Hey Willy, See the Pyramids

by | Nov 30, 2022 | Book Review, Fiction, Picture Book

Hey Willy, See the Pyramids

Book Details

Hey Willy, See the Pyramids
Maira Kalman, New York Review, hb, 978 1 45216 463 2, 2017, £12.99, 48 pp.
Fiction, picture book, 5-8 years

It is very easy to assume that Illustration and visual images in general have a certain universality. That pictures move across borders in a way the written text does not. 

After all, the text will be written in a particular language. Pictures are not so constrained and will therefore have immediate appeal, make immediate connections.

This is a fallacy. Illustration and pictorial styles can be just as different and as unfamiliar, and Maira Kalman’s is perhaps a case in point. Her spiky lines, saturated colours and challenging perspectives echo both a child’s vision, as well as that of artists such as Chagall, Matisse and Dufy. There is nothing incompetent here; it is a highly sophisticated visual literacy that makes demands on readers challenging them to move out of their comfort zones.

The illustrations are combined with a text that offers a series of short, surreal narratives which again reflect the seemingly random thought processes of children and poets to create startling juxtapositions and striking unusual images. This is not a book that will provide the cosy bedtime storyl it is a picture book to play with, to inspire creativity, and to excite responses through the juxtaposition of words and picture. Imaginative, intriguing, exciting Maira Kalman’s work needs to be revisited again and again.


Review by FMH