Tropical birds fly through a snowy forest, or perch in a maze of caribou antlers; a frog riding on a fish pulls a sled containing a bonsai tree; a boy builds a kayak from the huge leaves of a banana plant. These playful, colourful visions, bringing a world of tropical colours and creatures into the snowy whiteness of an Arctic landscape, helped make Pikiq a finalist for a French-language Governor General’s Literary Award in 2016. Now in an English translation by Talleen Hacikyan, the picture book by Colombia-born, Montreal-based author and illustrator Yayo celebrates the power of visual art and the imagination to take us beyond the world of our immediate experience, and to transform that world as well.
Out for a walk with his friends Kri (the crow) and Bou (the snowy owl), little Pikiq comes upon an old wooden box abandoned long ago by explorers. Within the box is another box – full of paints, paper, coloured pencils, brushes, and a book depicting animals and trees he has never seen before. Excited by the images, Pikiq sets about drawing and painting the unfamiliar flora and fauna, first on paper and then on the snow, filling the white world around him with colour and populating the Arctic landscape with renderings of exotic birds and plants.
As he falls asleep following his artistic marathon, Pikiq assures Kri and Bou that the next day they will go on a journey to find these wonderful creatures. The dream that follows takes Pikiq on an adventure in which images from Arctic life and the landscape mingle with those of legend and far-off countries. Pikiq both delights in and stimulates the imagination as it reveals the power of art to express the amazing richness of life and the natural world.