The great maverick illustrator sends Earth’s last two beings on a dreamlike odyssey in this posthumous and, possibly, final outing.
Through empty streets wanders Vasco, aimlessly following his long shadow—which guides him safely past toppling buildings, sudden floods, and other dangers to an abandoned hospital, where he finds and takes charge of Poco, a green, insectile child. Everyone else has, as the spare narrative has it, “gone to the moon,” and even the plants and animals have disappeared. All that is left are desolate land- and cityscapes, infused in the illustrations with low-angled light and feelings of loneliness. Together the adult and child make their way through further hazards ranging from a refinery on the brink of collapse to a cluster of tree-eating military tanks, on the way at last to a “phantasmagorical” new home…which turns out to be a giant cake where the two remain, “sheltered in peace” thereafter. Though catastrophes to be escaped (as the refrain has it) “JUST IN TIME!” rear up with titular frequency, they are so neatly drawn as to have a ritualistic air, not so much creating dramatic highlights as checking off surreal disasters natural or otherwise. The two figures are drawn generally back to viewers and remain tiny on the page, but they still draw both eye and heart as, holding resolutely on to each other, they weather every threat to reach safe harbor at last. “DON’T HOPE COPE” reads a sign that Vasco passes in one scene. As last words go, not bad.
A dark vision with optimistic, even puckish, strains burnishes a unique legacy.
(Picture book. 9-up)
Pub Date: today
Page Count: 48
Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday