Sometimes, two heads are way better than one: a picture book author-illustrator dream team

Nov 1, 2013 by

Author Germano Zullo and illustrator Albertine have together given me endless hope for the future of the picture book and plenty of entertainment along the way. This creative Swiss duo is a match made in picture book heaven. I happened to stumble across their work quite serendipitously, when I picked up Little Bird at the library (I wrote about my love for this book earlier here), and since then I’ve been on a constant lookout for more. Be it witty or whimsical, their work is another example of an unclassifiable wonderful-ness that crosses borders and genres in the world of picture books.  The chemistry they have is striking, and with each collaboration they manage to bring something new to the reader and yet retain their signature style. I thought I’d talk about three of their books in this post:  Marta and the BicycleSky High and their latest work Line 135

Copyright © 1999 by Editions La Joie de lire SA American Text © 2002 by Kane/Miller Book Publishers

Copyright © 1999 by Editions La Joie de lire SA
American Text © 2002 by Kane/Miller Book Publishers

 

Marta and the Bicycle is one of their most accessible books for young children — an adorable story about a cow named Marta, who decides that she doesn’t want to be just like every other cow; she wants to be different. Even though the concept isn’t new, the combination of Zullo’s text and Albertine’s quirky and humorous illustrations make it such a unique read. You’ll find yourself completely smitten with this bovine beauty, and wishing you were as awesome as she is. Just wait till you see her amazing acrobatic moves on her bike!

 

Copyright © 1999 by Editions La Joie de lire SA American Text © 2002 by Kane/Miller Book Publishers

Copyright © 1999 by Editions La Joie de lire SA
American Text © 2002 by Kane/Miller Book Publishers

 

Sky High is a wickedly entertaining tale full of warning bells about two neighbours trying to out do each other in opulence and finery in a race to build the tallest, most extravagant building. Everything about this book screams genius. From its physical format (14″ high) that emphasizes and mimics this insane spectacle, to it’s simple yet eccentric pen and ink illustrations, Sky High is packed full of the bizarre and absurd. There isn’t any narrative text, but Zullo’s droll label-like descriptions throughout are so amusing you’ll weep with delight. This book is all about the details; Albertine gives you plenty to look at as the pace of construction feverishly escalates, and then….you should find out for yourself!  Every time I read it over, I find things to laugh at all over again — a sure sign of a great book. I don’t think you could ever get bored of it.

 

Copyright © 2011 by Editions La Joie de lire SA

Copyright © 2011 by Editions La Joie de lire SA

 

Line 135 is their latest collaboration, and if it is anything to go by this duo is only getting better.  Line 135 is almost the same dimensions of Sky High but is in a landscape format. The use of the wide format gives the reader an expansive view of the changing surroundings of the young protagonist as she takes the train from her home in the city to the country to visit her grandmother. It’s a pensive, philosophical book whose text is quietly poetic and thoughtful. Albertine’s choice to use colour only on the train in the book emphasizes a blend of both real and imagined worlds in the young girl’s journey of self-discovery. It is a profound, beautiful piece of work.

Copyright © 2011 by Editions La Joie de lire SA English translation © 2013 by Chronicle Books LLC

Copyright © 2011 by Editions La Joie de lire SA
English translation © 2013 by Chronicle Books LLC

Copyright © 2011 by Editions La Joie de lire SA English translation © 2013 by Chronicle Books LLC

Copyright © 2011 by Editions La Joie de lire SA
English translation © 2013 by Chronicle Books LLC

 

From books like Little Bird that are more abstract, to characters like endearing Marta, both of these creators are constantly proving that they are not restricted by subject, style, tone or format.  They don’t just make your average picture book. They make magical ones, every single time. And I wish them many more wondrous collaborative creations to come.

 

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