Petals by Gustavo Borges and Cris Peter is one of those books that, at first glance, appears deceptively simple. It’s not. The visual storytelling alone is complex and incredibly well crafted.
The tale is that of a bird who is dressed like a magician, top hat and all, who meets a young fox in the woods in the dead of winter. The bird’s top hat is magic, but he doesn’t use it to wow anyone. Instead, he uses it to be helpful. His first trick is making a bunch of kindling magically appear, so the fox can take it home to light a fire where his ill father awaits. Ultimately, the bird brings forth a flower with petals that are a remedy for what ails the old fox. Of course, a flower only has so many petals.
Petals is a story about selflessness, sacrifice, friendship, community, and what it means to really take care of those around you. Children or young adults, even adults would benefit from reading this, and while the story is sad, I think it’s good for children to learn how to process ideas like this in a way that won’t scare them. There is little conflict in this tale that would.
In reading Borges’ thoughts at the end of the book, his working to perfect a certain page so that the story was clear reminded me of how Charlie Chaplin went about making a moment work in City Lights. How does the blind girl mistake the Tramp for a rich man? He escapes his pursuers through a fancy car, and she hears the car door shut when he comes out the other side, mistaking him for the owner of the car. When you’re not using dialogue, you have to be smart and clever. You can tell in studying the work in Petals that Borges and Peter took great care in making sure this book would not only look amazing but be easy to understand and connect with on an emotional level. The design of the book is also gorgeous and very easy to keep on display. Everyone involved makes it very easy to recommend this book.
Creative Team: Gustavo Borges (writer, illustrator), Cris Peter (colors), Whitney Leopard (editor), Kara Leopard and Jillian Crab (designers)
Publisher: KaBOOM! (BOOM! Studios)
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