667 Reviews: Swarm of Bees Aug 2, 2019 9:35:41 GMT -5
Post by Dante on Aug 2, 2019 9:35:41 GMT -5
Swarm of Bees
More than most other writers, Daniel Handler writes books for everyone. This is true not only in the sense that his best works, like A Series of Unfortunate Events, have universal appeal; but also in the sense that there are few audiences now he has not written books to cater for. In addition to his work for teenagers and adults under his own name, and his work for children under the Lemony Snicket name, picture books for infants have become a clear strand in Handler’s work; and so here we have Swarm of Bees, his latest in that line.
Truth be told, this is a challenging book to review for anyone not acquainted with small children. Snicket is trending at perhaps his youngest yet here, telling a simple story of a boy and a swarm of bees, each equally angry, and their journey across town. This is very much a picture book, and illustrator Rilla Alexander has excelled in her execution of Snicket’s vision; her striking use of rubber stamps constructs the story through a visual language of circles and stripes that remains immediately truthful and comprehensible even through abstraction. It is easy to imagine a version of this book with more literal, less ambitious art, and it would be a weaker book.
Alexander’s work complements the unusually understated text so perfectly that it’s surprising the two were composed independently. What’s also surprising is that the text is content to play second fiddle, with the art dominating each page, as large as the already large format will allow, while the text tucks itself into the gaps. With the text so retiring, it is often difficult for Snicket to shine through as a writer; but even so, he is there in the wit and charm of even a tight turn of phrase, in the concise but varied and original descriptions of the townsfolks’ occupations, and in the truth of the story’s emotional message. His story weaves together the exciting incident of the big picture and the many smaller details that make each person’s life undeserving of having a tomato thrown at it. It’s not only the case that Snicket’s text is the score and Alexander’s art the music.
Swarm of Bees is an enchanting tale of anger and mischief, restraint and forgiveness, elegantly told and imaginatively illustrated. This is one Swarm of Bees you’ll happily let into your home.