Pilgrims, pirates, and princes; shepherds, sages, and rogues. These are just a few of the motley characters meandering across the delicately hued pages of Mitsumasa Anno's delightful pen and ink paean to European culture, legend, and religion.
Ostensibly a children's book, "anno's Italy," like Lewis Carroll's allegorical tales of enchantment, weaves a richly hued tapestry that can fascinate the very young with its magical simplicity and entice the older reader with its erudite symbolism and technically masterly illustrations.
The reader follows a mysterious pilgrim character through the book from a falcon's- eye vantage point -- witnessing familiar biblical happenings, vignettes from Grimm's gairy tales, and provincial tableaux of simple town and country folk.
Anno's pen slips in and out of illusive time channels, so that one finds on the same page and in the same hamlet Pinnochio pursued by an irate Geppetto, a bicycling paperboy delivering morning papers, and a haughty Renaissance grande dame receiving admiring glances from men in modern garb.
There are all sorts of subtle and wry surprises for the discerning reader to discover in this evocative fantasy. There is no text, but the visual impact of the characters alone forms sentences, and their movements construct paragraphs. And as allegories should, "Anno's Italy" transcends illusive age barriers as well as time periods.
Another textless wonder, "Truck" is a bold and bouncy salute to the open road and the free-spirited truckers who keep the country moving with the goods and services they transport.
The star attraction of "Truck" is a monolithic red vehicle sporting a chalk-white "Trucking" label affixed to its side. We follow "Trucking" as it pushes its way across the United States to deliver its prized cargo of tricycles. We watch this mechanical character's performance spellbound as if in a movie -- following it through a network of crowded highways, dank tunnels, all-nighttruck stops, rain-splattered city streets, Los Angeles spider freeways, over an impressionistically rendered version of the Golden Gate Bridge, until at last "Trucking" finds it way to the warehouse awaiting its road-weary cargo.
Crews's vehicular personalities convey dynamic authority. He has used vivid colors liberally and in tandem with a powerful sense of scale and proportion so that these mechanical wizards seem to vroom and shift gears through the pages of "Truck" with all the excitement and exhilaration that one imagines is the hallmark of such activity. "Truck" is sure to delight preschoolers.