cover image The Big Question

The Big Question

Wolf Erlbruch, , Trans. from the French by Michael Reynolds. . Europa Editions, $14.95 (42pp) ISBN 978-1-933372-03-7

Your brother says: 'You're here on earth to celebrate your birthday, of course.'/ 'Well, you came into the world to purr. And a little for the mice, too,' says the cat." While "the big question" itself goes unposed, readers gather that a child has asked about the meaning of life, and the reasonable answers vary depending on the respondents' diverse knowledge and philosophies. Each spread pictures a human or animal character with a response: a bird on a branch—poetically crafted from a scrap of sheet music—says, "To sing your song." A skull-headed but not unkind Death watches a flying bumblebee and says, "You are here to love life." Other responses range from rather lofty ("You're here simply to be here," according to a slate-gray stone) to childlike ("You're here because your mother and I love one another," says Daddy). Erlbruch (Mrs. Meyer the Bird ) creates minimalist collage from grids, construction paper and colored pencil in the style of Sandy Turner or Sara Fanelli. His pale, abstracted human and animal shapes complement the pensive quality of the words, although some readers may be taken aback by the primitivist, coal-black silhouette of a boxer who lives "to step into the ring." Existentialists, and those who enjoy the occasional Zen koan, will appreciate this volume's inquisitive spirit and multiplicity of possible answers. Ages 5-7. (Oct.)