Anete Melece, transl. Eῑna Brasliņa. New Zealand: Gecko Press, pb, 978 1 7765 7299 1, 2020, £8.99, 40pp.
Picture book, fiction, 3-5 years
Meet Olga. She has been living and working at the kiosk – indeed, in the kiosk – for a very long time.
She knows everyone and everyone knows her, and she is always happy to help or just talk. But maybe she is in a bit of a rut? She dreams of distant lands and splendid sunsets. Then one day her life is turned upside down literally. An adventure begins. Where will it end?
Melece’s illustrations are bold and colourful, the vibrant images standing out from the uncluttered white space of each page. There is no denying Olga’s solidity; indeed we learn she cannot get out of the kiosk, but we already knew that the moment we meet her gazing at us through the kiosk window – for the book, we realise is the kiosk. Olga’s life may be static but the illustrations are not. Melece fills them with movement, interesting perspectives, vignettes and full-page spreads, both single and double. She even looks to a visual narrative that draws on comic and filmic techniques using repeated images of Olga moving purposefully across a double spread as she goes for a walk!
The story is not complicated and events happen logically with just the right amount of whimsical fantasy to engage the imagination. The end covers masterfully set the scene, opening with a cluttered interior, closing with the glorious fulfilment of a dream. Inevitably there are styles of illustration that become “the norm” in any period. The Kiosk steps out of this straitjacket, introducing young readers to a very different visual language and style, expanding horizons and visual literacies. This is a book that needs to be put in front of children, introducing them to an offbeat imagination through the accessible and enjoyable translation by Elῑna Brasliņa and a very different artistic tradition. It brings a welcome diversity to the picture book selection that will be found on bookshelves in libraries and book shops; an addition to be celebrated.
Review by FMH