by Thao Lam
Wordless picture books have a nuance that takes them beyond texted children’s books. It’s the distinction of stories told without the clues of text, stories told in whatever way the visual reader chooses to see the tale. The possibilities are endless. In this review, I will endeavour to share my own take on Skunk on a String. It may not be what others see but it’s mine.
Amongst a colourful parade of costumed walkers clinging to massive balloons floats a skunk with a relatively plain red polka-dot balloon string wrapped around its back leg. How he got into this predicament is unknown. What he sees and the reactions he generates are the basis for Thao Lam’s illustrations, both full page and panelled pages with multiple scenes.
|From Skunk on a String by Thao Lam|
Thao Lam uses collages of brightly coloured and textured papers to create the amazing worlds that our little skunk visits. Both minimalist in some scenes (e.g., the zoo) and incredibly detailed in others (e.g., the apartment building), she fashions clever illustrations that depict a full range of landscapes, each with their own touches of life: fish, cacti, elephants, trees, plants, humans. There’s both a depth and a lightness to her illustrations, not unlike the world that Skunk on a String gets to visit, ultimately cherishing the opportunity for adventure he’s been given.