Remember when you were a kid and graduated from reading books with lots of illustrations to books with nothing but text? You felt so grown up?
But there were times when you secretly wanted books where you could just look at the pictures. Then, as you got older and busier, you barely had time to browse through the photos in magazines?
Now you can indulge in your love of both because there are so many books out there that combine text and illustration in innovative ways. Comic books and graphic novels fit the bill, but I’m not considering them here. In these books, the text and accompanying illustrations complement each other in a seamlessly intertwined and integrated way.
A new, radical example of this is the new teen book Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony, illustrated by Rodrigo Corral. It doesn’t have much text except for graffiti and the words on objects in the book, like the TV screen, newspaper articles, photo album captions, postcards, letters, playbills, sheet music, invitations, IMs, emails, song titles, artwork, etc.
The premise of the book is the disappearance of a talented teenaged piano prodigy, Glory, from the rest home where she was living, trying to recuperate from exhaustion due to a strenuous concert tour. After her mother’s death, she’s been raised by her father, who strictly enforces Glory’s piano studies and concert schedule. When Frank, a cute guy from Argentina moves in next door, Glory falls for him and gets distracted from the piano. Missing Frank, and feeling like a virtual prisoner while on tour abroad, Glory starts to fall apart and eventually can only play Chopsticks to the exclusion of anything else–all of this leading up to her disappearance. But, in looking closely at the illustrations, another story is revealed, showing that nothing is as it appears. The reader is left to interpret what’s really happened. The alternative is haunting and unforgettable. I guarantee that anyone who reads it will end up discussing it with others about what they really think happened. There’s also an app that you can buy that includes links to embedded videos, links to playlists, hidden scrapbook mementos, moving images in the photos, etc.