I have a love/hate relationship with wordless picture books. Well, not really “love/hate,” more like a “love/um?” relationship.
As an illustrator, my love for them is obvious. A whole story told in pictures! How cool is that?
As a parent, “reading” wordless picture books to kids, for me, was occasionally frustrating. Rarely a fluid storytelling if you are not a professional storyteller. I realize, of course, that it may be more of an inadequacy on MY part rather than the medium.
In Raúl Colón’s IMAGINE, a wild romp of a wordless picture book, the story flows and is easy to follow.
It is the story of a young boy who rides his skateboard into Manhattan—from Brooklyn (I think…)—and one day comes to a stop in front of the Museum of Modern Art. When he enters the museum he checks his board and helmet. Then, turning to enter the vast halls, he is surrounded by art. It is obvious that he is enthralled.
When characters from three iconic paintings (Three Musicians, The Sleeping Gypsy, and Icarus) by three master painters (Picasso, Rousseau, and Matisse) step out of their frames and begin to interact with the boy, you know this is no ordinary museum visit.
They leave the museum, dancing, skipping, singing and begin to explore the sites and wonders of New York—from hotdogs from a street vendor to a concert in Central Park to a roller coaster on Coney Island.
Eventually, the day begins to wane and the gang piles into a yellow cab to make their way back to MOMA. The boy says his goodbyes to the characters as they make their way back into their paintings.
He retrieves his skateboard and helmet and heads over the bridge towards home. But there is one more thing to do before he gets there…
There is plenty of joy and discovery in this adventure. And Colón’s illustrations help express that. They are done in watercolor, Prismacolor pencils, and lithograph pencils. Rendered in a palette with a golden base, they feel warm. They are full of movement and expression. The wonderful textures he has created throughout every illustration and on every page feels like an exploration of the city itself. An urban adventure with unlimited imagination.
This is a very satisfying wordless book. A smooth flowing tale of imagination and creativity. And there is so much to see on every page.
Hop on your board and go find a copy of IMAGINE!
Don’t forget your helmet.