The Gift

Rob Ryan | Carol Ann Duffy | Barefoot Books 2010

I like to cut paper as much as the next illustrator, but the work of Rob Ryan in The Gift is insane! In the spirit of Victorian silhouettes, Chinese cut paper, and Mexican folk art (papel picado), Rob’s work is all about creating intricate scenes—in one color. The Gift is cover-to-cover single or double-page images of meticulously cut renditions of flora, fauna, landscapes, quaint towns, and the story’s protagonist and extended family. Written by Carol Ann Duffy, the story is a lovely circle-of-life tale that takes a little girl from youth to the ground. Though a delicate subject for a kid’s book—with the help of Rob’s enchanted illustrations—never becomes a downer.

Each illustration is a masterful demo in scale, composition, line and form, positive and negative, pattern and texture—and crazy detail. The design of each single-color illustration accounts for the perfectly nestled typography of Carol Ann’s vivid prose—a dance not often done well in kid’s books. This book could have been made 40 years ago or 40 years from now. A gift it is.

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