I recently discovered Anno's Journey by Mitsumasa Anno at our local library. If you have never looked at a book by Mitsumasa (as I hadn't a couple weeks ago) you are missing something very special. I usually prefer picture books with words, but words would only take away from the beautiful experience of 'reading' the story of Anno's Journey.
Anno creates a world in which I want to live. A traveler wanders across each two page spread, first rowing a boat in the sea, leaving his boat and finding a pathway, and then purchasing a horse for the rest of his journey. The open countryside becomes dotted with farms, becomes a village, becomes a quaint town, becomes a walled city, and then slowly back into open countryside where the traveller again meets the sea.
Even after looking at each page for extensive amounts of time, I could still go back and find something new. There are seemingly endless details. Stories, such as a romance, are continued from page to page. The artist has hidden treasures on each page for the reader/gazer. Find fine art (I laughed out loud when I saw Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, not yet realizing that there were hidden images), characters from literature (Don Quixote tilting at windmills), children's games, famous people (Beethoven sitting at a window), and so much more.
Anno writes of his journey: "I followed the path wherever it went, up and down hills, across rivers, through fields which spread out into great open spaces...At the end of the road there were always houses gathered together to make a town, and in every town there were gates, leading from shops to squares and plazas, through graveyards and gardens to churches and cathedrals. One town had a castle in its midst; one castle was a town by itself..."
"It is a world filled with variety, yet a simple place with a deep-rooted sense of culture, an appreciation of nature that preserves it from destruction and pollution. It is a beautiful world."
It is, indeed, a beautiful world, and Mitsumasa Anno is an incredible artist.
I immediately purchased Anno's Journey, Anno's Spain, Anno's Britain, and Anno's U.S.A. They are all available used, but unfortunately I was unable to find a decently priced copy of Anno's Italy. I went back to the library and was thrilled to find they had a copy for us to borrow. In addition to the literary and artistic details, Anno has included scenes from the life of Christ throughout the book. From the cover of Anno's Italy:
"Threaded throughout the entire book runs the theme of the life of Christ, interwoven with the daily activities of people in every walk of life. A devout Christian himself, Mr. Anno reverently traces in his art the story of the New Testament from the Nativity to the Crucifixion, with references to famous religious paintings by great Italian masters such as Michelangelo, Boticelli, Fra Angelica and Leonardo da Vinci."
I will be keeping my eye out for a copy to purchase!
If I had a rating system for books (now there's an idea!), these would receive my highest rating. Please, please don't miss them!