cover image Meeselphe


Claude Ponti, trans. from the French by Alyson Waters and Margot Kerlidou. Elsewhere, $20 (48p) ISBN 978-1-953861-76-4

Ponti (Blaze and the Castle Cake for Bertha Daye) creates in pale-skinned Meeselphe an intrepid hero with mustard-hued garb, a button nose, and hair that sticks straight up. When she leaves her house-tree one day to explore a phantasmagorical landscape portrayed in sprightly, clear lines, she befriends a “sadbandoned” baby bird and coolly answers riddles posed by a series of blobby monsters. As she strolls along, bizarre creatures and plants portrayed with strange colors and startling forms provide a constant stream of diversion. Blaze, a masked chicklet, offers wisdom at the outset: “Here, on the land upon the ground, what looks real isn’t always, and what looks mean or kind isn’t always either.” Saccharose, who grins like the Cheshire Cat, poses the first riddle: “If you say my name, I disappear. What am I?” Meeselphe isn’t stymied (“It’s silence, the answer is silence!”), nor is she worried about the monsters who warn that they will all meet again “on pages 38 and 39!” Waters and Kerlidou deal creatively with puns and invented words (“confusifying”) in this surrealist excursion that builds, video game–like, to a final triumphant showdown. Ages 5–9. (Apr.)