In a previous post, I discussed picture books that focus on painters. In some instances, the painter in question was a squirrel, or a dog, but all of the characters in one way or another made reference to the human artists who preceded them. None, however, attempted to deconstruct a concept. Coppernickel Goes Mondrian is both a celebration of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, and an ingenious exploration of the conceptual drive behind the modern art movement. Not an easy thing to do, but Wouter Van Reek has created a little masterpiece of art history in the guise of a children’s book.
For many reasons, most of them involving packing tape, it’s been almost a month since I’ve reviewed a book in this blog. It’s become quite apparent that my brain cells must be somewhat settled before the words can flow. Not the opinions, which spew out of my mouthparts in spite of, and because of the stresses afflicting my grey matter, but writing a simple ‘I love this book’, however exuberantly expressed, just doesn’t fly in the cutthroat world of children’s picture book blogging. Nevertheless, I love Coppernickel, The Invention and I knew that once my discombobulated neurons got sorted and the packing tape put away, I would be in a position to expand on this premise. Turns out, all I needed was a blank sheet of paper.
A polar bear riding a whale in the ocean. Hmmm. Polar bear…check. Whale…check. Ocean…check. This must be a book about global warming and species extinction. The cover of The Tree House (de Boomhut) certainly suggests this possibility, although I’m not quite sure what a polar bear riding on the head of a whale signifies.
In the opening pages of this stunning (and wordless) picture book, a polar bear and a brown bear climb a treehouse in the middle of the ocean. After some exploration of their new abode, they do what any two bears would do in a treehouse: make toast and crack open some books. However, a tree house in the ocean is a tough thing to conceal, and soon the flamingos arrive, followed by a hippo, a couple of panda bears, owls, crows, and the ultimate party crasher, a rhino. Although welcoming, the two bears spend a lot of time looking off into the distance while the locals make merry in the branches of the treehouse. Yes, even introverts, introverted bears, have parties. As the guests disperse, the story ends. There is no follow-up page with warnings about pollution and the necessity of conservation, or the tragic plight of the polar bear. Sometimes a Tree House is just a treehouse? Surely not.