cover image The Rock from the Sky

The Rock from the Sky

Jon Klassen. Candlewick, $18.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-5362-1562-5

The most gratifying feature of this new offering by Caldecott Medalist Klassen is that there’s so much of it—96 pages of dark, Beckett-caliber comedy. In the first episode of five, “The Rock,” a tortoise in a bowler hat stands under a broad dusky sky. “I like standing in this spot. It is my favorite spot to stand,” it declares; “I don’t ever want to stand anywhere else.” A page turn reveals a massive black rock high in the sky, a delicate trail of detritus above it signaling downward motion. Back on the ground, a sort of armadillo-mole sporting a bowler hat of its own appears. “What do you think of my spot?” the tortoise asks. “Actually I have a bad feeling about it,” the armadillo-mole replies, initiating a back-and-forth with escalating stakes. And the rock isn’t the only fate that looms. In each section, the tortoise, the armadillo-mole, and a snake in a beret consider everyday matters—naps, sunsets, the future—while facing inexorably advancing events. A resultant ratcheting tension permeates every moody spread and gives readers’ laughter a nervous edge, while deliberately paced illustrations and deadpan conversation allow for a methodical exploration of each comic beat. In this pleasurable volume that’s just right for uncertain times, Klassen proves himself a top-notch student of the way that conscious beings seek to take charge of their own realities—efforts that nearly always fail and, in this world, are sometimes punctuated by falling rocks. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)