Peter Van den Ende's debut wordless picture book portrays one little boat’s epic journey from the middle of the Pacific Ocean to a European port.
Two nameless characters, aboard the ship ‘Exploratio', carefully fold a boat out of paper. Once the paper vessel is ready they launch it out into the ocean where it begins an epic adventure home. The little boat attracts the attention of turtles and whales and many creatures that are an amalgamation of fish and mammal. Some creatures appear friendly and curious and approach the boat for a closer look whilst others loom menacingly, blazing white eyes staring ominously.
The journey takes the boat past fantastical islands blessed with plants, fauna and birds and on towards icebergs, snow-topped mountains and caves. The clutches of a diver briefly interrupt the journey before the boat is sent on its way again. Worryingly, it finds itself beneath imposing ships pumping out black smoke and it drifts to an oil rig that fills the pages with poisonous gases, so much so there is the disturbing sight of birds and fish lying dead in the ocean. The boat has plenty of near-death encounters of its own. Surviving an armed attack from hostiles, a storm and a water logging. As the boat reaches land and docks, a mysterious character climbs out and onto a set of steps, its body emblazoned with images from the journey including that of the boat. The final illustration shows a meeting with another mystery character but as only the knees, legs and feet are shown the reader is left with much to ponder.
Creepy, eerie, mysterious, beautiful, imaginative - all of these words could easily be used to describe this book and to use just one of them would not do it justice. There is no real plot or narrative to 'The Wanderer’. What the reader is presented with is a series of detailed and strangely imaginative illustrations and they are left to their own wonderings. Wonderings that will no doubt be different upon each read depending on the mood of the reader. The whole journey is weird and mysterious. Sweeping landscapes portray the epic journey as the boat floats across choppy waters under the watchful eyes of the birds and ocean dwellers. As the boat drifts across the top of the ocean, an intricate under water world is depicted below.
The whole book is illustrated in black and white and features over forty double page spreads. The more bizarre illustrations include a whale smoking a pipe and a creature aboard a mountain of shipwrecks holding a fishing line with a TV as bait. The coffee-table sized book is produced on thick, quality paper that will hold up to endless hours of exploration.
A strange and surreal fantasy adventure that is perhaps a metaphor for the journey of life; the ups and downs that we experience, the times we save others and the times that we need saving, the darker moments and the brighter ones. We are sailing into the unknown and, for all intents and purposes, we are all ‘wanderers’.
Recommended for 9+.