Monday, September 07, 2009

review: Violet

Violet by Tania Duprey Stehlik. Illustrated by Vanja Buleta Javanovic. Second Story Press, 2009 (978-1897187-60-9) $14.95

I couldn't get a cover illustration for Violet, but here's a book trailer that gives a sense of the illustrations. It's a very eye-catching book, with a spiky haired, elongated heroine and some seriously surreal backgrounds; the overall effect is sometimes childlike, sometimes pretty, and occasionally even a bit creepy in a rather Coraline-esque way. It sorts of makes sense when you realize that Violet is set in an alternate world, one in which people are red and blue and yellow--and in Violet's case, violet.

A simple story, Violet is about Violet's first day at a new school. She's pretty nervous about fitting in, but everything goes fine. Then when her dad comes to pick her up, a girl from her class is puzzled: "Your dad is BLUE??!" Violet's never thought about it before, but now she wonders. "Mom was red. Dad was blue. So, why wasn't she red or blue? Come to think of it, all her red friends had red parents. Her yellow friends had yellow parents. Her blue friends had blue parents. So why was she purple?"

When she gets home, Violet's mom shows her how mixing blue and red makes "a lovely purply-violet" and tells her that "people come in a whole rainbow of beautiful colors." (Only the colorful hands of the adults are shown, another piece of the overall offbeat look of the book.) And the next day, when a boy is puzzled by her red mom, she says proudly, "My mom is red, my dad is blue, and I... am Violet!"

I'm torn between thinking that Violet looks awesome, and that it's great to see a messagey sort of book with such unusual and interesting illustrations, and thinking that it's kind of an odd fit with the text, which is so matter of fact. In a way, of the two of them the book trailer is more interesting than the actual book. Which is not to say that a straightforward book on this subject isn't welcome, especially one that is not heavily didactic; I just wonder if the kind of kids who appreciate a straightforward story might also prefer more straightforward illustrations. Like Violet, I feel a little mixed.. but overall, I like the book enough to hope it finds its audience. (4-10)

© 2009 Wendy E. Betts

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