Thames & Hudson
Drawing on an episode from his childhood as well as the Robinson Crusoe story that he loved as a boy, award-winning author/illustrator, Peter Sis has created an absolute dream of a picture book.
The narrator and his pals’ favourite game is pirates so when their school announces a costume party it seems as though everyone will go in pirate gear. Until that is, Peter’s mum suggests he should go as Robinson Crusoe and he does.
His excitement as he walks to school is quickly shattered when his classmates make fun of him for having the confidence to be different. (Presumably they aren’t familiar with the Crusoe story.)
Peter’s mum takes him home, tucks him up in bed and at this point in a feverish state, Peter’s imagination takes over.
There follows a dream-like sequence where, in stages, his bed is transformed into a three-masted sailing ship heading towards an island.
On the next spread Sis seems to be paying homage to Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are when he says, ‘I float in and out of hours, or maybe days, until I am cast upon an island.’
On this island, Peter encounters verdant tropical landscapes, one a maze comprising amazing flora and fauna.
He builds himself a protective shelter, makes his own clothes, finds food and becomes friends with the resident animals;
and all the while the lad is growing in self-confidence, though he still keeps his eyes open for pirates.
Finally, with new-found fortitude, the boy does connect once more with his friends and the story ends in a wonderfully satisfying way.
Sis experiments with several artistic styles in his pen, ink and watercolour illustrations and this serves to intensify the fantastic quality of his island landscapes and his whole journey, both inner and outer.
Thoroughly immersive: this is a book to linger over, read and re-read, and a wonderful demonstration of the power of literature to shape and expand the imagination.