality of the whole.
It’s most likely to appeal to individuals who enjoy comic style presentation and all things whimsical, who will want to linger long over the magical and eccentric details both verbal and visual. I certainly found myself drawn into this strange and fabulous world of Ponti”s imaginings: the more I explored, the more I liked it, but then as a child I loved to immerse myself in the worlds of the Moomins and BB’s Little Grey Men.