Laura Vila, . . Viking, $16.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-670-06284-3
Tracing the growth of Manhattan from a time “before maps or words were used” to the present day, debut author/artist Vila employs many lenses—geography, sociology, politics, ethnography. Likewise, her radiantly dramatic mural-like paintings present a wide range of visual styles and approaches: she offers readers both fisheye and a bird's-eye views of the island, and varies her vantage point from romantic idealism (a “peaceable kingdom”–like scene of pre-people Manhattan) to reportorial (the influx of immigrants) to surreal (a celebration of the city's traffic snarls) to metaphoric (the world's ongoing love affair with the Big Apple). But while her paintings are lavish, it takes her only one pithy sentence on each spread to convey both a specific moment and a sense of history and human ambitions: “Boats and boats packed with people, traditions, languages and new ideas clogged the shores.” A formidable new talent. Ages 6–8.
Reviewed on: 05/12/2008