Certain books make me terribly selfish – because once I finish a post, the book gets cleared off my desk and either shelved or shared. British author/artist Grahame Baker-Smith‘s FArTHER – the many meanings in the title alone, achieved with just the lower-casing of that single ‘r’ provokes goosebumps of awe! – has been parked on my desk for months and months … and still I hesitate.
Baker-Smith won the coveted Kate Greenaway Medal, one of Britain’s highest honors for illustration, in 2011, a year after its release. That the voyage over the Pond to reach Stateside shelves took three years is rather surprising, but readers can gratefully bask in the recent safe landing.
So are we ready for the story …?
A father dreams “of air and flight,” so much so that his son must sit in his lap “until he remembered me.” His creations are stupendous, but they never carry him aloft … war, tragically, is eventually what takes him away. His son, now grown, claims his father’s dreams and finally soars. And then the son’s son arrives in the world with new possibilities: “What will he do, I wonder …”
Beyond the words, Baker-Smith’s art is gawwww-inducingly spectacular. Collaging occasional photographs (he thanks a borrowed hound, Rodney Seal, and his cooperative owners for the canine camera time) with various textures and original drawings, Baker-Smith creates a faraway, wondrous world of bittersweet memory and beckoning promise. Each page is a treasure hunt, from avian curtains and tiles, to a calligraphied letter marked with 1768 (because … it’s a leap year?), to the bare outline of a father’s supporting hand, to a toddler’s outstretched touch upon a stilled bird. Each page, too, is a reminder – the beckoning skies, a lofty balcony, even rough seas – to always be open to dreams.
Published: 2010, 2013 (United States)