Augustus and His Smile
Catherine Rayner, Author . Good Books $16 (28p) ISBN 978-1-561
Scottish author and artist Rayner combines a poetic sensibility with textured backgrounds and sweeping brushstrokes in this understated, visually dramatic story of one tiger's quest. Engulfed in sadness, Augustus embarks on a search for his missing smile. Muted colors and full-bleed spreads contain both spongy washes and bold shapes in earth tones that lend the tale a solemn air. The hero begins his search under low-hanging branches; leaves in solid shades of gold and dusty green dangle over the big cat, rendered in a fury of black ink and brushstrokes with pastel smudges of amber and rust. "He climbed to the tops of the tallest trees./ He found birds that chirped and called,/ but he couldn't find his smile." Next, he climbs mountains and searches the ocean depths, all to no avail. Rayner's strategic use of stark changes in scale and color emphasizes the lengths to which Augustus will go. His small silhouetted form appears atop a jutting black triangular mountain ridge outlined against a stormy purple sky; next, he appears to grow larger as he swims in an aquamarine sea with a school of multi-colored fish; he looks larger still, while prowling against the full-bleed burnt-orange backdrop of the desert, his shadow looming across the spread. Although Augustus's ultimate realization that "his smile would be there whenever he was happy" provides a pat conclusion, the masterful art will engage readers on a deeply sensual level. Ages 4-7.
Reviewed on: 03/27/2006