Quill and Quire

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Imagine a Day

by Sarah L. Thomson, Rob Gonsalves, illus.

Imagine a Day is the second in a series of picture books featuring the trompe l’oeil paintings of Ontario architect Rob Gonsalves and the vaguely poetical phrases of Maine writer Sarah L. Thomson. The paintings are quite fascinating, and young children will enjoy finding the moment of transition from reality to fantasy, as when the clouds under the arch of a sea bridge become the sails of a tall ship. The Escher-like perspectives allow the paintings to be read several different ways.

Not so the text, which has the faint whiff of Hallmark and serves no purpose, since the paintings say it all. For example, Gonsalves paints an airy scene of two children on swings with a street behind them and, through a trick of perspective, the same street far below them. The text opens with the refrain “imagine a day” and continues “when you don’t need wings to soar.” This isn’t poetry, and there are no characters or story, only these sappy suggestions, page after page. These abstract musings are unlikely to hold a child’s attention. The pictures, however, are very beautiful and imaginative, although the children depicted in them often wear impassive expressions.

The book becomes rather repetitive toward the end. Children flying into a map are followed by children leaping into a jigsaw puzzle. In each case, the premise of picture and text is essentially the same – the two-dimensional suddenly becomes three-dimensional.

In his luminous compositions, Gonsalves celebrates the beauty of southern Ontario with his inclusion of warm red-brick Romanesque houses, dynamic autumnal colours, and the silver spires of a city seen from a green island a short ferry ride away.