[Monday Reading] Sonja Wimmer’s Fantastical Picturebook Art in “Cyparissus” and “The Gardener’s Surprise”

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading

Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

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I’ve been meaning to share Sonja Wimmer’s picturebook art for quite awhile now. Our current reading theme gives me the perfect excuse to show off her fantastical art work.

img_7746Cyparissus: That Which Dies Is Never Forgotten; That Which Is Forgotten, Dies

Written by: Marta Sanmamed Illustrated by: Sonja Wimmer
Published by: Cuento De Luz, 2015 ISBN: 8416147108 (ISBN13: 9788416147106)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

One of the things that makes international picturebook titles distinct from, say, books published in the US, UK, or Canada is the fact that they really push the boundaries of themes that can be presented in children’s books. They also do not strictly follow the 32-paged, 300 word convention for picturebooks. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Again, a lot depends on the reader’s openness to different ways and forms of telling stories.

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The story begins with an introduction to a young man named Cyparissus who accidentally hit a beautiful deer with his hunting spear. Wracked with grief, Cyparissus begged the god Apollo to be with the deer for all eternity; which Apollo granted by turning the heartbroken young man into a cypress tree:

If you look closely at a cypress, you will see that when its resin drips down the trunk, it looks like tears. 

They are the tears of Cyparissus, who weeps for all of us.

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In this book, the reader gets to experience a different way of grieving and the usual responses provided by adults to children who are suffering from a deep and profound sense of loss. Each of the different children found in every page speaks of losing a beloved pet. There is Irene who lost her fourteen year old dog named Lucy, George whose gentle horse Paddy died, and Molly’s gray rabbit named Gus – just to cite several.

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Somehow, the adults in their lives provided them with comforting statements that are often ambiguous enough for the children to interpret quite literally. For instance, George’s father told him that Paddy the horse is “up in the clouds” leading George to build a ladder made of cushions to reach the skies to be with his friend again. The story depicts the children interpreting the adults’ messages wrongly, leading them to have mistaken notions about what death truly signifies.

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As you can see in the image above, the pages are quite text-heavy. However, it does provide a good handle when it comes to dealing with loss that is basically wrapped around the message: That which dies is never forgotten; that which is forgotten, dies. Definitely worth checking out.

The Gardener’s Surpriseimg_7758

Written by: Carla Balzaretti Illustrated by: Sonja Wimmer
Published by: Cuento de Luz, 2014 ISBN: 8415784600 (ISBN13: 9788415784609)
Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me. 

Andrew is a mechanic who makes a living by repairing old freight trains. But his heart is really into gardening: he is fascinated with plants and flowers whose shapes, colours, and scientific names he knows by heart.

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However, he and his family live in a very small apartment in the fourth floor, without a balcony. Yet despite this, he would still grow flowers in small pots and make sure that they live and thrive and grow around his entire home.

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When he received a new job offer that requires him to work for an important company and would provide him with a house with a big garden and a good salary, he accepted the offer immediately.

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Little did he know that his work requires him to load bombs onto war planes that will be deployed to “countries whose names he could hardly pronounce.” This made Andrew think deeply about what he wants to do in his life:

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He knew that he could not possibly live with himself if what he creates would fall on “dead land where nothing would ever grow again.” How Andrew resolved this conundrum, I shall leave for you to discover. This is a fascinating and beautiful story about knowing what one could live with and heeding the call of one’s conscience, and taking that path wherever that leads us.

8 Comments on [Monday Reading] Sonja Wimmer’s Fantastical Picturebook Art in “Cyparissus” and “The Gardener’s Surprise”

  1. Wow! Cyparissus looks like it presents a lot to think about with grief for both children and adults. I will have to see if it’s available here. Thanks!

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  2. These books look gorgeous. I love the look and style of The Gardener’s Surprise.

    My It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? post.

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  3. Terrific photos! Thanks for sharing them. Have a great week!

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  4. Both sound worth finding, Myra. My granddaughters have lost two pets in this last year, and it is a hard thing to help a young child grieve. The second one would make such a good conversation for older students about choices. Thanks very much.

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  5. These look absolutely wonderful. The art is amazing and I would probably buy them for the pictures alone. Great post!

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  6. I love international picture books for just this reason: they often push the boundaries of what we think is possible and appropriate in a picture book. I wish I had more access to them. Thanks for showing so many illustrations–both look terrific!

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  7. Really fascinating illustrations!

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  8. Thank you Myra for introducing us to these books. They look to be important especially for older readers. I wonder how we arrived at this idea that picture books are for the younger crowd. Unfortunately The Gardener’s Surprise isn’t available from our library.

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