Reading literature from around the world is a great way to immerse yourself in another culture without leaving home. But why should adults have all the fun? Elsewhere Editions is a new nonprofit publishing house committed to making “visionary picture books from around the world” available to audiences in the United States. Two of its first titles set the bar for what to expect from this press: stunning works that will stir the imagination and peak the curiosity of young and old readers alike.
“You Can’t Be Too Careful!” written and illustrated by Brazilian author and Hans Christian Andersen Award winner Roger Mello, is a whimsical tale about how one small action can set off a chain reaction. When a gardener greedily hides a beautiful white rose from the world, a series of negative events result, as detailed in a fantastic mural of images that will likely inspire young readers to concoct their own stories. When the story is reversed and begins with a positive action, the resulting domino effect is much different.
“Questions Asked” written by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder and illustrated by Turkish and Norwegian artist Akin Duzakin is a more philosophical story, which makes sense given that Gaarder is the author of the bestselling novel “Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy.” The text of “Questions Asked” is made up entirely of questions — two or three at most per page. The story comes through the accompanying ethereal drawings: a young boy’s twin dies, and he travels to the woods, and then the sea, contemplating life, death and what it means to be left behind. “Can I be sure that all my memories really happened?” appears beside an illustration of the two boys playing together in a photograph. “Is it possible to exist and not think about anything at all?” accompanies a hazy rendering of the boy alone in the woods.
Both remarkable books in very different ways, these young reader titles are a marvel of art, story, and imagination.