Words & Illustration by Blexbolex
Published by Albin Michel Jeunesse (French edition) & Enchanted Lion Books (English edition)
Saisons (or 'Seasons' in the English publication) is a beautiful book exploring the changing of the seasons. I bought this book on a solo trip to Paris in 2010 before kids were even on the radar. I was enchanted by the stunning illustrations and by what appeared to be the most beautiful French word association book. It is not until reading this book in both English and French that I realised that this was not the case. Do not overlook this book as no more than a simple word association book.
The book is made up of a vast imagery of each season and the objects, weather, experiences, people, emotions and curious connections particular to each one. Every page or spread has an image with an accompanying word printed above it.
The illustrations are overlaid blocks of colour and adopt a vintage colour palette reminiscent of 1960s screen printing. Using the same screen printing process, the images are at times extremely minimalist and capture an image with a scant silhouette or record exquitsite detail with layers of colour and texture. Some of the illustrations are fairly abstract or complex in their subject matter and will be difficult for children to truly understand. I do not think that this is a problem as the variety of imagery provides an opportunity for parents and readers to begin a dialogue and discuss the associations with each season. More complex images or themes can be passed over quickly if not suitable for the age of the reader.
The abstract imagery is also a lovely way to introduce the concept of abstract art to little developing minds. Even if children do not understand all of the concepts, the illustrations are bold, colourful and interesting. The book itself is an exquisite object for the hands with thick matt paper and a high quality binding. The endpapers are stunning! A true pleasure to read.
There are countless books that introduce first words, counting, relate humorous stories of animal friends, discuss themes of kindness, manners etc. These stories are wonderful and serve their place in any little library. What this book offers is a unique reading experience for children and their parents. Which image belongs to which season and why? Thoughtful and at times curious pairings make you wonder why these words go together. A t-shirt and a watermelon (Summer bliss on a hot day); shout and snow (the excitement of seeing the first snowfall); wind and delight (autumn leaves falling and the opposing feels associated with the wind). I think that the placement of the retro illustrations has been a deliberate effort by the French illustrator Blexbolex to trigger associations, encourage reflection on the impermanence of the seasons, highlight the cyclical nature of life and evoke memories.
A beautiful book.
Reviewed by Georgia White