Ballad

Blexbolex, trans. from the French by Claudia Z. Bedrick. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $22.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-59270-137-7
Blexbolex's previous children's books, Seasons and People, toyed with subtle hints of narrative amid their portraits of flora, fauna, and humans; the French artist pushes further into narrative experimentation with this small-format adventure that grows in complexity and strangeness as it progresses. Once again, Blexbolex's angular, vintage-flavored silkscreen illustrations are paired with brief descriptions. Unfolding in just a few pages, the first story segment suggests a mundane school day: "The school, the road, home," reads a tidy cursive font below a sequence of three illustrations. In the second segment, the unseen narrator notices more of the landscape ("The school, the street, the forest, home"). Strange occurrences quickly mount—a pipe-smoking "stranger" arrives, foxlike "bandits" lurk, and a blue "witch" threatens. From there, the book becomes a wild journey involving an upside-down curse (it even affects the text), a kidnapping, a captive elf, the summoning of demons, and more; at one point, the text vanishes, requiring readers to grab hold of the storytelling reins. As a story, it's challenging, mysterious, and even obscure. As an object and a piece of bookmaking, it's a work of art. Ages 8–up. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013
Release date: 11/01/2013
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