Friday, 13 March 2015

Coming and Going by Isabel Minhós Martins & Bernardo Carvalho

Coming and Going
Isabel Minhós Martins & Bernardo Carvalho

Coming and Going was released by Portuguese publisher Planeta Tangerina in 2012, and is illustrated by their co-founder Bernardo Carvalho.  This beautiful hardback edition published by Tate, means that we now have the pleasure of reading it in English. 

Isabel Minhós Martins’ poetic, honest and thought-provoking text charts mans’ travel habits from the moment he could walk, to the invention of the wheel, and onward to the advances that may be the undoing of our planet.  As we advance, and destroy, Martins looks toward the no-impact travel habits and migration patterns seen in nature.  She charts the extraordinary distance flown by Monarch butterflies, the seasonal search for warmer climbs undertaken by the Arctic tern and asks if we could take a leaf from their book and learn something; could we be more considerate?  Could we take responsibility?  

Carvalho, in turn, brings her words to life with his mesmerising illustrations.  Make no mistake, these are not merely for decoration, Carvalho’s imagery elevates the text while Martins’ words add further depth to the illustrations, as only the best picture books can.  His use of strong layered shapes add complexity to his imagery, meaning readers will benefit from more concentrated viewing.   His bright strips of colour, (sometimes transparent overlays, sometimes opaque) are used to show speed, to create waves and movement, and to show hustle and bustle.  He uses clean, crisp colours to emphasise the space and purity of an African landscape full of animals, whilst on other pages he lays colour upon colour adding murk and gloom to highlight the mess that we are making.  We have to peer into this darkness to see the animals, barely visible beneath our plumes of smoke, and search through trees for the deer awaiting our diggers.

Coming and Going is a stunning picture book, both visually and in terms of the questions it asks.  A book not only for children, but for us adults, who are at fault by having accepted these methods without considering their repercussions.  This is a book that will provoke discussion and hopefully inspire our children to question the way we have lived.  This is a book about the wonders of nature, and how we take advantage of them.

The last page reminds us ‘that our feet are not just for wearing shoes and our head is not just for wearing a hat.’

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