At once puzzling and intriguing is this curious and complex concatenation of events with its weird and wonderful cast of characters, from 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award winner, the Brazilian, Roger Mello. The author/artist uses an idea that from his childhood, that one small action can have amazing consequences.
The story itself works in one direction and then in reverse, putting me in mind of the opening line from T.S. Eliot’s ‘East Coker’: ‘In my beginning is my end.’
The thread of a story passes from character to character, starting with a barefoot gardener who has lost his shoes, and is guardian of a ‘penned in’ white rose.
The reason for the loss of his shoes is followed through the strange cast and the motivations for their actions. The whole story is impossible to summarise but starts and finished in the same place with the gardener and involves a cat, a lost letter, a brass ring, a ridiculous moustache, a hole in the ground, an escaped performing monkey, a fake doctor, bagpipes and most significantly, a map from which the compass rose is missing. Or is it? From this point, press ‘return’ and the narrative retraces itself through an alternative reality where we learn contradictory information about all the characters.
The level of sophistication is considerable and encompasses much wisdom, with issues relating to wealth, greed and the dangers thereof, as well as kindness and compassion. Then there is the consideration of the language used and the wordiness of the story, with its seeming disconnectedness. Equally sophisticated are the uninhibited style illustrations, which employ surreal and distorted textured images of contorted people, animals and objects, that stream across the pages in Bayeux Tapestry-like fashion.
Provocative, yes; enjoyable? That, I think, depends on the context in which it is read. If given to a group or class of older children/students for a philosophical discussion, then I think their experience in a shared ‘community of inquiry’ would at once, be enjoyable, stimulating and challenging.