About the Holiday
There’s still time this week to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again!
By Antje Damm
Elise sat alone in her gray house day after day and night after night because she was too afraid—of everything—to go out. To spend her time and because she liked a neat house, she cleaned it every day. Sometimes she opened a window to air it out. “Then one day something unbelievable happened.” A blue paper airplane came zipping in through the window.
She looked at it lying on the floor in front of her and decided it did not belong in her tidy house, so “she scooped it into the fire.” But as Elise tried to sleep that night, the plane flew here, there, and everywhere circling through her house—or did it? “She was too scared to sleep.” The next day, someone came to the door. Elise didn’t know who it could be and was not about to open the door, but the knocking continued.
Finally, a bit perturbed, Elisa opened the door and stared at the boy standing there. “‘I’m here for my plane,’” he said. Then he urgently needed to use the bathroom. Elise was surprised to hear herself telling the boy he’d find the bathroom upstairs. As he came back downstairs, he spied a portrait on the wall and asked Elise who it was. She told him that it was her on the day of a special dance. “‘I wore my prettiest dress,’” she said. “‘Cool!’ said the boy and he looked around some more.”
He found a bookcase loaded with books and asked Elise to read him one. It had been “a long time since Elise had read to anyone,” but the boy was attentive and wanted to hear all the stories in the book. After that he wanted to play hide-and-seek. When the game was finished, the boy was hungry, so Elise gave him a slice of buttered bread. Then she told him it was probably time for him to go home. Elise found that she felt sad.
Before he left, the boy asked Elise what her name was and told her his. Emil said goodbye to Elise and told her he’d had fun. “‘Bye for now, Emil,’ she said.” That night Elise got out some blue paper and began folding. It took her many tries, and crumbled paper began to pile up at her feet. But at last she did it just right, and she smiled at the new paper airplane on her table.
The Visitor was translated from German by Sally-Ann Spencer.
Antje Damm’s story, played out in stunning photographed 3D dioramas, is a triumph of light and color conquering shadow and isolation. As the story opens, Elise sits alone at her table, bowed by fear and the gloominess of her closed-up house. But when the blue airplane flies through the open window, things begin to change. A yellow glow appears outside the panes of glass, brightening the room and beginning to dispel the murk. The next morning the light is a fiery orange, and with the knock at the door, the light seeps underneath, seeming to want to come in. Will Elise let it?
When she opens the door to Emil, dressed in red and yellow, the light spreads across the floor. A red path follows Emil up the stairs while details of Elise’s home assume depth and definition. As Emil notices Elise’s youthful portrait, her apron and cheeks turn pink to mirror her picture. Similar to an Impressionist painting, the walls, floor, and furnishings take on a colorful, stippled beauty as Elise reads to Emil, and readers can see on the shelf above her bed toys left there long ago perhaps by her own children. The vivid intensity of the colors that linger after Emil leaves hints at the rich life Elise may once have had and may reenter thanks to Emil.
With mystical overtones that will delight children, The Visitor is a thought-provoking and uplifting tale of the difference one person can make. The unique mixed-media art makes this a captivating choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.
Ages 4 – 8
Gecko Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1776571888
Picture Book Month Activity
Follow the Story! Maze
Can you find your way through the story from beginning to “The End” in this printable Follow the Story! Maze?
You can find The Visitor at these booksellers
Picture Book Review