cover image Discovery


Joseph Brodsky. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-374-31793-5

With chunks of chopped paper and expressionistic slashes of paint, Radunsky (Telephone; Hail to Mail) interprets a piece by the late U.S. poet laureate Brodsky about the ""discovery"" of America. Brodsky visits an uninhabited section of Earth where land, water and air are in chaos. In the illustrations, Radunsky represents trees as rust-orange stalks capped by roughly circular green and blue bulbs, the land as a slab of fibrous brown paper, and the sky and sea are flat blue with a few white-dot stars or the crude curve of an ocean wave. The first explorers of this nameless terrain have gills or feathers: ""petrels"" arrive sooner than ""settlers,"" Brodsky observes. The poet questions humans' claim to an ancient and indifferent land; ""Nature sat down and picked up her pen/ to make what fish and seagull/ saw a reality: off sailed men/ and made America legal."" Radunsky depicts men of various races against a backdrop of colonial buildings, and in the witty final spread, he pastes a snapshot of Brodsky--a notable immigrant himself--against bristles of paper skyscrapers. This complex effort is the picture book equivalent to improvisational jazz, and its eccentricities may be most appealing to adults. However, when reread with patience, this volume's chewy rhymes and crunchy visuals will surely bring satisfaction to a younger audience. All ages. (Oct.)