As a child I loved to pour over detailed illustrations in books for hours. Oh, how I wish I could have had books by Peter Spier or Mitsumasa Anno to pour over!! What worlds I could have lost myself in!
We have a few of Spier’s books: People (every child should own this one—a phenomenal celebration of the fascinating variety of human life), Circus (what is it about the circus that fires up a child’s imagination?), The Star-Spangled Banner (simply the words of the poem with inspiring illustrations), and London Bridge Is Falling Down. They are among my favorites. We also own The Little Riders by Margaretha Shemin and illustrated by Peter Spier. It is a short little chapter book set during the Second World War when the German army occupied Holland.
And then there is Mitsumasa Anno. Have you “read” one of his wordless Journey books? A little traveler makes his way from sea to land (where he buys a horse), from countryside to city, back to countryside and sea in each book. I feel as if I am going on a treasure hunt when I pour over these books—and every detail is a gem. Anno's Journey takes you on a tour of northern Europe. And then you can visit Anno's Spain. From School Library Journal: “Throughout, there are nods to Spain's literary, artistic, and cultural heritage. Close observers will catch glimpses of Don Quixote and his corpulent companion, a melting clock à la Dalí, flamenco dancers, and Barcelona's human pyramid. Tableaus (of Las Meninas, scenes from Carmen) add whimsy, while the inclusion of the Alhambra and a Roman aqueduct pay tribute to the country's history.”
In Anno’s Britain the shrewd viewer may spy scenes from many Shakespeare plays, characters from beloved British books (Doctor Dolittle, Winnie-the-Pooh, Mary Poppins, Alice, Peter Pan, the Happy Prince, Peter Rabbit, children from Kate Greenaway’s illustrations and from Mother Goose rhymes, as well as Dick Turpin, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood and others), activities (such as the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, cricket, bagpipe playing), idyllic pastoral landscapes from paintings by Constable and Gainsborough, landmarks such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben, and maybe even meet Sir Francis Drake or Isaac Newton.
I can’t imagine a much more pleasant way to spend an afternoon than romping through Anno’s world.