cover image Questions Asked

Questions Asked

Jostein Gaarder, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett, illus. by Akin Düzakin. Elsewhere, $14 (72p) ISBN 978-0-914671-66-4

In a heady contemplation of mortality and existence, Gaarder (The Orange Girl) and Düzakin (Why Am I Here?) follow a boy as he ventures out into the woods under the cover of night. Initially, the boy’s questions seem inspired by his surroundings. “Is our planet the only one with life on it?” he wonders, leaping over hilly terrain as a shooting star streaks overhead. “Can anyone know what I think?” he asks while digging up a box buried in the woods. The book’s small trim size makes Düzakin’s gauzy, carefully drafted scenes all the more intimate and introspective, and b&w flashbacks—a visit to see a magician perform, a boating trip—triggered by mementos collected in the box, reveal the existence of a twin sibling who is no longer the boy’s constant companion. The absent boy’s ghostly presence in several scenes, including a climactic rescue, signals to readers that the distance between the twins is not entirely unbridgeable. It’s a haunting and provocative reminder that the void left by a person’s death or departure is often filled by difficult, even unanswerable questions. Ages 3–7. (May)