Illustrated and written by Marianne Dubuc
Published by Book Island ISBN 978-1-911496-04-5
Reviewed by Karl Andy Foster
The last time I reviewed a book by Marianne Dubuc I was somewhat underwhelmed by the writing and the way the text worked with the images. This is not the case with her new picture book: I am profoundly impressed by Up The Mountain.
This hardback, perfect bound book is unusual at 72 pages in length, and may need to be read to children in chunks. The book is aimed at children aged 3 plus, so the text is very simple and easy for children to memorize. The Canadian French to English translation by Sarah Ardizzone works really effectively. There is clarity and a perfect rhythm in the language used. The story unfolds in an understated manner, and we instantly acknowledge the wisdom and kindness of Mrs. Badger as she is joined on her regular walks ‘up the mountain’ by Leo the cat. But what will change as Mrs. Badger becomes older?
The illustrations are entertaining, filled with quirky details that will engage the reader. The route up to the mountain meanders and we encounter a host of other friendly animals. Simple in construction but honest in their truth, the main characters have a strong connection and their relationships shine through.
The colour palette is limited and the pages are divided by large areas of sky or land, this really helps the page compositions. Laurent de Brunhoff and Richard Scarry are the artists whose influence is apparent. I believe a picture book at its best will work as pure image with the text adding a further dimension to the experience, giving greater context and shape to the narrative.
Dubuc has done this with aplomb tapping into some powerful universal emotions.
Her visual storytelling combines text and image to add layers of believability and sincerity. The environment on display is that of memory and times gone by, but also contains the spark of life needed for the future. A beautiful and sensitive story revealing the circle of life and the dynamics of true friendship. It is a story that comes from the author/ illustrator’s personal experiences and it is one that left me with a few tears in my eyes.