cover image Off the Beaten Track

Off the Beaten Track

Maylis de Kerangal, trans. from the French by Helen Mixter, illus. by Tom Haugomat. Greystone, $18.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-77164-685-7

When dark-haired Paul was seven, Paul’s parents’ redheaded friend Bruce promised him a mountain adventure. Bruce returns three years later, surprising Paul, who now lives with his uncle when not at boarding school. Paul isn’t sure he still wants to go, but he does desire to “get away, far away.” At a French chalet, the duo skis past an ominous wooden cross, tall and black, reminding skiers of “those who have disappeared—skiers, walkers, climbers—a sign of their presence on the mountain.” As they rappel into a crevasse, Paul’s courage flags, but when Bruce falls, Paul’s mettle is tested as he seeks help. A back matter note reveals the book’s unusual process: Haugomat (Through a Life) created the art first using a digital serigraph technique, in a palette of cyan, red, and brown, then de Karangal (Painting Time) wrote a story around it, simply translated by Mixter. What results is almost frustratingly sparse text that allows the reader to feel both the serenity and danger of nature, while graphic, faceless illustrations against white space hauntingly portray the vastness of the snowy landscape in this quiet, taut adventure. Ages 9–up. (Oct.)