REVIEW: THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD, BY RILLA ALEXANDER

best book in the worldThe Best Book in the World
Written and Illustrated by Rilla Alexander
Published by Flying Eye Books, 2015


The Best Book in the World will be released by Flying Eye Books on July 29.


Narratively speaking, The Best Book in the World is slight. There are maybe fifty words in the whole book, and those that are there don’t say anything ground-breaking: To wit, books are great and they will transport to wonderful places. This is ground covered by many others, and covered with more poetry by many others. To put it another way: The Best Book in the World is not a bedtime book; it will be over before your child gets comfy.

This is not to say that what’s here is bad, you simply get the impression that the pictures came well before the words, which, when the pictures are as resplendent as these, might not be so bad. (I would actually be unsurprised to learn that this was originally conceived as a book without words.)

Visually, this is one of the most striking, exciting, jubilant books we’ve seen at Kinderlit. Evoking the brilliance of Saul Bass and Paul Rand –two of our favorites– The Best Book in the World is chock full of massive blocks of colour, all exquisitely composed, full of unexpected details and humour. In the first few spreads we see our hero engulfed in her book in a handful of the usual places one might read: At the bus stop, on the bus, on the way, but before long she’s reading mid-skydive and on a sled hurtling down a hill.

As she gets more and more into her book the scenarios get more and more out there (on the belly of a giant alligator, flying away on the string of a Rilla_Alexander_12_BEST_BOOK_IN_THE_WORLD-768x329balloon) and she collects a menagerie of wondrous creatures.

It’s difficult to quantify how much I love this book, to be honest with you. While I acknowledge that the text could have used some finessing, in the grand scheme of the book, it’s not about the text, it’s about the journey that reading can take you on and about the journey that Alexander takes you on with her pictures. (I also acknowledge that there’s irony in that I love a book about the joy of reading whose sole and minor weakness is in the text.)

The magic of The Best Book in the World is that, while none of us have read a book while traveling on a roller coaster or trudging through a forest leading a line of bizarre creatures, we all know the feeling Alexander is referencing; we’ve all read a book that feels like a part of the real world, and sometimes feels like a better alternative to the one we inhabit in actuality. It’s why we’re book lovers. And while I’ve read many (many) books that explore this territory, and some rather effectively, I don’t believe I’ve ever read one that succeeded in capturing the emotional joy of reading in quite the same way this has. I wrote earlier that others had covered this ground with more poetry, but that’s not necessarily true; if ever there was a book to remind that there is poetry in images, this might be it.

I said that The Best Book in the World is not a bedtime book, and it’s not, but the lack of words is not the sole reason for this; there’s also the fact that this is an exciting book, not a calming one.

This is a book for anyone who loves books, and it’s a book for anyone who loves good design. So settle in to your Eames Lounge, rest your floating mug down on your Brad Askalon Atlas side table and get lost in Rilla Alexander’s exquisite pictures and be reminded why you love reading in the first place.

-J.H.


Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of The Best Book in the World in exchange for an honest review. Read about our review policy HERE.

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