Let’s be real: Pictures books for the two- to four-year old set tend to be a bit short on design wow. More often than not, they’re low concept and cutesy, but occasionally one pops up that blows our socks off; Olivier Tallec’s Who Done It? was the last great example we came across.
Now we get Chronicle Books’ reprint of Taro Gomi’s overlooked (in North America, anyway) 1972 classic Over the Ocean, an almost existential meditation on the world outside our sights.
A young child stands on a beach, gazing at the expanse of water before them, and wonders about what lies on the other side. What kinds of people, things, animals, homes are there? Is it cold? Is it friendly?
The brilliance of the concept is that these are thoughts that anybody who’s visited the oceanside has thought: What is over there? But there’s beautiful lyricism and whimsy to Gomi’s text that elevates it above putting common thoughts down on paper, and paired with his gourgeous illustrations, they are exalted to poetry.
The illustrations are phenomenal, with the bottom third of every spread —the young girl peering out across the ocean— remaining unchanged throughout, and the top two thirds changing based on the copy, the sky being transformed into a canvas for her imaginings. Genius.
Gomi isn’t a household name outside of Japan —though he is the mind behind alternative staple Everyone Poops— but with a few more reissues the quality of this that could and should change. With any luck, this is the first of many of Gomi’s work to get a high end treatment from Chronicle Books.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of Over the Ocean in exchange for an honest review. Read about our Review Policy HERE.